This easy-going if poor entry doesn’t quite contribute much to Zatoichi’s characterisation, nor does it have an involving premise.
Dir. Kazuo Mori
1965 | Japan | Action/Adventure/Drama | 77 mins | 2.35:1 | Japanese
Not rated (likely to be PG13)
Cast: Shintaro Katsu, Kanbi Fujiyama, Eiko Taki
Plot: The blind masseur and swordsman, Zatoichi, searches for evidence to proof an imprisoned man’s innocence.
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
Viewed: Criterion Blu-ray
Kazuo Mori’s second Zatoichi movie after The Tale of Zatoichi Continues (1962) is just as short, running at less than 80 minutes.
If that is not already an indicator that the storytelling lacks enough forward momentum or substance, then Zatoichi’s seemingly aimless journey through another ‘tale’ would suggest that this 11th instalment is at best dispensable, and at worst, inconsequential.
Shintaro Katsu’s performance seems to suggest that he is slightly annoyed at being forced to pit his skills against more amateurs.
In fact, in an unusual decision, Zatoichi doesn’t help a man in need who has been sentenced to death despite his desperate pleas of innocence. But Zatoichi soon finds himself entangled in a larger web of corruption and deceit.
It is an easy-going movie, with some entertaining action set-pieces, though the final battle, while set up as a free-for-all romp, suffers from shoddy editing.
Without a sinister villain, and one who is too easy to overcome, there is little to involve the viewer other than seeing how the story (conventionally) plays out.
Supporting characters also come and go without having a strong stake in the narrative, for instance, a woman whom Zatoichi saves from a landlord, or a scheming monk who impersonates Zatoichi (mostly played for laughs), have quite substantial scenes with the blind swordsman, but they don’t quite amount to anything significant.
Zatoichi and the Doomed Man and Zatoichi’s Flashing Sword (1964) are so far the two weakest entries to me.