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Babycart In The Land Of Demons

director: Misumi Kenji

90 minutes (18) 1973
widescreen 2.35:1
Warrior DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Peter Schilling
Courtly intrigue, murder plots, extreme violence, hard won lessons in morality... Samurai movies just don't get much better, or more bloodthirsty fun, than this. Babycart In The Land Of Demons (aka: Meifumado; The Crossroads To Hell) is the penultimate movie in Toho's Lone Wolf And Cub series. It features suicidal messengers of the troubled Kuroda clan, sent to hire the heroic swordsman to assassinate a wicked abbot and steal a secret document. There's a girl-child being raised as the first son of lord, some extremely ferocious battles with beheadings and buckets of gore, and a rather distressing scene where policemen flog the hero's young son in public for refusing to identify a notorious female pickpocket they hope to snare.
   With a mix of Rambo-like thrills and mediaeval James Bond style antics, this moving yet austere tale about an honourable warrior, betrayed by his masters and forced to slay a whole roomful of guards - not to mention an entire troop of lancers - certainly is electrifying stuff! A considerable achievement, this film uses absurdly comical, engagingly inventive, highly emotive action sequences to produce wholly significant moments of visual poetry. Witness the underwater fight scene, as viewed by the boy from his cart afloat on the river; there's a lot of splashing about but we are uncertain of what's going on until the lone survivor resurfaces, followed by several corpses and a great wash of redness that spreads around them. Tellingly, not a single word is spoken about this, or any other event in the film, between father and son. This is magnificently illustrative stoicism.
   DVD extras: scope presentation in Japanese language with AnimEigo's smart multicoloured English subtitles, scene access in nine chapters, three clips from Shogun Assassin provide helpful background to the saga for the uninitiated. You also get trailers and explanatory text info for this unique DVD series, plus Hiroshi Inagaki's Samurai trilogy.
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