HOME |  JOIN |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
Eye for an Eye
Prisonniere, La
Z for Zachariah
Marty
Walk with Me
JFK
Kirlian Witness, The
Kid for Two Farthings, A
The Freshman
Hear My Song
Wild Wild West
Cure
Doraemon: Nobita and the Green Giant Legend
Locke the Superman
Psycho
Magic Flute, The
Top Secret
Ghost Punting
Hitman's Bodyguard, The
Touch, The
Akko's Secret
Backfire
Loving Vincent
Adventures of the Wilderness Family, The
Plot of Fear
Desperate Chase, The
Baskin
Time and Tide
X - Night of Vengeance
Bunny Drop
   
 
Newest Articles
The Cinematic Darkside of Donald Crowhurst
Dutch Courage: The Flodder Series
Coming of Age: Boys on Film 18 - Heroes on DVD
Country and Irish - The secret history of Irish pop culture
Wash All This Scum Off the Streets: Vigilante Movies
Force the Issue: Star Wars' Tricky Middle Prequels and Sequels
Rediscovered: The Avengers - Tunnel of Fear on DVD
Sword Play: An Actor's Revenge vs Your Average Zatoichi Movie
Super Sleuths: The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes on DVD
Stop That, It's Silly: The Ends of Monty Python
They're All Messed Up: Night of the Living Dead vs Land of the Dead
The House, Black Magic and an Oily Maniac: 3 from 70s Weird Asia
80s Meet Cute: Something Wild vs Into the Night
Interview with The Unseen Director Gary Sinyor
Wrong Forgotten: Is Troll 2 Still a Thing?
   
 
  Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance Baby On BoardBuy this film here.
Year: 1972
Director: Kenji Misumi
Stars: Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Tomoko Mayama, Taketoshi Naito, Reiko Kasahara, Tokio Oki
Genre: Horror, Action, Martial Arts, Weirdo, Historical
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: Framed for treason, Itto Ogami (Tomisaburo Wakayama), official executioner of the Shogunate, loses his wife to assassins and is stripped of his prestigious title. Swearing vengeance upon those responsible, Itto offers his infant son Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa) a choice between a samurai sword or a ball. Life or death. Childhood innocence or the path of violence, which most likely leads straight to hell. Little Daigoro crawls towards the sword. So Ogami loads his son into a baby cart, marked with the words: “Child and Expertise For Rent”, as they travel Japan as hired assassins, waging war against the Lord Retsudo Yagyu (Tokio Oki), leader of the Yagyu Shadow Clan who secretly control the Shogunate. The pair share many misadventures along the way, which makes it fortunate that Daigoro’s cart is tricked out with more death-dealing gadgets than James Bond’s Aston Martin.

Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance was the first in a series of six chanbara (the Japanese term for samurai films, named after the sound effects used in fight scenes) produced by Toho Studios. A few years later the film gained international notoriety when its opening twelve minutes were edited into a re-dubbed, re-edited, re-scored version of the second entry, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx (1972), that was released as Shogun Assassin (1980), and briefly banned as a video nasty in the U.K. Although quite possibly the bloodiest, most outrageous martial arts movies ever made, they were based on a manga written by Kazuo Koike and drawn Goseki Kojima that Japanese scholars rated a serious work of literature.

Koike himself wrote the screenplays for each entry. His stories are rich in historical detail drawn from painstaking research (yes, there really was a Yagyu clan) and express a twisted, yet somehow poetic philosophy through artful symbolism. All sorts of atrocities happen inches away from Daigoro’s angelic face and the action is wild, gory and unsettling enough to be considered a horror movie. But the films are often as beautiful and moving as they are disturbing. Itto Ogami’s tearful declaration to his son (“You would’ve been happier if you’d chosen to join your mother, my poor child”) haunts the series as it becomes obvious that, with the Yagyu clan inextricably bound with the Shogunate, our heroes are pursuing a path towards mutual, indeed societal destruction. In terms of plot, the first movie is not too dissimilar from a western, with a small town beleagured by bandits, rapists and thieves until a hero wanders along. Sword of Vengeance is lacking in complexity compared to later entries but still leaves a lasting impact.

Of course, it’s the violence that hits hardest with most viewers, with blood that doesn’t spill so much as spray the screen into a Jackson Pollock canvas. Kenji Misumi uses beautiful photography, near-subliminal editing, ambient sound effects and ingenious split-screen and slow-motion flourishes to almost hallucinatory effect, although undoubtedly influenced by the manga. An unforgettably eerie - yet somehow still quite funky - drum and fuzz guitar theme music provides the perfect accompaniment to the onscreen mayhem. There is also a soft-core element to the series as Itto Ogami often finds himself in various erotic encounters. Here a gang of ronin (masterless samurai) force him to perform a live sex show with comely whore-with-a-heart-of-gold O-Sen (Tomoko Mayama). Humiliating perhaps, but hardly the most arduous ordeal Ogami has ever had to endure.

The Lone Wolf and Cub films were the making of Misumi, a director who had been around for a while, helming notable works like the very first Zatoichi (1962), the epic Buddha (1963) and monster movie sequel Return of Majin (1966), without ever getting his due. He made four of the best entries, while Buichi Sato directed the third episode Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril (1972) and Yoshiyuki Kuroda took charge of the final movie Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell (1974). Misumi then made the critically-acclaimed The Last Samurai (1975) - not to be confused with the entertaining Tom Cruise vehicle - which sadly turned out to be his last movie, since he passed away shortly thereafter.

Star Tomisaburo Wakayama was born into a family of kabuki performers, but while his younger brother Shintaro Katsu (Zatoichi himself and one of Japan’s biggest superstars) followed their father into theatre, he became a character actor in movies. Wakayama struggled for years, occasionally landing choice roles in the Gokudo (1968-1970), Wicked Priest (1968-70) and Red Peony (1968-1972) series of movies produced at Toei Studios, until Katsu produced the Lone Wolf and Cub films that finally made people recognise his big brother as a major talent. After that Wakayama got to work with big league directors like Masahiro Shinoda (Under the Cherry Blossoms (1975) - widely considered his best role) and Kon Ichikawa (The Phoenix (1978) - a memorable part-live action, part anime fantasy), with occasional Hollywood roles such as a baseball coach in The Bad News Bears Go To Japan (1978) and a yakuza boss in Ridley Scott’s Black Rain (1989). He passed away in 1992.

Yet despite all the talent involved, if it weren’t for the acclaim they enjoy in the west, the Toho series would be almost forgotten. In Japan actor Kinnosuke Yorozuya is considered the definitive Lone Wolf, having starred in a hugely popular television series that spun off four movies in the 1980s. Tomisaburo Wakayama returned to the fold, this time as the villainous Lord Yagyu opposite Hideki Takahashi as Itto Ogami in the movie Lone Wolf and Cub: An Assassin on the Road to Hell (1989) directed by veteran Tokuzo Tanaka. The last adaptation to date came from celebrated samurai auteur Akira Inoue. His Lone Wolf and Cub: The Final Chapter (1992) is considered one of the finest entries in the series, although for some reason it doesn’t feature the baby cart…

Click here for the trailer



Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 1561 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 

Kenji Misumi  (1921 - 1975)

Japanese director who specialised in samurai and swordplay films. Best known for the Babycart/Lone Wolf and Cub movies from the 70s, of which he directed four - Sword of Vengeance, Babycart at the River Styx, Babycart to Hades and Babycart in the Land of Demons. Also turned in several Zatoichi movies in the 60s, such as Showdown for Zatoichi, Zatoichi Challenged and Fight, Zatoichi, Fight.

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which film has the best theme song?
Spectre
The Ups and Downs of a Handyman
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
George White
Darren Jones
  Butch Elliot
Andrew Pragasam
Enoch Sneed
  Mark Scampion
  Frank Michaels
   

 

Last Updated: