It may have a wafer-thin storyline, but there’s no shortage of action in this mildly entertaining final instalment.
Dir. Yoshiyuki Kuroda
1974 | Japan | Action/Adventure | 83 mins | 2.40:1 | Japanese
Not rated (likely to be at least M18 for strong violence)
Cast: Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Junko Hitomi
Plot: With most of his family already dead at Ogami’s hands, Retsudo launches one last plot to destroy him.
Subject Matter: Slightly Mature/Violent
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Niche Mainstream/Cult
Viewed: Criterion Blu-ray
Some have labelled the last instalment of the ‘Lone Wolf and Cub’ series as one of the weakest, but to be honest I much rather see a movie with a straightforward, wafer-thin storyline but with loads of good action, than one with a convoluted plot with little depth where only the action makes sense.
White Heaven in Hell is an example of the former, and is arguably the most action-packed entry of the lot. It is also quite off-the-hinges with slight elements of the supernatural creating several bizarre scenes that differentiates itself from the earlier, more ‘grounded’ efforts.
The father-and-son duo continue their journey to eradicate the Yagyu clan, but meet with some standard resistance along the way. One strong visual marker of this film is the copious use of snow, hence the title ‘white heaven’.
In the climactic battle between Ogami and the Yagyu forces that recalls a similar one in Baby Cart to Hades (1972), we are treated to a numerous body count over the best of snow. Limbs are severed, blood gushing like geysers and bloodied bodies slumping over hectares of white is a disturbing if poetic sight.
White Heaven in Hell is mildly entertaining, and while it concludes in a way that suggests more episodes to come, this is seemingly the end of the creative road for the franchise. The filmmakers have probably pulled out every last trick of the playbook—well, there’s only so many ways to stylishly slice a person into pieces.