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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman, Vol. 15 - Zatoichi's Cane Sword
Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman, Vol. 15 - Zatoichi's Cane Sword
Home Vision Entertainment // Unrated // May 18, 2004
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted May 28, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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Between 1962 and 1974 there were 25 Zatoichi films made. A final 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 Cane Sword (1967, aka. Blind Swordsman's Cane-Sword) is the fifteenth film in the series.

Ichi gets a ride from some traveling performers en route to a modest town they frequent every year. However, the town has been taken over by Boss Iwagoro's gang, who have bribed the local inspector and killed off the towns former, kinder boss. Ichi quickly raises their ire after he figures out their dice cheat, and hides out for a night with the towns blacksmith, Senzo. A former sword maker, Senzo identifies that Ichi's sword is one made by Senzo's mentor. Ichi is also disheartened by Senzo's discovery of a crack in his sword, one that cannot be repaired, and insures that the sword has only one strike left before it breaks. Forced into reassessing his fighting lifestyle, Ichi turns his sword over to Senzo and gets a job in his applied trade of masseur at the local inn. Although his charms and skill win him great favor with the people of the inn, the Iwagoro gang begins to take a deeper foothold in the town, and it isn't long before Ichi can no longer sit idly by and watch them mistreat his new friends.

"What????, Ichi swordless? What kind of samurai film is that?", you might ask. Well, actually, one of the better entries into the series. The Zatoichi films are first and foremost about the depth of his character and the little satellite relationships he forms with the sword fights as a great highlight. With the film focusing on Ichi being forced into such a non-aggressive stance, it actually adds a much more tense angle and makes the film stand out.

The ease Ichi initially finds in his straightforward life is surprising for him. He still has his charm to rely on and a scuffle or two using a basic cane to defend himself keeps him unscathed. His wits are sharp as well, and even manages to use his reputation to intimidate the gangsters and throw his weight around (including a great scene which involves Ichi doinga drunken 'duck dance' and 'accidentally' mooning one of the gangsters). But, Senzo, the murdered boss' daughter and son, and increasing Gangster corruption weigh too heavily on his conscience. Also, a nightmare sequence where Ichi imagines his sword breaking and his being killed, is among the series most memorable moments. By the end, in the words of Popeye, "He can't stands no more" and you can be sure he will wield a sword again. Hell, otherwise, with eleven more films left in the series, it wouldn't be very interesting, would it?

The DVD: Home Vision

Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. Well, I will say it is good. If you've kept up with Home Visions releases so far, you wont be disappointed. However, it is a tad soft and the colors could use some warmth. Director Kimiyoshi Yasuda, who also helmed Adventures of Zatoichi, Zatoichi Vs. The One-Armed Swordsman and Zatoichi's Conspiracy had a great eye for composition, and this film features one of Ichi's best "walk into the sunset" final shots. So, I am not really complaining, the age defects are very minimal, with the aforementioned softness, muted color, and some grayed contrast being the only quibbles. The print is otherwise in great shape and Home Vison has done a very fine job with the elements.

Sound: Mono, Japanese language with optional English subtitles. Well, the mono track does show its age with some hiss and pops that occasionally peek out, but the dialogue and soundtrack are always clear.

Extras: Chapter Selections— Liner Notes and Mini-Poster— Trailers for Zatoichi's Vengeance, Zatoichi's Cane Sword and Zatoichi Challenged.

Conclusion: Fantastic film. Fantastic series filled with humor, heart, and action. Another solid DVD release from Home Vision. Do yourself a favor, chambara fan, and go get it.

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