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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman, Vol. 7 - Zatoichi's Flashing Sword
Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman, Vol. 7 - Zatoichi's Flashing Sword
Home Vision Entertainment // Unrated // April 29, 2003
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted May 1, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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Between 1962 and 1974 there were 25 Zatoichi films made. A final, sort of anniversary, revisionist Zatoichi film was made in 1989. Add to that a successful television series, 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, a gangster, lady charmer, and deadly swordsman... Zatoichi's Flashing Sword (1964, aka. The Sword of Zatoichi) is the seventh film in the series. Click on the following links for reviews of the previous films: The Tale of Zatoichi, Tale of Zatoichi Continues, New Tale of Zatoichi, and The Fugitive, On the Road, and Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold.

After narrowly avoiding being shot, Ichi goes to the village to pay his respects to the woman who helped him, Miss Kuni, whose father Bunkichi is a powerful local gangster in control of a much frequented waterway. Ichi arrives just in time for a fireworks celebration that Bunkichi is throwing to help sway the local intendent and keep the waterway under his families power. A rival gang in the neighboring town wants rule of the waterway and plot to draw Bunkichi into a fight. Ichi finds himself in the middle of the dispute when the rival gang captures Bunkichi's son (co-incidentally, the son was the person who tried to shoot Ichi) and uses Ichi's notorious reputation to sour the lords name.

Zatoichi's Flashing Sword is a somewhat uneven entry that still succeeds, amounting to an average entertaining Zatoichi film. It begins with quite a bit of goofy comedy and pushes the bumbling blind man jokes to Mr Magoolike proportions. For instance, kids warn Ichi of a hole in the road but he thinks they are teasing him, trying to steer him into a hole, so he walks opposite of their suggestion only to... you guessed it... fall into a hole. Eventually it settles in with the typical Zat scenario- Ichi charming the good hearted gangsters daughter, the rogue son causing friction, the stuttering rival gangster trying to oust his rival, misunderstandings, hired goons for Ichi to take down, and a revenge fueled finale. It is formula, but formula that works. Overall the balance between comedy, characters and action wins out, and as always, Shintaro Katsu carries the film.

The DVD: Home Vision Entertainment

Picture: Anamorphic Letterbox. The print is good- not great, not pristine, but more than adequate for samurai film fans. There is some softness and slightly muted colors, grain, bits where the contrast could be deeper, but considering the films age and the quickness of these productions such things are forgivable. The same print in the hands of a rival DVD companies remastering facilities (a Hong Kong Legends, a Criterion) could make it look much better, but one must bear in mind Home Visions fair pricing of these titles and the fact that, although less than perfect, they still look fantastic and come at an affordable price.

Sound: Mono Japanese language with optional yellow English subtitles. Age distortion on the soundtrack is noticeable. There is a five minute stretch with some wavering helicopter fuzz in the back ground. Yes, it isn't perfect, but doesn't distract from the great film. For me, it is something I except when it comes to the era. Even the top drawer companies like Criterion cannot get completely clean sound sources for older films, so it is a forgivable flaw.

Extras: Chapter Selections--- Trailers for Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold, Flashing Sword and Fight, Zatoichi Fight--- Liner Notes--- Very cool Fold Out Poster Replica.

Conclusion: I'm naturally starting to sound like a broken record after seven DVD releases. Bottom line- Good prints, nice packaging, neat-o extra (poster), great price, fantastic and entertaining films series. If you are a fan it is a must have, and if you are a potential fan that is even the least bit curious, they are well worth a... (forgive the pun) blind purchase.

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