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Blind Swordsman and the Fugitives/Review

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< Blind Swordsman and the Fugitives

Review of Blind Swordsman and the Fugitives

It's just another day in the life of Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu) as he gets assaulted by two hooligans while he was just minding his own business eating a rice bowl. The result? Two bodies dropping dead in the blink of an eye thanks to the blind swordsman's uncanny sword technique!

Here we are with another episode of the vagabond swordsman/gambler who tries to find work in a village as a masseur but seems to always pick the villages that are run by corrupt officials! The official this time is Matsugoro (Hosei Komatsu) an owner of a silk mill which is known for it's abusive treatment of it's workers. Matsugoro has also made a deal with a group of notorious fugitives, who he hides in the attic of the mill, and makes the fugitives as his co-enforcers. At this time, Ichi is able to find work by helping out the town's medical center run by Dr. Junan (Takashi Shimura) and his daughter Shizu (Kayo Mikimoto) We eventually find out that Shizu's brother (Kyosuke Mashida) is a member of the fugitive gang. Uh-oh. How will Zatoichi handle this?

Entry #18 in this franchise is quite notable for a few reasons. First, the spaghetti-western influence was about to take the world by storm and you can see the beginnings of this style starting to take set in this series with the influence of the camera zoom (Which would later be known as a "Shaw Zoom") and a slight departure in the film's music than what was heard in earlier films. Another reason is that it's 1968 and things are starting to get bloodier. No more sprinkles of blood that you saw in previous Zatoichi movies. Clothes and garments are now being drenched in blood and the famous "arterial spray effect" that all us fans love and cherish is starting to show up. Not to mention, the bad guys are (Pardon my french) starting to become real assholes too. In the past, Zaotichi's enemies were often respectful, renegade ronin or dignified swordsmen who simply broke a rule or two. But we got some straight up SCUM and VERMIN in this one! Guys who gleefully enjoy wiping out an entire family (A baby is spared in a split-second) who would start to become the staple of baddies that we would see in many different genres in years to come.

A few other personal things I'd like to mention about this movie is the addition of Takashi Shimura. We all know this guy from a couple of Japan's most legendary films like SEVEN SAMURAI and (The Original) GODZILLA, so it's always a pleasure to see him show up in anything else--Especially a ZATOICHI film. Another favorite moment I'd like to mention is when Ichi confronts the fugitives' "groupie", Aki (Yumiko Nogawa) Ichi really has every reason to snuff this chick out and it's no surprise that he slashes at her--Only to just snap off a piece of her wardrobe. Having warned her that he easily could have taken her life, he tells her that she now has a new life and she's damn sure to make the most out of it. Sure, it's a familiar and repeated sequence that we've seen many times, but I just love it. So, to sum things up, if you're new to the Zatoichi films, ...FUGITIVES is a great start. And if you're one of those who have traveled the long road with Ichi, it gets it's job done as one of Ichi's most brutal adventures.

Reviewed by Laydback - 2/5/08

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