If your appetite for samurai movies has been whetted by Takeshi's 'Zatoichi' or Tarantino's 'Kill Bill: Vol. 1' and 'Vol. 2', don't just stick with the Kurosawa classics, try the original Zatoichi movies.
6 July 2004
'Zatoichi The Outlaw' was I think the sixteenth(!) entry in this long running action series, regarded by many as the most entertaining and consistent one of its type. The films generally shared a similar plot device - the wandering blind masseuse Zatoichi (played by Shintaro Katsu, incidentally the brother of Tomisaburo Wakayama star of the cult Lone Wolf And Cub series) enters a village being tormented by local baddies and kicks their asses, but the series managed to explore many variations of this basic theme (which is also pretty similar to Kurosawa's classic 'Yojimbo', and yes, Zatoichi did eventually "meet" Yojimbo in case you're wondering!). Katsu is perfect in the role which he really made his own. Beat Takeshi I admit was very cool as Zatoichi in his recent reworking of the character, but I'm sure even he would concede that Katsu IS Zatoichi. 'Zatoichi The Outlaw' has an interesting Leftist sub-text, and includes an intriguing character who attempts to organize the local peasants into a co-operative. If your appetite for samurai movies has been whetted by Takeshi's 'Zatoichi' or Tarantino's 'Kill Bill: Vol. 1' and 'Vol. 2', don't just stick with the Kurosawa classics, try the original Zatoichi movies. They are well made, well acted and filled with excitement and interest. I haven't seen enough of them to rate 'Zatoichi The Outlaw' overall, but it's a very entertaining film and I recommend it.
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