Despite being more talky than usual, this satisfying entry features a terrific climactic action set-piece.
Dir. Kenji Misumi
1972 | Japan | Action/Adventure | 89 mins | 2.40:1 | Japanese
Not rated (likely to be at least M18 for strong violence and gore)
Cast: Tomisaburo Wakayama, Go Kato, Yuko Hama
Plot: Ogami Itto volunteers to be tortured by the yakuza to save a prostitute and is hired by their leader to kill an evil chamberlain.
Subject Matter: Slightly Mature/Violent
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Niche Mainstream/Cult
(Reviewed on Criterion Blu-ray)
At this halfway point so far, this third (of six) instalments of the ‘Lone Wolf and Cub’ series is possibly my favourite. It is certainly a step up from Baby Cart at the River Styx (1972), which had too much action and little in the way of intrigue and plotting.
In fact, the converse is true for Baby Cart to Hades, which has just enough action to entice, including a terrific climactic set-piece in which the titular ‘Lone Wolf’, Ogami, single-handedly battles nearly a hundred guardsmen (think similarly of The Bride vs. the Crazy 88 in Kill Bill Vol. 1, but in a Sergio Leone-style setting), plus an episodic narrative that has more substance and plot complications than expected.
In its portrayal of one-upmanship between Ogami and a feudal lord realising he is at risk of being assassinated, the film details the thin line between life and death. In another subplot, Ogami is asked to have a duel with a down-and-out swordsman seeking purpose in death. There is also more involvement for Ogami’s young boy, Daigoro, in the plotting, particularly in a comic scene where he lures a gunslinger to an untimely demise.
From the opening scene of a river boat ride to shots of an idyllic countryside that make up the bulk of the film, Baby Cart to Hades is beautiful, but more importantly, it is a satisfying entry in the cult series.