Blind Swordsman: The Tale of Zatoichi
(aka "Zatoichi monogatari")
by Kenji Misumi
Review by Gary Tooze
Posters from the Series
The director, Kenji Misumi is satisfactorily adept and actually shows some unique and interesting camera angles whilst fully utilizing the range of his 2.35:1 scope. The framing is not Kurosawa, but it is subtle and the film is nicely paced. As a westerner I had to go through the film twice to follow the intricacies of the plot and characters, but it was not a demanding effort. It had much of the charm of an old-time western with a certain gentle and noble code of honor portrayed accurately by Shintaro. The fighting sequences are not overly explicit and do not drone on excessively. I found the film well balanced in a similar manner to the "Kung Fu" TV series with David Carradine. Itchi's blindness seems to have left him with a perfect sense of serenity and justice. He simply travels around touching new characters lives, interfacing with them, all while imparting his own brand of unselfish gentle wisdom.
‘Zatoichi' films are part
of a genre that will seemingly always have an appeal. Good vs. Bad, underdog vs.
the corrupt, honor battling evil. Truly its hard not to like this, from any
perspective. Will I buy the others in the series?... well,
I'll certainly go for at least one more. Aside from the simplicity and
underplayed grandeur of these
films, I am a sucker for 2.35:1, black and white, Japanese films. The cinematography
on Zatoichi is likewise a big selling feature for me too. I unashamedly give
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Released on DVD May 14th, 2002 "Zatoichi: Part 1" is presented in wonderful letterboxed 2.35:1 ratio. The box claims it has been restored and I have no reason to disbelieve it, but it is not as sharp as say Criterion's 'Notorious' or 'Rebecca',. It is none-the-less has fine picture quality. Pretty fair contrast and at times is quite sharp with detailed images and close-ups, but fails with images in the background. Blacks are strong but not as piercing as some state of the art DVDs, of course, this does not have the marketability and sales power. This DVD looks fine though with hazy moments in spots. The audio is in Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono). There are clear white optional English subtitles included.
In the extras dept. there are 10 stills in a click-through gallery, 4 trading cards and essay in the Keep-case packaging, and nicely done live-action chapter menu's. Improved picture quality and additional extras would have been nice, but I am not overly surprised or disappointed that are not available. out of
Review by Gary Tooze
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