Zatoichi at the Fire Festival
Zatoichi 21 / Zatoichi - The Festival of Fire
Shintaro Katsu for Katsu Productions, Daiei
directed by Kenji Misumi
starring Shintaro Katsu, Tatsuya Nakadai, Reiko Ohara, Masayuki Mori, Peter, Ko Nishimura, Yoshitaro Asawaka, Ryutaro Gomi, Yuuji Hamada, Yukio Horikita, Shingo Ibuki, Ryunosuke Kaneda, Jun Katsumura, Akane Kawasaki, Eizo Kitamura, Takuya Kitano, Kanae Kobayashi, Yosuke Kondo, Gen Kuroki, Yasuhiro Mizukami, Osami Nabe, Jun Nagasawa, Tatsuya Nakayo, Akira Nitta, Masaji Nunome, Teruko Omi, Jun Satomi, Akira Shimizu, Takumi Shinjo, Utae Shoji, Tadashui Takadera, Kazue Tamachi, Kunie Tanaka, Kazuko Tanigushi, Kenzo Tatake, Yoshio Yoshida, Kazuko Yoshiyuki
screenplay by Shintaro Katsu, music by Isao Tomita
Zatoichi, Daiei's Zatoichi, Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu)
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The blind masseur and master swordsman Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu) frees
the wife of a ronin who was sold into prostitution simply because he was
touched by her fate and overcome by her beauty (which he claims he can
smell). However, the ronin (Tatsuya Nakadai) hasn't given up on his wife
yet and kills everybody who has to do with the whole thing about her being
sold, and ultimately he even kills her bcause she made him lose face. The
only one he spares is Zatoichi, who he thinks has raped his wife (he
hasn't) - because his hunger for revenge is the only thing that keeps him
going, and he wants to have his vengeance on Zatoichi in a big way ...
As Zatoichi moves on, he meets an equally blind Yakuza boss (Masayuki
Mori) and the two become friends - however, Zatoichi does not hide how
much he disapproves the Yakuza's methods and he even sabotages some of
their operaations ... so before long, Zatoichi has turned the blind boss's
sworn enemy. However, no matter how much fighters he sends after Zatoichi,
Zatoichi kills them all. Eventually, the blind boss changes his tactic and
sends a woman, Okiyo (Reiko Ohara) after Zatoichi, a woman he is supposed
to fall in love with, because he figures that's the only way to get close
enough to Zatoichi to take him out ... At first, the plan seems to work
just fine, Zatoichi really seems to fall for her, and she gets as close as
she needs to ... but then something happens: Zatoichi saves Okiyo's life
and she really falls in love with him and tells him about the trap the
blind boss has set for him, even if that means that he breaks up with her
Next Zatoichi meets an effeminate boy (Peter), whom he has once
convinced to not join the yakuza, but who has since been put in the
blind boss's employ, and now he tries to both have sex with Zatoichi and
kill him - both unsuccessfully though. Still, Zatoichi spares his life.
The finale has Zatoichi facing the blind boss's entire army of
fighters, but somehow Zatoichi is able to hold his own ... until the blind
boss turns up with Okiyo as his hostage, forcing Zatoichi to drop his
sword and accept to be executed by the blind boss himself - but what the
boss didn't know was that Zatoichi had a knife hidden up his sleeve which
he stiocks through the blind boss's throat before he can execute him.
Enter the Ronin, who takes out all of the blind boss's army just to
make sure he and noone else will have his revenge on Zatoichi ... but in
their final fight, Zatoichi is able to kill the Ronin.
In the end, Zatoichi moves on alone, ignoring the pleas of Okiyo to
take her with him.
In writking, Zatoichi at the Fire Festival might sound pretty
exciting ... but unfortunately on celluloid the film is much less so,
basically the film suffers from its episodic structure and incoherent
storytelling, which makes it rather tedious after a while. The climax -
Zatoichi facing an army of fighters - is pretty exciting and impressive
though, but it's too little too late. Pity.