This 15th installment’s focus on drama and storytelling is noteworthy, building to one of the series’ finest action-packed climaxes.
Dir. Kimiyoshi Yasuda
1967 | Japan | Action / Adventure / Drama | 93 mins | 2.35:1 | Japanese
Not rated (likely to be PG13)
Cast: Shintaro Katsu, Shiho Fujimura, Yoshihiko Aoyama
Plot: Zatoichi, while fighting off the usual group of gangsters, meets the apprentice of the swordsman who created his blade, who relays bad news about the sword.
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
Viewed: Criterion Blu-ray
As the title suggests, Zatoichi’s Cane Sword is about the weapon that he has wielded for years against gangsters, bandits and corrupt authorities.
Ever so reliant on his sword to defend against those out for his head, Zatoichi unexpectedly finds out from an old man-cum-sword expert that his beloved companion is just one slice away from breaking into pieces.
That old man in question is the disciple of a famous swordmaker who made Zatoichi’s seemingly invulnerable blade many years ago.
Zatoichi’s friendship with the old man could be one of the series most well-developed and heartwarming—it’s not surprising that the movie is more focused on drama and storytelling than most other films.
In fact, there is not much action until the climax, which is one of the most finely-staged of the series, featuring the blind swordsman against tens of armed men.
Zatoichi’s Cane Sword is also the first time that Zatoichi genuinely contemplates putting down his tired weapon for good, but as always, he becomes embroiled in the antics of abusive gangsters who bully an innkeeper into providing his space for vice activities.
So far, Kimiyoshi Yasuda has been quite a reliable director-for-hire having made the decent Zatoichi on the Road (1963) and Adventures of Zatoichi (1964). This is his best yet.