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The Tale of Zatoichi (1962)
"Zatôichi monogatari" (original title)

7.7
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 2,799 users  
Reviews: 19 user | 31 critic

The adventures of a blind, gambling masseur who also happens to be a master swordsman.

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(screenplay), (short story)
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Title: The Tale of Zatoichi (1962)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Shintarô Katsu ...
Zatôichi / Blind Man Ichi / Masseur Ichi
Masayo Banri ...
Tane / Tatekichi's sister / Seisuke's ex-lover
Ryûzô Shimada ...
Shigezô of Sasagawa / Sasagawa yakuza boss
Hajime Mitamura ...
Hanji of Matsugishi
Shigeru Amachi ...
Hirate, Miki
Chitose Maki ...
Yoshi / Hanji's wife
Ikuko Môri ...
Yutaka / Shigezô's wife
Michirô Minami ...
Tatekichi / Tane's brother / Saki's lover / Iioka yakuza member
Eijirô Yanagi ...
Sukegorô of Iioka / Iioka yakuza boss
Toshio Chiba ...
Masakichi / Iioka yakuza member (as Toshirô Chiba)
Manabu Morita ...
Seisuke / Tane's ex-lover / Iioka yakuza member
Yoichi Funaki ...
Yogorô / Sasagawa yakuza member
Kinya Ichikawa ...
Mokichi / Sasagawa yakuza member
Eigorô Onoe ...
Rihei / Sasagawa yakuza member
Yoshito Yamaji ...
Yahei / Father of Tane and Tatekichi
Edit

Storyline

An impoverished blind masseur becomes a mercenary swordsman, to gain basic respect. The first of novelist Kan Shimozawa's Zatoichi series: 26 films, a TV series and a play, all but two starring controversial singer/producer/director Shintaro Katsu. First of six Zatoichi films directed by Kenji Misumi. The shrewd Zatoichi targets a yakuza-controlled village, because war with a neighboring town's smaller gang is brewing. The broke ex-masseur "Ichi" immediately wins big, by taking advantage of local bakuto's cheating, after they scoff at his asking to join a dice game. The larger horde, who have been given carte blanche by the local governor, summoned Zatoichi. Zatoichi hates the fact that he's become an outlaw, so he strikes up a friendship with the other gang's honorable hired samurai, who has TB. Written by David Stevens

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

18 April 1962 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

The Tale of Zatoichi  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Goofs

When Hirate and Zatoichi are about to fight near the end, the horn of a modern ship can be heard in the background. See more »

Quotes

Zatôichi: [after asking Zatoichi what she would do with having so much children] Just don't raise them to be gangsters.
Tane: I won't... But why do you say that?
Zatôichi: Because to be a gangster is a foolish way to live.
Tane: Then why don't you live a decent life?
Zatôichi: It's like being stuck in a bog; it's not easy to pull yourself out once you've fallen in.
See more »

Connections

Spoofed in Getting Any? (1994) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A charming samurai classic
23 March 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"The Tale of Zatoichi" was a cultural phenomenon in Japan in the 1960s, spawning 25 sequels, a 112-episode TV series and a remake.

Set toward the end of the feudal Edo period (1603-1868), the film stars Shintaro Katsu as Zatoichi, an itinerant blind masseur/swordsman. He stops in the town of Iioka one day to stay with a yakuza boss, Sukegoro, who he had met on an earlier journey.

Zatoichi is humble, but has a quiet intensity. Even though he is blind, he perceives more in the situations around him than the other participants with normal eyesight. In an early scene, Sukegoro's gangsters try to take advantage of Zatoichi in a game of dice, but he uses their underestimation of him to his advantage, and hustles the gamblers out of all their money.

Zatoichi insists his impressive skills with the katana are nothing more than parlor tricks, but Boss Sukegoro hires him to stay on, as he has plans to go to war with a rival gang in nearby Sasagawa. Sasagawa boss Shigezo hires a ronin samurai, Hirate, to counterbalance Sukegoro's Zatoichi.

Zatoichi and Hirate develop a sort of friendship, but their affection toward each other has less to do with their love of fishing or drinking than on their common code of honor. Even though they know they will be expected to fight to the death in the war between Iioka and Sasagawa, this doesn't stand between their personal friendship.

So it follows that the most interesting conflict in the movie is not the yakuza warfare between the Iioka and Sasagawa gangs, but the conflict between Zatoichi and Hirate. Hirate is dying of consumption, and seems to prefer death by Zatoichi's sword rather than let his illness or an unworthy gangster take his life.

"The Tale of Zatoichi" is both fun and stylish. But rather than being a by-the-numbers action flick, the filmmakers took the time to develop characters the audience can actually care about, which elevates Zatoichi above other films of this genre.


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