Kazuo Koike weaves together more Lone Wolf & Cub tales
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 02/14/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Kozure Ôkami: Sanzu no kawa no ubaguruma" ("Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx") is the second of six films adapted from the epic manga by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima. I have read through the first 27 volumes of the manga and while awaiting the publication of the final volume have been watching the film versions. What I am finding most interesting is how Koike, who did the screenplay, is adapting the original stories and weaving them together into a particular film. In the first film of series, "Kozure Ôkami: Kowokashi udekashi tsukamatsuru" ("Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance"), Koike basically took one early episode and incorporate as flashbacks the two pivotal stories of how Ogami Itto and Daigoro came to be walking the assassin's road. The approach is more ambitious for this second film.Koike is again working with the early stories in the series (i.e., the ones that were written by 1972), but this time he weaves two different stories together to provide the basic narrative structure: the seventh episode, "Eight Gates of Decent," about a group of betsushikime (women warriors) dispatched to kill Lone Wolf and Cub, and the fifteenth episode, "Flute of the Fallen Tiger," where Ogami Itto faces three "masters of death" with distinctive fighting styles who are guarding his target. Ironically, the fourth episode, from which the film gets its title of "Baby Cart on the River Styx," is represented by only Ogami Itto showing his skill to a prospective client by throwing his sword through a screen to kill an unseen assassin. However, Koike incorporates small elements from several other stories, such as the attack of the two samurai (Episode 39, "Tidings of the Geese"), Ogami Itto's fever (Episode 12, "Tragic O-Sue"), and Daigoro learning to count (Episode 47, "Echo of the Assassin"). I do not mean to suggest that "Baby Cart at the River Styx" is just a cut and paste job, because Koike and director Kenji Misumi do come up with some new things, even if we are talking mostly the choreography of the attacks. But the chief virtue of these films is that they bring some of your favorite scenes form the Lone Wolf and Cub manga to the big screen. The assumption here is that you know the basic story of why Lone Wolf and Cub walk the assassin's road constantly best by Yagyu assassins, even though Retsudo Yagyu never appears in the film. This is still the early part of the story, where Ogamii Itto's goal was to collect his 500 pieces of gold for each assassination (i.e., before he stole the Yagyu letter and forced Retsudo to launch an all-out attempt to kill father and son). The level of violence is at least on a par with the manga (lots of jets of spurting blood with accompanying sound effects) but the sex is turned down (i.e., no scenes of the betsushikime practicing naked). Tomisaburo Wakayama is a bit stockier as Ogami Itto than the character is drawn by Goseki Kojima, but he certainly captures the silent stillness of Lone Wolf. Akihiro Tomikawa as Daigoro does his best to capture that quality at appropriate moments in the film. What elevates this film above its predecessor for me is not all the bloodletting, but rather the ability to faithfully realize these characters and the sense of lyricism that ends the film with the "Flute of the Fallen Tiger" (you will understand the metaphor when you watch the final scene)."
Shogun Assassin Strikes Back!
Kenny Cross | Seal Beach, CA USA | 01/13/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In the late '70's or beginning of the '80's a movie was released in the United States called Shogun Assassin. When I saw this movie I was stunned by its visceral appeal. I was just a kid but I knew that this was something special. For years and years I would tell my friends about this movie called Shogun Assassin and they would just stare at me with empty looks. A couple years ago I was working in a comic book store and when I was flipping through the month's order guide I came across these Lone Wolf and Cub movies in the order form. I stared in disbelief, "Could this be truly what I am seeing? Can it be Shogun Assassin?" Of course I jumped around the store for a bit - scaring the customers and my boss. From my recollection the movie Shogun Assassin - around 70-80% of the movie was taken from this one Lone Wolf and Cub movie - Lone Wolf and Cub at the River Styx. With other bits and pieces from the other Lone Wolf and Cub movies spliced in as well. For those of you who have the need for some great sword play, cool ninjas, and a baby cart that would make Conan envious - this is the movie for you! A little bit of the ultra-violence, and a great movie."
The Whistling of the Wintry Wind.....
