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Zatoichi The Outlaw
cast: Shintaro Katsu, Rentaro Mikuni, Yuko Hamada

director: Satsuo Yamamoto

95 minutes (15) 1967
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Warrior DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Ian Shutter
Must admit, I've never heard of this movie before but, apparently, Zatoichi The Outlaw is part of the longest running Japanese series and has grown to become a virtual subset of the samurai genre. Meek and polite but potentially dangerous, the eponymous hero of this swordsman thriller is blind. (It's obvious now where Hollywood got the idea for Rutger Hauer's 1990 actioner, Blind Fury, and it just goes to show that franchised movies are nothing new.)
   Whereas Hollywood played this admittedly absurd idea just for fun, Toho focus on mythic, instead of 'mock' heroics. Zatoichi (usually just called Ichi) appears to be an uncommonly sensitive killer, typically siding with the underdogs, he wades into a village's dispute between peasants and landowners (yes, heavy duty riffs on feudalism and socialism abound, not to mention corruption and scapegoats - oh, it's just like Britain today, right?), during which all involved eventually learn that political and criminal matters can sometimes only be concluded when aggressive bad-guys have their heads chopped off.
   A surprisingly compelling tale of eastern adventure, old fashioned virtues and a number of bloodthirsty swordfights, Zatoichi The Outlaw is highly enjoyable and a great collectors' item, too. If you like Kurosawa's samurai epics and/or the runaway ronin flick, Shogun Assassin, this one's definitely for you!
   DVD extras: biographies, stills, plus a bunch of promo trailers.
NEXT
Go to reviews of:  Zatoichi's Pilgrimage
and Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo.