Zatoichi tries to unrest the mob rule over a small village all while the gang leader's bodyguard is actually the Yojimbo, secretly taking the gang down from the inside. Will the two heroes realize in time that they are on the same side?
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With a price on his head, Ichi seeks tranquillity in a favorite village. Since his last visit, it has fallen prey to Boss Masagoro, the son of a merchant rumored to have stolen gold from the shogunate. The boss has hired Yojimbo as his hard-drinking enforcer, but Yojimbo is both a spy for the shogunate, trying to find the gold, and in love with the merchant's unwilling mistress, Umeno. Ichi hires on as the merchant's masseur and buys Umeno's freedom with his employer's own money. This embarrasses Yojimbo who withdraws from a pact with Ichi to stir up trouble between father and son and their gangs. As the two sides fight, Ichi finds the gold and sets up a final set of confrontations. Written by
Giving advise on better Samurai films than this one.
Funnily enough a few years ago I wrote this (...BUT): First things first, for those that are concerned (and I'm sure you will be as I was), Toshiro Mifune is NOT playing the Yojimbo character from the Kurosawa movies. The title is purely a cash-in, though I'm not sure if it is for the modern Western market or the original title translates as such and was designed to con the Japanese market. The only other film I know of where Mifune genuinely plays the Yojimbo character is "Ambush at Blood Pass" which was the film the both actors completed after this one.
In all respects, this is a bad film sadly. It has a few nice moments but its clear this was a commercial venture utilising the two most famous male Japanese actors and characters at the time. In all honesty, I know little about the Zatoichi character, but imagine that the original film must be far superior to this. I couldn't really recommend this film to anyone unless you're a hardcore fan of Japanese Cinema or of the two actors. There are many, many better films of the genre to choose from. Even "Ambush at Blood Pass" which is not a great film is still significantly superior to this one. "Zatoichi versus Yojimbo", like many Japanese films of the time seems confused over what audience its aiming at. The result is an unsatisfactory soup of part comedy, part slasher, part period drama, part morality tale which limps from moment to moment.
As said previously, some of these scenes are nice in themselves, but the overall effect is somewhat bland with some scenes almost cringe-worthy. For the uninitiated, always try a Kurosawa film first, if not (and you are interested in Samurai films from an historical perspective) then you may prefer to look at the films of Mizoguchi or Kobyashi. If you just want to see a good samurai flick with Mifune in it, then you may want to look at films such as "Red Lion", "Samurai Assassin" or "Samurai Banners" which are more rounded films and are currently available. As said, I don't know much about Zatoichi, but I would imagine the original and early films are better than this one and worth the effort. Still, I hope this proves useful, it would have saved me money!
Now after seeing it again I'm surprised with myself. I've seen so many more Japanese films since and I realise how wrong I was. It must be stressed that it is NOT "Yojimbo" from the Kurosawa films but taking the point that this film is purely "entertainment" then it really is a good film, I watched it with harsh critical eyes when I wrote this and I was wrong! The Zatoichi films vary a great deal in quality, and the character has grown on me a great deal since seeing the recent Takishi film. This is by far one of the best from the original set.
So I guess I should now say, if you want a high-art samurai flick, then you'll still be disappointed as with my previous comments; but if you want to see a good, well structured, entertaining film with a very good insight into human nature than I would certainly say give it a whirl.
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