Zatoichi at Large (1972)

Despite a sensational action finale that rivals some of the best in the series, this 23rd instalment seems to have been made from a script that is one or two revisions away from being ready. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Review #2,473

Dir. Kazuo Mori
1972 | Japan | Action/Adventure/Drama | 90 mins | 2.35:1 | Japanese
Not rated – likely to be PG13 for some violence and sexual references

Cast: Shintaro Katsu, Rentaro Mikuni, Hisaya Morishige
Plot: Zatoichi finds a robbed and fatally wounded pregnant woman, whose baby he delivers before she dies. He takes the baby in search of its father and finds the child’s aunt, who is about to be forced into prostitution for want of a payment the dead mother was bringing.
Source: Toho

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

Viewed: Criterion Blu-ray
Spoilers: No

After this, I am just left with two more ‘Zatoichi’ entries and I would be done.  This 23rd instalment is average at best despite a sensational action finale that rivals some of the best in the series. 

Here, Zatoichi chances upon a dying woman who is pregnant.  In a first for the franchise, the blind swordsman helps her to give birth.  In her last moments, she mutters something about finding the baby’s father. 

If you are a Zatoichi movie veteran, this is the most typical of setups.  The villain here isn’t that powerful—he’s menacing but would certainly wilt in any fight.  In his gangsterly ways, he demands that a local police chief hand him the mandate to govern (read: extort) the town. 

“A man must stake his life on something he believes in.”

In steps Zatoichi, who at one point seems like he might have bitten more than he could chew as he is strangled and humiliated in the film’s most shocking scene. 

Directed by Kazuo Mori, who made one of the worst of the series in Zatoichi and the Doomed Man (1965), Zatoichi at Large suffers from a script that feels like it is one or two revisions away from being ready. 

One of the glaring problems centers on a ronin who is hoping to battle with Zatoichi—we don’t really know much about him, and his story arc doesn’t quite integrate with the larger narrative.  After a while, he becomes an afterthought and a ‘loose end’ that needs to be hastily resolved.  Here’s hoping the last two flicks would hit a home run. 

Grade: B-


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