It’s difficult to stay invested in a story that has no real tension or emotional connection—this is one of the series’ weakest installments.
Dir. Kenji Misumi
1973 | Japan | Action/Crime | 89 mins | 2.40:1 | Japanese
Not rated (likely to be M18 for violence)
Cast: Tomisaburo Wakayama, Michiyo Yasuda, Akihiro Tomikawa
Plot: Five warriors challenge Ogami to duels. Each holds a part of information needed to complete the assassination of a mad clan leader.
Subject Matter: Slightly Mature/Violent
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Niche Mainstream/Cult
Viewed: Criterion Blu-ray
It’s been a wild ride so far for me with the ‘Lone Wolf and Cub’ series, but this fifth instalment is a major letdown. It’s even worse than Baby Cart at the River Styx (1972), which didn’t quite work for me.
Structurally, Land of Demons is already a problem with the movie setting itself up by having its titular assassin face five warriors along his journey, as they each put their lives on the line in a bid to provide him with pieces of secret information that would eventually lead him to an assassination mission.
I must admit that the movie lost me after this incoherent setup. Although the ‘Lone Wolf and Cub’ pictures are never supposed to be taken seriously, Land of Demons has no real tension whatsoever with narrative stakes minimally drawn out even though it tackles themes of betrayal and deceit.
Heck, I couldn’t even summarise what the movie is about even if I want to. There is also a lack of emotional connection to any of the characters, something that the previous installment, Baby Cart in Peril (1972), had in abundance.
However, there is a sequence that remains stuck in my mind—the corporal punishment of Daigoro, Ogami’s son, for allegedly being involved with a wanted female pickpocket. If the most memorable part of the movie is the flogging of a child, then there’s really nothing much else to be excited about.