The Tale of Zatoichi

"Very Good"

The Tale of Zatoichi Review


Spawning 26 sequels and 100 TV episodes, Shantaro Katsu's Zatoichi is a legendary hero of Japanese entertainment. Which makes it kind of wierd, I think, that I've never heard of him before now.

In this, his first feature film appearance, now appearing on DVD, Zatoichi shows the same kind of gumption that makes Clint Eastwood's characters such unlikely heroes -- but heroes nonetheless. For starters, what audience will identify with him? He's a blind masseur who lives by the Yakuza mercenary code, wandering from village to village while vanquishing his tormentors with a sword he wields with deadly accuracy. Though blind (and, let's face it, ugly and nearly obese), he can still toss a candle into the air, draw his sword, and slice it in two... lengthwise, with both sides still burning.

There's something about Zatoichi that makes him endearing to the common man, the Japanese laborer, maybe, who feels that even though he's put-upon at work, he might be able to slice a candle in two.

The story in his debut film is really a miss, however -- Zatoichi finds himself stuck between warring Yakuza factions, saddled with a middling love story and an obvious conclusion. But maybe that's what the Japanese audiences were looking for: No surprises.

Aka Zatoichi Monogatari.



The Tale of Zatoichi

Facts and Figures

Run time: 95 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 18th April 1962

Distributed by: Criterion Collection

Production compaines: Daiei Motion Picture Company

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 7

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Keji Misumi

Starring: as Zatoichi, Masayo Banri as Tane, as Sasagawa yakuza boss, Hajime Mitamura as Hanji of Matsugishi, Shigeru Amachi as Hirate, Miki, as Yoshi / Hanji's wife, Ikuko Môri as Yutaka / Shigezô's wife, Michirô Minami as Tatekichi / Tane's brother / Saki's lover / Iioka yakuza member, as Sukegorô of Iioka / Iioka yakuza boss, Toshio Chiba as Masakichi / Iioka yakuza member, Manabu Morita as Seisuke / Tane's ex-lover / Iioka yakuza member, Yoichi Funaki as Yogorô / Sasagawa yakuza member, Kinya Ichikawa as Mokichi / Sasagawa yakuza member, Eigoro Onoe as Rihei / Sasagawa yakuza member, Yoshito Yamaji as Yahei / Father of Tane and Tatekichi, Yukio Horikita as Kanaji / Sasagawa yakuza member, Ryuuji Fukui as Daihachi / Iioka yakuza member, Masayoshi Kikuno as A coolie, Hajime Koshikawa as A farmer, Akira Shiga as A dice-roller, Masashi Hamada as Iioka yakuza member, Hiroyoshi Nishioka as Iioka yakuza member, Gen Kimura as Sasagawa gambler spy, Taizô Sengoku as Ishichi / Sasagawa yakuza member, Noboru Taniguchi as Tomozô / Sasagawa yakuza member, Shingo Hosotani as Iioka yakuza member, Katsuyoshi Baba as Iioka yakuza member, Yô Yuuki as Iioka yakuza member, Keiko Awanami as Saki / Tatekichi's lover, Kanae Kobayashi as Kane the Sasagawa innkeeper, Jun Katsumura as Iioka yakuza

Contactmusic


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