The second movie brings the series down to a disappointing notch with a thinner storyline, and some questionable decisions in plotting.
Dir. Kenji Misumi
1972 | Japan | Action/Adventure | 81 mins | 2.40:1 | Japanese
Not rated (likely to be at least M18 for strong violence and gore)
Cast: Tomisaburô Wakayama, Kayo Matsuo, Minoru Oki
Plot: Trailed by a clan of female ninja, Ogami is paid to assassinate a clan traitor accompanied by three killers known as the Gods of Death.
Subject Matter: Slightly Mature/Violent
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Niche Mainstream/Cult
(Reviewed on Criterion Blu-ray)
While the first film, Sword of Vengeance (1972), kicked off the ‘Lone Wolf and Cub’ series in style, the follow-up, Baby Cart at the River Styx, pales in comparison, bringing it down to a disappointing notch. That is not to say it is no fun, for it should continue to whet the appetite of those in search of a bloody good time.
It is just that the second movie feels rather slight, with a thinner storyline (though plot is not at all a selling point for these kinds of pictures) that centers on Ogami (Tomisaburo Wakayama) and his young toddler on another adventure.
This time around, Ogami is being hunted by a clan of female ninjas (one of whom early on in an arrogant show of fighting prowess, severs the arms and legs of a male warrior for fun), while he in turn is paid to kill a traitor who is accompanied by three formidable ‘Gods of Death’.
River Styx may be even comically gorier than its predecessor, and some of the setups are worth the wait, notably an early female ninja ambush. However, the movie has a strange monotonous vibe to it, with a number of empty moments causing pacing problems—chief culprit being an extended segment of Ogami weak with injuries and exhaustion, whilst his son tries to get him water and food. This leads to a plot development that defies logic and motivation. For completists only.