While in jail for some illegal gambling (the punishment is a whipping, to which Ichi replies, "Careful. I think I'm going blind."), Ichi meets a man named Shimazo, who claims that he has been unjustly jailed for housebreaking, arson, and murder. Shimazo pleads with Ichi to contact one of his influential associates who can vouch for him and inform his ailing wife and daughter of his situation. Fully aware that such requests always get him into trouble, Ichi reluctantly finds himself embroiled in the man's web of misfortune. It seems two gangland bosses (Shimazo's influential "friends") have thrown Shimazo in jail on trumped up charges so they can control his territory.
Another fine entry, with one of the better Zatoichi plot set-ups, like Fight Zatoichi, Fight, where Ichi is given some mission his conscience cannot ignore. Well, that is not entirely true. He tries to ignore it, but fate deals him into the mess through the condemned Shimazo and a man dying on the roadside. Along the way Ichi mixes with the usual shady types, including a mistrustful woman and the films comic relief, a con man who masquerades both as a monk and, very amusingly, as Ichi, which he regrets once he learns the underworld is out for Ichi's blood. The conclusion to the mess is a bit of a let down, but the film is filled with enough humor and character to make the finale excusable.
Directed by Kazuo Mori, the helmer of The Tale of Zatoichi Continues, the second film in the series. It has all of the elements that make a great Zatoichi film, some decent action, including a finale in a thick fog, and humor, from the con mans Ichi impersonation, to Ichi noticing the con man peeing in the water as they cross a river. It also has what makes the Zatoichi films the most compelling, the focus on character and those little, sublime revealing moments. The most memorable is Ichi standing on a cliff overlooking the vast expanse of the ocean and trying to imagine its scope but, because of his blindness, being unable to comprehend it.
The DVD: Home Vision Entertainment
Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Home Vision's Zatoichi prints are just shy of being really clean, near perfect restorations. The elements do show the wear and tear of their age and the 60's era quibbles- softer and grainier photography are present. They still have decent contrast, color, and, while there are some spots, the prints are clean enough at fans should be very pleased with the presentation.
Sound: Japanese Mono. Optional English subtitles. The opening notes of the theme are a wonderful, muddy orchestra. Now, I know DVD is a medium that is open to improving such age wear theatergoers and vhs film fans grew accustomed to, but I find that a little age wear still doesn't bother me all that much. Anyway, that said, the soundtrack is pretty good, standard limitations of the era (muffle on the dialogue and tinny sound to the music), and the pops and crackle at the beginning decrease and are not as troublesome in the rest of the film.
Extras: Chapter Selections--- Collectable poster --- Trailers for Zatoichi's Revenge, Zatoichi and the Doomed Man, Zatoichi's Cane Sword
Conclusion: Another fine entry. Good transfer. Low priced. Basic extras, but the poster makes it stand out. A good buy for fans of the classic samurai genre.
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, Adventures of Zatoichi, and Zatoichi's Revenge.