One of the best in the Zatoichi series.
27 July 2004
'Zatoichi At The Fire Festival' was the 21st entry in the popular martial arts series that starred Shintaro Katsu as the blind swordsman Zatoichi. This time around Zatoichi (who moonlights as a masseur) is present at a geisha auction. Later that night he rescues one of the sold women but she is unexpectedly murdered by a mysterious swordsman. We soon learn that he was the dead woman's husband and that he plans on killing Zatoichi because he believes that his wife slept with him. To complicate things further Zatoichi also makes an enemy of the local boss (a common occurrence in this series!), a blind man known as "the Prince Of Darkness" (played by Masayuki Mori who co-starred in Kurosawa's samurai classic 'Rashomon'), becomes a sort of mentor to a young, effeminate wanna-be pimp Umeji (played by Peter, who later appeared in Kurosawa's 'Ran'), and also falls in love with the beautiful Okiyo (Reiko Ohara). Whew! I'm a relative newcomer to these movies but I'm really loving them. Zatoichi is a fascinating character, shy and funny, but a killing machine when need be. This is one of the best in the series, and the standout scenes are a hilarious attempted seduction of Zatoichi by Umeji, and a killer nude fight sequence in a bathhouse. If Beat Takeshi's recent (excellent) 'Zatoichi' has whetted your appetite try some of the Katsu originals. They are immensely entertaining, and I'll bet twenty bucks that Tarantino is a BIG fan.
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