Samaritan Zatoichi (1968)

This 19th installment is a rather straightforward if still serviceable affair, as the guilt-ridden blind swordsman protects a woman from nefarious harm.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Review #2,324

Dir. Kenji Misumi
1968 | Japan | Action/Adventure/Drama | 82 mins | 2.35:1 | Japanese
Not rated – likely to be PG13

Cast: Shintaro Katsu, Yoshiko Mita, Makoto Sato
Plot: Zatoichi is tricked by a crime gang into killing a man. Realizing his mistake, he sets out to protect the dead man’s sister, who is conflicted in accepting his help.
Source: Daiei

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: Criterion Blu-ray
Spoilers: No

It’s been three months since I last reviewed a ‘Zatoichi’ flick.  So, here I am with the 19th instalment, seeing how the blind swordsman is doing in his next journey. 

Here, he is fraught with extreme guilt when he realises that a man that he helped a group of aggressors kill shouldn’t have to die when his sister comes (a little too late) to pay his debts. 

The tragic incident prompts him to do more soul-searching than usual as he forms an unlikely friendship with the aforesaid woman, who tries to forgive him.  The blame (and this is always a staple in every ‘Zatoichi’ film) is with the powerfully corrupt who run the local town with an iron fist. 

Part trying to get rid of these nefarious people, and part attempting to atone for his fatal mistake, Zatoichi swears to protect the woman from harm. 

“When I’ve cut down someone who shouldn’t have had to die, the whole world goes black.”

Samaritan Zatoichi is the fifth ‘Zatoichi’ movie helmed by the usually reliable Kenji Misumi, whose work here could be his weakest. 

Narrative-wise, it is a rather straightforward if still serviceable affair, and certainly less thematically or psychologically complex than some of his best works like Fight, Zatoichi, Fight (1964) and Zatoichi Challenged (1967).  There is also more action than usual for a Misumi piece, which he of course tackles with aplomb. 

Overall, Samaritan Zatoichi is slightly more pessimistic in outlook, though there are moments of comedy, for instance, a hilarious scene of a street game pop-up where Zatoichi remarkably—but not surprisingly—hits down a continuing series of moving objects.

Grade: B-


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