Zatoichi tries to unrest the mob rule over a small village all while the gang leader's bodyguard is actually the Yojimbo, secretly taking the gang down from the inside. Will the two heroes realize in time that they are on the same side?
After an artist is threatened by the yakuza into creating valuable but highly illegal pornography, the law aims to execute him. Zatoichi, having been honor bound to protect the man and his family, must now run against the law.
With a price on his head, Ichi seeks tranquillity in a favorite village. Since his last visit, it has fallen prey to Boss Masagoro, the son of a merchant rumored to have stolen gold from the shogunate. The boss has hired Yojimbo as his hard-drinking enforcer, but Yojimbo is both a spy for the shogunate, trying to find the gold, and in love with the merchant's unwilling mistress, Umeno. Ichi hires on as the merchant's masseur and buys Umeno's freedom with his employer's own money. This embarrasses Yojimbo who withdraws from a pact with Ichi to stir up trouble between father and son and their gangs. As the two sides fight, Ichi finds the gold and sets up a final set of confrontations.Written by
After a year-long hiatus, I return to the Zatoichi saga. There's not many movies left in the original run, and this one in particular is interesting because, as the title indicates, it's a crossover between Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu) and Yojimbo (Toshiro Mifune).
Now, I don't really know if this is even the same Yojimbo (bodyguard) character as in the two Kurosawa films, but if he is, then he's under a different name here. Anyway, not only is Toshiro Mifune present, but the film happens to be directed by Kihachi Okamoto (who made The Sword of Doom) and there's also a role by Ayako Wakao, the notable actress from many a Yasuzo Masumura New Wave film.
Unfortunately, this movie isn't anything to write home about. It utilizes every single trope of the Zatoichi franchise. Really, every single one. There's a town that got taken over by bad guys, there's an old flame of Zatoichi's (just how many towns across Japan does he have an ex-lover in?), there's Zatoichi briefly ruminating on his violent ways, there's a mysterious thug wearing a black kimono, there's a Chō- Han gambling game again, some comical moments, and finally a duel.
The one thing that sets this apart from the rest (besides Mifune) is the 2-hour long runtime. Certainly excessive for a Zatoichi film, especially when the plot is so convoluted such as in this one. Visually, there's the dull gray + brown palette again, but there are some nice shots, especially during the final duel which is quite atmospheric despite the outcome being obvious. The music is pretty good in this one, too.
Highlight of the film: the duel between Zatoichi and Yojimbo, naturally.
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