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The sixth and final film in the "Lone Wolf and Cub" series
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 11/17/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell" ("Kozure Ôkami: Jigoku e ikuzo! Daigoro") is the sixth and final film adapted from the "Lone Wolf and Cub" manga written by Kazuo Koike and illustrated by Goseki Kojima. Koike wrote the screenplays for the first four films, but Tstuomu Nakamura did the script for the last two, which might explain why the climax of the finale seems to be more appropriate for a James Bond film rather than a samurai assassin film. There were several interesting issues of "Lone Wolf and Cub" that dealt with winter settings, but Nakamura does not really avail himself of them for this script. As always, it is interesting to see how familiar stories are brought together in the film, which was directed by Yoshiyuki Kuroda.
This time there are four distinct acts to the action. First, Retsudo Yagyu (Minoru Ohki) is sending his daughter and last child, Lady Kaori (Junko Hitomi), who has perfected the falling dagger technique, after Lone Wolf and Cub (#79 "Sayaka"). Meanwhile, Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama) has brought Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa) for a final visit to the grave of his mother (#58 "A Poem for the Grave") before they make their way for Edo. On the road they will encounter Lady Kaori. Second, assassins who have buried alive are reborn as divine spirits (#77 "Incense for the Living") and sent after Lone Wolf and Cub. Their strategy is to kill everybody whom father and son have contact with on the road to Meifumado (#76 "Five Wheels of the Yagyu"), which means a lot of innocents are getting killed until Ogami Itto goes off into the wildnerness to force the Yagyu's hand. Third, Retsudo attempts to persuade his illegitimate son, Hyoei (Isao Kimura) to kill Ogami Itto. When he refuses, Retsudo tries to get Hyoei's sister, Lady Azusa (Mayumi Yamaguchi) to persuade him to act. Hyoei agrees, seeing it as an opportunity to take over the Yagyu clan. However, Ogami Itto must first deal with the cancellation of an assassination because of the threat of the Yagyu (#80 "Clouds of Silk"). Then he faces Hyoei and forces him to issue a challenge for a duel (#67 "The Hojiro Yaguy") and Retsudo is forced to deal with Hoyei's final effort to usurp his position.
The final act is where this film goes off the rails. Although the setting is similar to when father and son first made their way through the snow covered mountains (#64, "The Moon in the East, the Sun in the West") the story gets well beyond watch the baby cart being used as a sled. We are talking samurai on skis, ninjas on skis, and samurai on sleds. At least Ogami Itto does not get on skis, but he does some serious sledding. It is just that all of the shots of samurai swinging swords while jumping over the camera on skies get to be a bit much, and when a horde of them (including Retsudo), ski (or sled) right by their prey we were definitely into shark jumping territory. The bad news is that this is not a fitting end to the cinematic saga of Lone Wolf and Cub, but the good news is that are a dozen more volumes of the original manga as published by Dark Horse Comics that will get you to the true end of the story (although clearly they did not know this sixth film would be the final one in the series).
I know all of these movies were edited and dubbed into "Shogun Assassin" in 1980, but I must insist that you take the high road and avoid that butchery in favor of the original sextet of films. In order these are: (1) "Kozure Ôkami: Kowokashi udekashi tsukamatsuru" ("Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance," 1972); (2) "Kozure Ôkami: Sanzu no kawa no ubaguruma" ("Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx," 1972); (3) "Kozure Ôkami: Shinikazeni mukau ubaguruma" ("Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades," 1972); (4) "Kozure Ôkami: Oya no kokoro ko no kokoro" ("Lone Wolf and Cub: In Peril," 1972); (5) "Kozure Ôkami: Meifumando" ("Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Land of Demons," 1973); and (6) "Kozure Ôkami: Jigoku e ikuzo! Daigoro" ("Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell," 1974). The above list does not include literal translations of each Japanese title but rather the name given their most recent U.S. releases (I believe the original U.S. releases in the 1970s just numbered these as "Swords of Vengeance" I-VI). The literal translation of this sixth film in the series would be "Lone Wolf and Cub: Go to Hell, Daigoro," so you can see why that leaves a bit to be desired."
Last episode of Lone Wolf
Lawrance M. Bernabo | 06/12/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The lord Retsudo Yagyu, whose 3 sons were killed by Ogami Itto, sends his knife-juggling daughter to kill the Lone Wolf. After she fails, Retsudo demands help from an illegitimate son he abandonned in the forest and who is now a Tshuchigumo (magic tribe of the forest). He challenges Ogami to replace his father Retsudo. When he fails, Retsudo and his men try one last time to kill the Lone Wolf in a climatic fight on a snowy mountain side. A very original entry, beautifully photographed, but the fights are slightly under par (for the series of course) and the final battle involving samurai on skies and on sleighs and a Ben-Hur like confrontation between Retsudo and the Wolf on sleighs is unique but never achieves the rythm and momentum of other finales of this great series."
Wind it Up with a Bang!
Archmaker | California | 04/24/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the 6th and last entry in the series Lone Wolf & Cub. This one not only has a different director than Kenji, who directed 4 of the others, this is the entry most like a comic-book (the series is based on a famous comic book series). Not that that is bad.
The whole series fluctuated between great period detail, serious themes, and not taking itself too seriously. It was at once graphic and fantastic, realistic and wildly improbable, factual and imaginary. serious & silly. That's what made it so damn interesting.
Throughout the series the action has taken place in different locales and landscapes of Japan. Tracing actual historical roads and cities. Now we end the series in the mountains and the snow, the White Heaven in Hell of the title.
This entry has a lot of stuff going on: Lord Retsudo of the hated Yagyu Clan, Ogami's arch enemy, sends his last child, a daughter to do in Ogami with her "Falling Dagger" technique. When, predictably, she fails, he goes to an illegitimate son that was abandoned and raised by a mountain tribe.
The downhill ski battle may not be quite as intense and exciting as the one in Her Majesties Secret Service, but it ain't bad. That Ogami's Baby Cart guns never seem to need reloading etc. are minor quibbles. If Ogami doesn't shoot em he always seems able to bifurcate them, behead them, or run em through. Red sprays all over the white snow.
Anyway, they wind the series up with a bang. One of the strangest, most unique, and unusual series ever produced anywhere. Worth it if you don't mind the violence."
Works for me...
H. A Huffman | Mt. Prospect, IL USA | 12/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Great stuff. I have been looking for these films for years, now I can get them easily. Lucky for you too.
There is nothing like Lone Wolf and Cub, it has all the elements that I like in a martial srts flick. This is a no-holds-barred type of film, full of bloody slashing and hacking but always done with a sense of style.
Get the entire series."
A bloodbath of carnage.
Steven Hellerstedt | 05/24/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There's a twenty-two page text introduction on the LONE WOLF AND CUB: WHITE HELL dvd. It explains a lot - what one in Japan calls their mother and father and respected elder. What one used to call their mother and father and respected elder. It also contains a capsule history of Japan, from the eighth century or so onward. In all, a fairly imposing prelude. Fortunately, all my study went for nought. It turned out, after all, that I didn't need to know the proper and improper use of the term `sensei,' or the history of the city of Edo. Best yet, inadvertently starting this six-part series at part six didn't present many problems, either. WHITE HELL is a wonderfully uncomplicated and undemanding action movie. I enjoyed it very much without fussing over minute details. Ogami Itto, the Lone Wolf of the title, travels about pushing a baby carriage containing his son, Cub. The time is winter, the carriage is on skis rather than wheels, and it's armed and plated in a manner that would do a James Bond movie proud. Itto's sworn enemy Retsudo enlists a series of champions to kill Lone Wolf, and presumably Cub, as well. These highly efficient killers include Retsudo's daughter, a knife-wielding cutie, and three young men who are buried underground for 42 days and emerge as burrowing, fast moving, earth worm-ish assassins. As Retsudo exclaims when he cracks the men out of their clay pots - `Innocent people will die. There will be a bloodbath of carnage and a tempest of death!' What more could an action movie fan ask for? The largest ski attack ever filmed, I suppose. This fun, escapist movie has that, too. Strongly recommended. "