Retro: our movie & TV vault... a fresh look
at neglected classics and cult favourites
Seen Shogun Assassin? Right, well this isn't it, but it is a part (the last one) of the
infamous Japanese Lone Wolf And Cub series from which the controversial and extremely violent
Shogun Assassin was winningly abridged. White Heaven In Hell (aka: Jigoku e Iku Zo!
Diagoro; trans: Diagoro! We're Off To Hell) stars Wakayama Tomisaburo as Ogami Itto, a masterless
samurai who is on the run from manhunters of the highly placed Yagyu clan.
After Itto killed her three brothers (in a previous instalment), the deadly Lady Kaori is sent to execute Itto with her falling dagger technique (it's all in the wrist action, you see). She's the best there is. Well, the best that's left, anyway, but she only lasts about two minutes against our hero and his young son. Next!
Hyoei is the last son of the Yagyu's leader, Ratsudo. Abandoned as an infant to be raised by weird mountain tribe, the Tsuchigumo, Hyoei declines to help his father slay Itto, but sets out to destroy the Yagyus' name and position, using the Tsuchigumo five-wheels method. Itto finds himself stalked by three superhuman mole men (created by live-burial rites), who murder everyone that he and little Diagoro meet on the road, including the staff and residents of an inn where they take a room. This reflects badly on Lord Ratsudo's clan back at court; oh, what to do about the pesky lone wolf and cub? Send in a whole army is what. When Itto is declared a national criminal, fully armed troops are obliged to track him down... White Heaven In Hell is as much about uncanny atmosphere, one pervaded with shattering death and family tragedy and a sense of terrible injustice, as with samurai duels. Still, there's plenty of great action here, right up to and including the impressive finale on snowy mountain slopes that tops all of those James Bond skiing stunt battles, with a remarkable ease!
DVD extras: introductory sequence for the two main characters, trailers for the whole Lone Wolf And Cub series plus other martial arts movies, scene index in nine chapters.
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