When this film was released in America in the 1970s it went by the colorful title "Lightning Swords of Death". One of the lines in the US trailer was "They threw an army at him and he threw it back, one piece at a time!". That line says it all. Ogami Itto is a legendary character in Japanese cinema and he gets even more down n' dirty with his Dotonuki sword in this film. Along with his baby son Daigoro, wherever Ogami travels, he leaves a VERY bloody mark!
Ogami Itto (Wakayama Tomisaburo) and his son Daigoro are still on the road after their first bloody adventure which took place because of the murder of Ogami's wife and his confrontation with Retsudo and the evil Yagyu Shadow Clan. Ogami and Daigoro decide to take a small ferryboat, but theres no babycarts allowed on the small canoe, so Ogami drops it in the water and puts Daigoro in it. A girl on the ferry is upset and drops her bag in the water, but as it floats along, Daigoro (in his babycart) grabs the bag and saves it. Ogami then notices some ninja trailing behind the boat (reeds sticking up from the water) by using his sword as a mirror. Later while making their way through the woods, Ogami stops and Daigoro goes to the bathroom. Suddenly, Ogami whips out his sword and slashes 3 trees and the 3 ninja fall and Ogami kills them.
A group of men called Watari-Kashi (hired bodyguards) are chatting about their lives in the jobs they have. They are also looking for love and they want to get laid as soon as they can. When they spot a mother and daughter and husband walking through the village, they decide not to wait. They grab both the women and start to rape them. The husband gets beat down and knocked out. After the watari-kashi finish up, a lone samurai named Kanbei deftly kills the women and tells the watari-kashi that they must cover up this crime they committed. Kanbei grabs a thin tree branch and breaks it into 3 small sticks. Kanbei explains that the watari-kashi who gets the shortest stick will take the blame for the killing of the women. When one of the men draws the shortest stick, he panics and starts to run away, but Kanbei catches him with a sword slash down his chest. As the man dies, we see a familiar figure appear. Its Ogami Itto. Ogami has witnessed the deed that Kanbei has done, and Kanbei is weary about that. He speaks with Ogami and then challenges him to a duel to make sure his honor is protected. Ogami agrees, but before they start, Ogami changes his mind and tells Kanbei that they should call it a draw. Ogami believes Kanbei is a true warrior that deserves to live on. Kanbei is confused by this.
Ogami and Daigoro move on to the next village where they decide to stop and take a break at an Inn. They eat their delicious Japanese food quietly and enjoy some peace. In a nearby room, the girl from the ferry is with her guardian. He is trying to get her ready for her new job as a prostitute. He tells her that she needs to rub salt on her legs. As he rubs the salt on her body and thighs, he begins to force himself on her, he pushes her down and starts to rape her. He tries to kiss her and then she defiantly bites his tongue off and spits it on the floor. The girl fears she will be killed for this so she runs over to Ogami's room and asks if she can hide out there. When the inspector of the Inn comes calling, he is looking for the girl but Ogami explains shes not there. The inspector hears a noise and slides open a door but its just Daigoro. The owner of the Inn comes looking for the girl, her name is Torizo. She explains that she is head of the group called Boohachimono (adult entertainers) the man who owned the girl was one of her employees and the girl must be punished for what she did. Ogami refuses to hand her over to Torizo. Torizo tells Ogami something must be done. Theres only one way to solve this problem. Ogami in a most amazing act of sacfrice agrees to submit to Torizo and her group and be tortured for the girls sake. The torture is called Buri-Buri, in which the offender is hung upside down over water and beaten and dunked in the water headfirst (this part of the film reminded me of a Spaghetti Western gang beating but in a Japanese setting). Ogami survives this bloody beating after being nearly killed. Torizo's men are highly impressed by Ogami's strength and realize hes not a regular man.
After the torture is finished, Torizo brings Ogami to meet her father. He is a sick old man and Torizo explains that Ogami actually met him years before when he was the Shogunate Executioner where he lopped his arm off. Torizo's dad requests a a favor from Ogami, who he knows his a great assassin. He explains to Ogami that one of his Clan's former members named Genba turned on him and ruined his reputation by using his Clan as a pawn to get the job of Deputy of a region called Tootoomi. Ogami isnt totally convinced by his explanation but he accepts the job for 500 gold pieces. Ogami decides to meet Genba and find out just what happened between him and Torizo's father. Ogami places some small amulets or stones as a message to tell Genba's men he wants to meet with him. In the next scene we see a flashback in samurai/spaghetti western style just how Genba won the seat of the deputy of Tootoomi. When Ogami arrives, Genba asks Ogami to assassinate Itakura but Ogami refuses even after Genba offers him 500 gold pieces plus 500 after the job is done. Ogami gets up to leave, and Genba explains that he cant let Ogami leave alive after knowing his plans. Ogami leaves but he holds his sword up backwards as a sign of defiance. Genba sends some of his men to track Ogami down and kill him. The first man he sends is strangled and hung in a tree by Ogami.
