Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Zatoichi 20 - Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo|
Actors: Toshir˘ Mifune, Shintar˘ Katsu, Ayako Wakao, Osamu Takizawa, Masakane Yonekura
Director: Kihachi Okamoto
Genres: Action & Adventure, Westerns, Indie & Art House, Drama, Anime & Manga, Animation
Studio: Koch International Release Date: 01/25/2005
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Shintaro Katsu's Zatoichi meets Toshiro Mifune's Yojimbo
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 06/06/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo" is the 20th film featuring Shintaro Katsu as Zatoichi, the blind masseur by trade and gambler by nature, but the first that I have ever seen of the 27 films that were made, mostly in the 1960s and 1970s. Like many Western viewers who come across this film it is from the perspective of familiarity with Toshiro Mifune's Yojimbo character. However, while there are obvious similarities between Sasa Daisaku, the yojimbo (body guard) that Mifune plays in this 1970 film, I really do not find it to be the same character from 1961's "Sanjuro" or from the 1962 sequel "Tsubaki Sanjuro," who was named Sanjuro Kuwabatake. The key difference is that Sasa shows more emotion, is more likely to get drunk, and is not ahead of the game this time around (in other words, he has a bit of Kikuchiyo from 1954's "Shichinin no samurai" in him); I have seen the argument that Sasa is Sanjuro in disguise or undercover, but I am inclined not to accept the idea or the proposition that the older Mifune is playing a more world weary version of his classic samurai gangster. Besides, the names of both characters in the title are occupational descriptions and not their given names. Since the film is directed by Kihachi Okamoto rather than Akira Kurosawa, the match up would seem to favor Zatoichi, but do not think that this is simply some sort of samurai film version of "Freddy vs. Jason" that climaxes with a fight to some sort of finish. Just appreciate going in that you are probably at a disadvantage in not knowing the background of both characters, because that is going to keep you from fully understanding this film.
Ichi, tired of the blood on his hands, returns to a peaceful village from his past, only to find that he is in the middle of yet another gang war. On one side is Masagoro (Sakatoshi Masakane), head of the Kobotoke Clan and renounced son of Eboshiya Yasuke (Osamu Takizawa), the wealthy silk distributor who is now the other side. Masagoro knows his father has been staling gold, so he hired Sasa to find the gold for him. The rascally Ichi does not want to get involved, but that changes when he learns about the hidden stolen gold. Sasa is promised a fortune for killing Zatoichi, but that does not seem as important as getting drunk. Clearly the yojimbo feels nothing but contempt for Masagoro, and he actually seems to have feeling for Umeno (Ayako Wakao), who has been reduced to a common prostitute by her debt to Eboshiya Yasuke. She wants the drunken yojimbo to ride the town of the yakuza and that appears to motivate him more than the money. Of course, this puts him on a collision course with Ichi, and a swordfight between Zatoichi and Yojimbo will figure into the resolution of the story, but the key part of director Kihachi Okamoto's film are the circuitous paths by which they come to that final confrontation.
Obviously the two master swordsmen start off as enemies, and while they do not become friends it becomes clear that would never happen given their natures. So the story rings true in that regard. The sword fights do not come until the last act of the film, but that is necessary since once these two draw their swords that will bring things to a head and a conclusion (but notice the difference between Katoichi and Yojimbo in terms of how they dispatch the quartet of swordsmen who jump them). As always, the film is filled with interesting supporting characters, and the one that stood out for me was Hyoroku (Kanjuro Arashi), who was once the chief of the peaceful village, but who made the mistake of hiring the Kobotoke Clan to protect the peasants during a time of famine and drought. After the gang took over the village, he became the coffin maker for the village, carving each lost a jizo. Still, the emphasis is on Zatoichi and Yojimbo, and it is the former, with his Columbo-like bumbling, who proves to be more central to the film than the latter, as Mifune comes across as playing his character with a hand tied behind his back. If this were not my first Zatoichi film I might be inclined to round up, but at this point I cannot read between the lines on the character enough to justify going higher on the rating (I might change my mind after checking out some more Zatoichi films on DVD). In terms of DVD extras there is a trailer for "Lone Wolf and Cub" (the series was produced by Katsu), some detailed character biographies, and some interesting liner notes that cover the history of the period and focus on the yakuza."
Zatoichi the series.
W. Morgan Sheppard | 10/09/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Fun, and the most humorous of the 26 Zatoichi movies. Both stars were formidable actors and swordsmen, and with a good script (this is) the two of them draw the best out of each other. Mifune's powerful playing versus Katsu's sly sense of humor - and both actors had such gravitas. I had the honor of having dinner with both of them, in Kyoto, around the time they were working on this picture. Two powerhouses who dominated any screen."
My favorite Zatoichi film.
Rich | 07/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"No other Zatoichi film compares to this one. All the actors in the film do excellent performances. The humour in this film is the diversity (yet complementive) personalities of Zatoichi and Yojimbo. If two great actors who play two great characters who argue to each other (and laugh too) as not being funny, then I don't know what funny is."
A Great Movie- it's Toshiro Mifune but it's NOT Kurosawa's Y
Peter Andrew Yacavone | Amherst, MA | 08/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A fan of Kuroswawa's YOJIMBO movies is liable to be dissappointed at the character played by Mifune in this film. Kurosawa's Yojimbo is a powerful, frightening mater of the sword. Mifune's character in this film is a down-on-his-luck samurai with a serious drinking problem and a long-time love interest. He may be tough, but he's NOT the same character at all! Beyond Mifune's signature unshaven looks and bravura style there is no reference to the Kuroswasa films (a pity!). And, as a matter of fact, the character in this movie DOES have a name.
Nevertheless, once you know what (not) to expect, this movie is a ball. It's tremedously entertaining and both of the stars are in perfect form. Okamoto's cinematography is, as always, terrific.
The film seems to have been meant to be somethign like The GOOD, the BAD, and The UGLY- an ironic instance of the imitated imitating the imitators. It falls short of that incredibly high level and perhaps shows the difference between talent and genius (although Okamoto's other films do blur that line). But if this is no masterpiece its a solid classic well worth its cult reputation. Thanks to AnimEigo for a great DVD of the one at last."