Archmaker | California | 04/22/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 2nd in the Series is nearly non-stop action as Ogami Itto, the former Shogun Executioner, is beset by enemies from every side. Pushing his young son along in a very tricky baby cart he is busy dispatching attackers from the onset to the closing titles.First up are the Akashi Yagyu Clanswomen who introduce themselves to us by dismembering an opponent bit-by-bit from nose to ankles as they fight him. But even these talented female Ninjas are no match for Ogami, he of the Suiouryu Horse-Slaying Technique of sword fighting, although they make a hell of an effort attacking him with hats, knives, and even a gigantic sort of radish!After dispatching all but the head Clanswoman, Sayaka, he must deal with the male Kokuguwa ninjas and there is much more bloody mayhem (with the requisite arterial sprays and more). Later, Itto & Daigoro win over Sayaka in a most novel way. All of this leads to the final fantastic showdown battle in the Sand dunes with the 3 lethal Hidari brothers who are guarding the person Itto is to assassinate. Known as the Gods of Death, the Hidari brothers are masters of the Hand Armor Claw, the Flying Club and the Mailed Fist, if that gives you any idea what Itto is up against.The clan intrigues and plot points are too complicated to detail here. But it is easy to follow with help from the subtitles and the great Liner Notes that detail the history and explain the codes of conduct and background to the story.This entry is wildly violent and extremely bloody, with terrific fights and escapes. Our stone faced hero is implacable and remorseless, but true to his own code of honor. And, finally there is the "Whistling of Wintry Wind" which ISN'T a poem but an unforgettable effect & image I will not spoil for you."
Battling Blades bring Blood and Brutality
General Zombie | the West | 07/27/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I wanna mention up front that though this is probably only a 4 star movie overall, action movie's are held to a lower standard in my book, and by those standards this is a 5.
This movie's not big on plot, but I'll talk about it some anyway. In the first film, Sword of Vengeance, which I haven't actually seen, Ogami Itto, the Shoggunate assassin, is framed for treason and his wife is murdered by the Yagyu clan. Thus he is now a Ronin, and he and his young son Daigoro wander the country as assassins. In this film they are hired to assassinate some guy to prevent the Awa clan from losing their secret dye processing method, or something like that, while they are continually hunted by the Yagyu clan. The man they need to assassinate is being guarded by the 3 Gods of Death, who wield a spikey-fist, a mace-type thing and a claw hand, whom Ogami will need to defeat in the final showdown.
The 2 protagonists are quite appealing. Ogami is your standard vengeance-seeking, morally dubious hero who is taciturn and isolated. Perhaps not the most original characterization in the world, but it's a good one none the less. And what can I say, Daigoro is a cute kid. Their relationship adds a greater emotional depth to the film, and not in the traditionally manipulative use of children in film. i.e. you sympathize with Ogami when Daigoro is in danger because Ogami is his father moreso than because Daigoro is a little kid. The villains are alright too, though they don't really do all that much other than fight. There's a bit of evil laughter on their part which seems a bit forced, but it's not to big a deal. Other than that the acting is generally more than competent, though it's harder to judge this sort of thing when you don't speak the languange.
This film is beautifully shot, with lots of great outdoor locations. Lotsa nice long shots as well, which remind of Leone's westerns and accentuate the landscape too. The dune filled desert at the end is particularly stunning. Overall the film has great atmosphere.(The scenes where Ogami listens to the drums of the Kurokawa are especially atmospheric) The music is good enough if not remarkable. It suits the material, but nothing really jumps out at you. The action scenes are just great, as they ought to be in an action movie. These are nice, old fashioned actions scenes where you actually get to see what's going on, and the camera actually sits still. It's melee stuff, of course, but always with weapons. Though the fight at the end is good, the ones with the female Shinobi and Kurokawa in the forest are the best. This series is most famous for its extravagant, over the top gore, and it doesn't disappoint. Limbs fly, arteries spray 20 feet or more, faces are cut down the middle etc. The most notable scene comes early in the film where, a pack of female Shinobi slowly dismember their opponent, eventually leaving him a limbless and rather dead torso. Despite the stylized nature of the gore this film isn't camp. Though the gore is over the top, and some of the moves they use in battle can be a bit whacky, the film is very serious and professional otherwise, and always plays the material straight.
Well, what else is there to say. It's got great action, which is all you need for an action movie, and some good atmosphere and cool characters to boot. Definitely worthwhile. "
Freaky fountains of blood!
Hamer | 04/17/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you only buy one Samurai-action slash-fest blood-gushing film this year, this is the one to get. My favorite in the Lone Wolf series- I first saw it years ago in S.F. on poor quality VHS- It's wonderful to see it released on DVD! It has the prerequisite quick editing, tension, action, and wanton severing of limbs, i.e. the fantastic opening battle with the wicker-masked assassins. I especially like the 1970's style photography and psychedelic effects- i.e. when the female ninja team is trying to freak out our hero with their swirling colored fabric. See where Tarantino got his ideas from!"