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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman, Vol. 13 - Zatoichi's Vengeance
Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman, Vol. 13 - Zatoichi's Vengeance
Home Vision Entertainment // Unrated // May 18, 2004
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted May 26, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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Between 1962 and 1974 there were 25 Zatoichi films made. A final, sort of anniversary/redux Zatoichi film was made in 1989. Add to that a successful television series and a current remake by Beat Takashi, and, obviously, with that many hours of entertainment devoted to one character, what was created was nothing less than a beloved cultural icon. Set in the age of rouge samurai, Shintaro Katsu stars as Ichi, a blind masseur, gambler, gangster, lady charmer, deadly swordsman, and all around kind-hearted scoundrel. Zatoichi's Vengeance (1966, aka.Blind Swordsman's Vengeance) is the thirteenth film in the series.

Once again, Ichi happens upon a dying person, this time a man felled by bandits, who with his dying breath hands over a bag of money and mutters the name, "Taichi." When some dice fall out of the bag, Ichi figures it is dirty money. Ichi befriends a fellow blind man, a biwa priest, and they travel to a town that is having their annual thunder drum festival. There, Ichi finds Taichi, a young boy under the care of his grandmother. The normally modest town has become overtaken by gangsters, precisely because their low profile has made it easy for them to push the people around. When Taichi observes Ichi fighting back, the priest warns Ichi that his actions have now tainted the young boy and made him see violence as the answer to conflict. Wary of leading the boy down a bad path, Ichi makes an effort to deal with the louts without unsheathing his sword.

Directed by Tokozu Tanaka, who previously helmed Zatoichi The Fugitive and Blind Swordsman's Return. Aside from Ichi taking a few beatings because the wise priest makes him question how his ways could potentially veer the boy towards a life of "might makes right", Zatoichi's Vengeance also has a neat little subplot involving Cho, a hooker with a heart of gold, who was abandoned by her drunken samurai husband and has become a lush herself because she had to turn to prostitution in order to pay off her debts. Her husband has cleaned up his ways and, in an attempt to amend his mistakes, rents out his sword skills to anyone who can pay. Naturally, this leads to his confronting Ichi, since the blind masseur has a price on his head by the local gagsters. And, it makes for a sympathetic adversary that Ichi must reluctantly duel against. And, it wouldnt be a Zatoichi film without an artfully quick and elgantly precise duel.

Zatoichi's Vengeance displays one of the most interesting aspects of Zatoichi as a character. Unlike most trained swordsmen and retainers, the adherence to a code of conduct is not part of his nature because no one would hire a blind swordsman, so one assumes the bushido code was not stressed in his training. So, Ichi is very much the vagabond swordsman, a man who can wield a blade with the best of them, but doesn't have the morality that the upper class samurai were instilled with. In that way, he is every bit as rough as the gangsters he crosses, and this film presents him with the dilemma that his way of life, as good as his intentions may be, is not the best example for an impressionable child.

The DVD: Home Vision

Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. Home Vision have done a very respectful job. While their first few Zatoichi releases had spottier non-anamorphic prints, they quickly rectified those problems and subsequent releases have been much cleaner. Sure, the film does show its age, but the print is free of any severe print defects or technical quibbles. Color, sharpness, contrast, and grain are all in acceptable shape for a film of its age and budget.

Sound: Mono, Japanese language with optional English subtitles. The soundtrack has a few pops and some crackle, but nothing alarming or out of place in a film this old. It never heavily distracts from the audio, which shows its age in terms of limited range but is still well presented.

Extras: Chapter Selections— Liner Notes and Mini-Poster (suitable for framing)— Trailers for Zatoichi and the Chess Expert, Zatoichi's Vengeance and Zatoichi's Cane Sword.

Conclusion: If you are any sort of Japanese film fan, this series more than delivers. Home Vision, likewise, delivers in terms of a pleasing transfer at a fantastic price, making their catalog of the bulk of Zatoichi releases very affordable and desirable for fans.

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