Zatoichi, as always, has another bounty on his head, so he must keep on moving. He makes his way to the village of a beloved former teacher, masseur Master Hikonoichi. He is saddened to discover that Master Hikonoichi was murdered and his daughter, Sayo, was sold into prostitution at the local brothel in order to pay off her father's debt. Ichi befriends a local dice cheat, Deroku the Weasel, and his young daughter Tsuru, and discovers that the local gangster has set up many families with the scam of loaning them money, murdering/framing the patriarchs, and then forcing them to give up their daughters as compensation.
A dark, solid entry into the series. The standard set-up: corrupt officials, strong arm gangsters, townspeople cowering under them, this time out with the very seedy premise of the poor reluctant girls being sold away to the brothel where they are beaten, starved, and generally tortured if they do not comply. Ichi must save two girls, Tsuru and Sayo, from this life, and once again, the film presents an interesting look into Japans past and the twisted politics and greed of the era.
Unfortunately, for all of its strengths in character and story, as with any series, there do tend to be dips where the formula is a bit too tired and predictable. All series repeat a formula to some extent, and the Zatoichi films definitely did, yet they proved to have more life than most, including the Bond run. In this case, the Zatoichi's Revenge repeats a little too close to the previous film Adventures of Zatoichi. It is a better film than Adventures, but it has a slightly similar "return to an old haunt to find the past" plot connection and even, pretty much, repeats the same catching a dice cheat gag that was in the previous film. Of course this is a debatable quibble, because the obviousness of similarity/repetition strikes you more if, like me, you were watching the films back to back.
The DVD: Home Vision Entertainment
Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. The often gorgeous widescreen compositions are served pretty well. There are the standard bits of age wear, a spot or fleck here and there, some softness, and graininess. But, for the most part color and contrast are in good shape and there are no glaring technical defects to speak of, other than some softening around the edges. Still, for fans, Home Vision's transfer is very adequate, and just a notch or two below a perfect restoration effort.
Sound: Japanese Mono.Optional English subtitles. The opening Spanish/Western influenced strumming guitar notes of the soundtrack flow over some crackle and pops. Actually, as a fan, it is such a familiar sound- those pops- I find them comforting. Because of its age, it certainly isn't going to be dynamic, but that a good thing- part of what makes the film. (I certainly wouldn't want someone mucking with some faux stereo remix). Actually, this soundtrack is in very good shape and doesn't have any glaring hiss or distortions that are common with the era.
Extras: Chapter Selections--- Collectable poster--- Trailers for Adventures of Zatoichi, Zatoichi's Revenge, Zatoichi and the Doomed Man
Conclusion: Another fine entry. As I said, I think this and the previous film take a dip, but that is an expected thing in a film series this huge. Still, the presentation is very fine and well priced, making it a good purchase for the Zatoichi fan.
Click on the following links for reviews of the previous films: The Tale of Zatoichi, Tale of Zatoichi Continues, New Tale of Zatoichi, The Fugitive, On the Road, The Chest of Gold, Flashing Sword, Fight ,Zatoichi, Fight, and Adventures of Zatoichi.