The next day, while one of Genba's other thugs practices shooting with guns in a target practice field, he sees little Daigoro on the ridge above him. When the man shoots the targets, Daigoro claps. Then Daigoro dissapears. As the thug walks near a pond, he sees Daigoro who seems to be drowning. As he runs towards Daigoro, he notices he has left his guns on the shore, he realizes its a bushwhack. The man is killed by Ogami who has set him up. That night, 3 more ninja (again sent by Ozunu, Leader of the Kurokawa group) track Ogami down where he is camping out, these ninja think theyre going to kill Ogami Itto? As Ogami's campfire burns out, it creates a large smoke cloud. Ogami is ready for the ninja, he takes out his long sword and the ninja try to confuse him by doing some acrobatic ninja moves in the smoky surroundings, but Ogami takes them out quickly. He leaves their dead bodies as a sign to other assassins looking for him. The next day, a warrior named Samon sees the aftermath of Ogami's fight and decides to track him down. The first man to go after Ogami is Samon, after finding their Babycart in the reed fields, he challenges Ogami to a duel. Its not long before Ogami has flipped through the air and plunged his Dotonuki sword into Samon's head from above. Ogami doesnt mess around!
Genba gets word of this and he decides to get a group together to hunt Ogami Itto. Ogami reaches a large deserted mountain area and he sees a very startling sight. Genba's entire army is waiting for him on the mountain ridge. Ogami proceeds to tell Daigoro that they have now entered the Road to Hell. Meanwhile, the army think they will be easily triumphant over Ogami, but they dont know that he has come fully prepared. Genba tells the army to open fire on Ogami with arrows and as they aim and shoot, Ogami tells Daigoro to flip the shield in front of the cart to protect them. The massive amount of arrows bounce off. Genba then tells the army to proceed with their next method of attack: Guns! Before the Army can even get a shot out, Ogami hits another lever on the cart revelaing a Gatling like gun hidden inside, he opens up on the soldiers and begins to decimate them all! After the bullets are gone, the soldiers race towards Ogami swords drawn, and as they come closer Ogami heaves homemade bombs at them, hitting several and causing more damage. This battle becomes even more exciting as the Army comes at Ogami full force on horseback and on foot and Ogami fends all of them off using his edged weapons and then his deadly Dotonuki sword and his Suioryu (Horse Slaying) style! He slashes them all down with his extraordinary skills, flipping through the air as sword meets flesh and blood squirts everywhere. Ogami lets loose his fury with astonishing style!
After the last of the soldiers flees from Ogami in fear, an old aqquaintance shows up: Kanbei. Kanbei confronts Ogami and again challenges him to a duel. This time Ogami agrees. As the men get ready, they lift their swords showing their personal styles. While Kanbei holds the sword upright with his hand lightly on the blade, Ogami holds the sword in one hand at a slight angle. The men run at each other and take their swing. Ogami is slashed down the back, Kanbei hit him! Only thing is, when Kanbei looks down, he sees Ogami's Dotanuki sword impaled through his torso. Looks like ol' Ogami WAS faster! Kanbei falls to his knees and knows his life is over. Ogami walks towards him and they share a moment between each other as two true warriors. Kanbei tells Ogami about an incident that had disgraced him: Years earlier, he had left his leaders side to protect him and slayed a group of assassins by himself. This was seen as a shameful thing by his Leader and his Clan. When Ogami hears this he tells Kanbei if he was in his place he wouldve reacted the same way. Kanbei is comforted by Ogami's words. Kanbei requests that Ogami execute him in honorable samurai fashion. So Ogami removes hos Dotanuki and as he pulls the sword out a large rush of blood sprays forth. Then, he raises his sword and slices Kanbei's head off. We see the head roll into the dirt. This is the true way of the warrior. As Ogami and Daigoro leave the massacre behind and make their way through the countryside, bleeding and tired from the battle, we hear the bright-tragic Lone Wolf and Cub theme sung by Wakayama Tomisaburo. Its a great ending to an amazingly cool Pop Samurai classic!!
This is one of my top favorite pop samurai films. Babycart To Hades aka Lightning Swords of Death combines deep emotional Japanese drama with eye popping, blood spurting, sword slashing action. The film also flows perfectly with great acting, scenery, direction and samurai blood FX. You are sure to go nuts for the climactic battle between Ogami Itto and Genba's army!
Reviewed by Popeye Pete - 5/28/07