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Zatoichi DVD boxset
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Zatoichi In Desperation

cast: Shintarô Katsu, Kiwako Taichi, Kyoko Yoshizawa, Joji Takahi, and Tomoo Koike

director: Shintarô Katsu

93 minutes (15) 1973
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Warrior DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Ian Shutter
In this engaging adventure with a strong moral dimension, the heroic blind swordsman Zatoichi (star Shintarô Katsu does a fine job of directing himself) meets an elderly woman on a rope bridge over a river and accidentally causes her death. Stricken with guilt, he arrives at the town of Chosi where the dead woman was travelling to, and tries to explain what happened to the woman's bereaved daughter, Nishikigi. But he finds that girl's situation isn't how the old woman told him because the daughter works in a local geisha house and is owned by a cruel gangster, Mangoro, who demands a hefty price to grant Nishikigi her freedom. Meanwhile, a rival crime boss and his nasty minions are plotting to move against the town's chief bad guy, and poor Nishikigi's plight can only get worse...

As the title suggests, this wandering samurai drama finds do-gooder Zatoichi at his lowest ebb. His conscience blinds him to the injustice that villainous Mangoro inflicts upon the town's fishermen and the crooks exploit just about everyone else in sight. Ever the gambler, Zatoichi soon gets into trouble for taking money from strangers, and upsets the men who lust after Nishikigi when he attempts to buy her freedom with his winnings. In the film's pivotal scene, Zatoichi is surrounded and outnumbered, and the gangster's henchmen break his fingers, leaving him unable to hold a sword.

Of course, the finale sees our hero regaining his instincts and righting wrongs in spectacular fashion, when he overcomes this second disability and cuts the thugs down to size. The big sword-fighting scene is well worth waiting for and lives up to expectations with some inventive, bloodthirsty action, and exhilarating stunt work.

The sixth film in a series of seven, Zatoichi In Desperation (aka: Shin Zatoichi monogatari Oreta tsue) is shot in 35mm Tohoscope and still looks good today, in spite of the slightly grainy transfer to DVD. Disc extras: profile of star/director, galleries of film stills and artwork. Warrior DVD has recently issued an excellent three-disc 'Zatoichi' boxset, which includes this movie along with earlier releases Zatoichi The Outlaw and Zatoichi At The Fire Festival.

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