HOME |  JOIN |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
Last Warrior, The
Artemis 81
Rampage
Quiet Place, A
Braven
Changeover, The
Isle of Dogs
Funny Cow
Maze Runner: The Death Cure
Mad to Be Normal
Beast of Burden
Dead Men Walk
Game Night
Under the Tree
L'Amant Double
Gonin
Coco
Producers, The
Molly's Game
Forest of the Lost Souls, The
Hatchet III
Birdman of Alcatraz
Pacific Rim: Uprising
Wonderstruck
If It Ain't Stiff, It Ain't Worth a Fuck
Nun, The
Red Sparrow
My Friend Dahmer
Journeyman
Heat, The
   
 
Newest Articles
The Ultimate Trip: The Original Psychedelic Movies
Players of Games: Willy Wonka, Tron and Ready Player One
What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round? The Ends of The Monkees
Flings and Arrows: Conquest vs Flesh + Blood
Orson Around: F for Fake and The Late Great Planet Earth
ITC What You Did There: Retro-Action on Blu-ray
And It Was the Dirtiest Harry We Have Seen in a Very Long Time: The Dirty Harry Series
Manor On Movies: The Astounding She Monster
Manor On Movies: Don't be a dolt. That's not a cult (movie)
Wes Anderson's Big Daddies: Steve Zissou and Others
Bad Taste from Outer Space: Galaxy of Terror and Xtro
A Yen for the 1990s: Iron Monkey and Satan Returns
Hey, Punk: Jubilee and Rock 'n' Roll High School
Help! with The Knack: Richard Lester in 1965
Roll Up, Get Yer Free Cinema: The Shorts on the BFI Woodfall Blu-rays
   
 
  Zatoichi Challenged As if being blind wasn't challenging enoughBuy this film here.
Year: 1967
Director: Kenji Misumi
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Jûshirô Konoe, Miwa Takada, Yukiji Asaoka, Mikiko Tsubouchi, Mie Nakao, Takao Ito, Asao Koike, Midori Isomura, Tatsuo Matsumura, Eitarô Ozawa, Jotaro Chinami
Genre: Drama, Martial Arts, Adventure
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: At a roadside inn a dying woman entreats blind swordsman Zatoichi (Shintarô Katsu) to escort her young son Ryota to his father, Shokichi (Takao Ito), an artist who lives in the far away town of Maebara. Ichi dutifully embarks on an eventful road trip alongside the naughty little boy who enjoys playing endless pranks on the sightless sword hero. Along the way the pair hook up with Miss Tomoe (Yukiji Asaoka) and her band of travelling performers who are harrassed by thugs working for Boss Gonzo (Asao Koike), sadly not a bent-nosed Muppet with a sexual fetish for chickens but the local yakuza don. Frightened Ryota prevents Ichi from intervening but the group are saved instead by Tajuro Akazuka (Jûshirô Konoe), a roving ronin of considerable renown who is intrigued by the blind man’s phenomenal sword skills.

There were several films where Zatoichi was paired with either a helpless infant or a precocious kid including Adventures of Zatoichi (1964), Zatoichi vs. the One-Armed Swordsman (1971) and Zatoichi At Large (1972), possibly taking their cue from Charlie Chaplin’s seminal comic melodrama The Kid (1921). After all, Ichi always was the most Chaplin-esque of chanbara heroes. In the third of his five series entries, director Kenji Misumi does not sentimentalise little Ryota, who is drawn as mouthy and mischievous yet sympathetic. In one poignant scene Ichi asks artistically-inclined Ryota to draw Tomoe’s face in the sand, only the boy ends up drawing his mother instead. Much like the Chaplin movie the heart of the movie is the relationship between outlaw and child, two equally downtrodden protagonists although in this instance the narrative is somewhat rambling and unfocused, lingering on characters that don’t play a big role in proceedings, notably Tomoe.

Zatoichi Challenged opens as star Shintarô Katsu waxes lyrical, in character, before crooning a song over the opening credits (“Oh lonesome road”) emphasising Ichi’s status as a melancholy, solitary figure in spite of his instant empathy with the downtrodden and needy. In fact there are several instances where characters burst into song so this almost ranks as a chanbara musical. However, this is foremost a poignant, character driven drama and while swordplay is largely confined to the finale the film does not suffer a lack of action staging, amongst others, a suspenseful sequence with Zatoichi and Shokichi trapped under a rock slide. Shokichi turns out to be a feckless gambler in debt to - surprise twist ahoy! - Boss Gonzo who imprisons the artist to paint a series of pornographic vases forbidden under an imperial edict. Confusingly, aside from one dead girlfriend, Shokichi has not one but two love interests including a tragic geisha named Osen (Mikiko Tsubouchi) though he eventually settles down with the sweet daughter of a local potter played by lovely Miwa Takada, who appeared as different characters in several Zatoichi films.

That Shokichi and his son are both equally flawed makes it all the more affecting when Ichi sets out to defend them from Tajuro Akazuka. Akazuka fills the series’ stock role of noble opponent, a distinguished samurai fallen on hard times. He grows to admire not only Ichi’s skill but more importantly his integrity, illustrated in a nice scene where the blind masseur politely spurns his charitable offer of a silver piece for a simple shoulder massage, insisting on being paid only what is due. It turns out Akazuka and a fellow undercover spy are government agents on a mission to eliminate everyone connected to the pornography ring including the hapless artist. Who knew the shogunate took such extreme action against porn peddlers? Today’s smut mongers have it easy by comparison. As someone who values human decency above the law, the idea of killing an artist for something they drew is a concept Zatoichi cannot understand. Typical of Misumi’s arresting visual sense the final showdown unfolds amidst a picturesque snowfall with beautiful Panavision photography by Chishi Makiura who went on to work his magic with the director again on the seminal Lone Wolf and Cub films. The extended battle does not disappoint and proves suspenseful and emotionally draining for both Ichi and the audience with a surprising outcome.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 1608 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
  Robert Segedy
Darren Jones
  Asma Amal
  Chris Lawrence
Enoch Sneed
George White
Stately Wayne Manor
   

 

Last Updated: