The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
The Video Vacuum
thevideovacuum

THE TALE OF ZATOICHI (1962) ****

Shintaro Katsu stars in the first of 25 (26 if you count the 1989 reboot) films as Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman (and masseur). Zatoichi comes to stay with a lowly yakuza boss, who basically just keeps Zatoichi around in case war breaks out with a rival clan. Zatoichi befriends Tate (Michiro Miname), a troubled young member of the gang with woman problems. His sister Otane (Masayo Banri) eventually falls in love with Zatoichi, although he spurns her advances out of self-pity. Zatoichi also makes the acquaintance of Hirate (Shigeru Amachi), the terminally ill chief enforcer of the rival clan. He admires Zatoichi’s skill with a sword and the two develop a mutual respect for one another. Naturally, war between the two clans does come and Zatoichi and Hirate wind up squaring off on the battlefield.

The Tale of Zatoichi is full of all the traits that would become hallmarks of the series. The film boasts rich, well-defined characters that are complicated and compelling. The plot is dense, involving, and intriguing. And of course, the samurai action is excellent. The sparse, but impressive action sequences are a joy to watch, especially if you’re a fan of samurai cinema.

Katsu is great as Zatoichi. The scene where a bunch of gamblers try to pull one over on him during a dice game is awesome, and makes the audience really root for him. He’s equally great in his dramatic scenes and is a total badass during his swordfights. But he’s just as much fun to watch when he diffuses situations without violence too. And the male bonding between Zatoichi and Hirate is genuinely moving, as is their inevitable showdown.

Bottom Line: The Tale of Zatoichi is not only one of the best films in the entire series, it’s one of the best samurai movies of all time.

AKA: Zatoichi: The Life and Opinion of Masseur Ichi.

Tags: action, t, zatoichi series
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