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Zatoichi to Yojinbo

Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo
Zatoichi vs Yojimbo / Zatoichi 20

Japan 1970
produced by
Shintaro Katsu, Nichioka Hiroshi for Katsu Productions, Toho
directed by Kihachi Okamoto
starring Shintaro Katsu, Toshiro Mifune, Ayako Wakao, Osamu Takizawa, Sakatoshi Masakane (= Masakane Yonekura), Shin Kishida, Kanjuro Arashi, Toshiyuki Hosokawa, Shigeru Kamiyama (= Shigeru Koyama), Minoru Terada, Hideo Sunazuka, Daigo Kusano, Fujio Tsuneda, Gn Kimura, Hiroshi Tanaka, Hiroto Kimura, Ryutaro Itsumi, Yuuji Hamada, Kazu Echikawa, Gen Kuroki, Junshiro Araseki, Yoko Netsuda
written by Tetsuro Yoshida, Kihachi Okamoto, music by Akira Ifukube

Zatoichi, Yojimbo, Toho's Zatoichi, Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu)

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu), the blind but immensely skilled masseur and swordsman, wants nothing more than to get away from fighting and killing - two things he's really good at, and thus heads for a small village that for him meant nothing but peace and tranquility when he was there three years ago - but the village has changed, and changed to the worse, and before he knows it, Zatoichi is already incarcerated for a crime he did not commit and sentenced to be hanged ... ouch.

Somehow however, the local silk merchant Eboshiya (Osamu Takizawa), a powerful man, gets him out of jail, claiming he needs somebody to give him a proper massage - but actually he needs a bodyguard, because Masagoro (Sakatoshi Masakane), his own son, is after his life - and especially after some gold he has stolen years ago -, and Masagoro is not alone but has hired the famed Yojimbo Sassa (Toshiro Mifune) - not knowing of course that Sassa is really a secret agent working for the Shogunate.

Soon enough, Zatoichi and Sassa face each other for the first time, but Sassa is way too drunk to fight and eventually they go drinking some more to Umeno (Ayako Wakao), a woman turned prostitute because of her debts to Eboshiya, whom both Zatoichi and Sassa are in love with in their own way.

Eventually, all hell breaks loose in the little village, and the fight between father and son turns more and more into an all-out war with big losses on both sides - and during all of this, Zatoichi and Sassa never get to properly fight each other, until Sassa decides to instead of fighting Zatoichi teaming up with him, and let the blind but cunning masseur do the looking for the gold while he has his back.

Other parties arrive in the village too, like another secret agent, Kuzuryu (Shin Kishida) and Eboshiya's other son, Sanaemon (Toshiyuki Hosokawa), now a official of the Shogunate, who promises to fight on his father's side ... but in the end, all of them are only after the gold, and eventually it is Sanaemon, the good son, who kills his father.

Zatoichi does indeed find the gold in the end, and places it - a pile of powder actually - on the main square as bait. Soon enough, pretty much everybody engages in the fighting and pretty much everybody is killed, everybody but Sassa and Zatoichi, who now finally find an opportunity to have their duel, a duel that is cut short when they are informed that Umeno, who was on the brink of death, has made it through ... and while Sassa rushes to her bedside, Zatoichi takes off with the gold in his bodybelt ... until he realizes his bodybelt was cut through and all the gold powder was blown away by the wind. When he kneels down to at least pick up the tiniest part of the gold he still can find, he bumps into Sassa, who's also too greedy to let a fortune go.

 

First things first: Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo is neither the best of the Zatoichi- nor the best of the Yojimbo-series - but considering that both Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo and the first Zatoichi were masterpiecs, that's not really saying anything against this film. With Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo you pretty much get exactly what you expect when reading the title: Solid genre entertainment with two of the more colourful genre heroes.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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