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Zatoichi's Pilgrimage
cast: Shintaru Katsu

director: Kazuo Ikehiro

98 minutes (15) 1972
widescreen aspect ratio 2.35:1
Warrior VHS retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by John M. Peters
Originally released in Japan in 1966 as Zatoichi Umio Watero, Zatoichi's Pilgrimage was one of a long series of historical movies about a blind sword-master and his adventures. I have to admit that I've never heard of the series before, but it's amazing what information you can find up there on the web! This particular movie revolves around Zatoichi finding a dying pregnant woman who's been mugged; he saves her newly born son and then tries to find her family to reunite the child with its father. Along the way various incidents happen, not least taking on the local gang of criminals and skewering most of them with his trusty samurai sword.
   By today's standards the movie creaks a bit - the acting style is extremely formal, plus its low budget set design gives it the look of a Hammer horror movie with added noodles. And yet, the central performance of Shintaru Katsu as Zatoichi is just right - whether the actor is really blind I don't know, but he plays the character as a streetwise sage, whose almost supernatural hearing makes up for the deficiency in vision. And once the sword is drawn the fight sequences are both balletic and bloody at the same time.
   I'm not sure how Zatoichi's Pilgrimage stands with regard to the rest of the series. It is entertaining enough, if slow-paced, and it has its charms even if they are rather dated now.
Go to reviews of:  Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo and Zatoichi The Outlaw.