Friday, May 17, 2013

Zatoichi vs The Flying Guilotine (aka Blind Swordsman Revenge aka A Sword Renowned) (1974)

Strange rewriting of the Zatoichi tale has the blind man returning to China after being dragged off five years earlier by Japanese Pirates.  He is hunted by a man with a flying guillotine who wants revenge for some past misdeed. He is however willing to wait until Zatoichi gets revenges on a master swordsman who allegedly killed his brother leaving his sister in law and nephew without support. (Actually the brother committed suicide after losing. And in a weird twist of fate the swordsman is now acting as the protector of the sister in law and nephew.

No none of it makes any sense though some of it is better than you expect.

First and foremost is Lung Sing as Zatoichi. He's the spitting image of Shintaro Katsu to the point I really thought that this was a chop up job that used footage of the original to form a new story. If he isn't the man himself he's close enough that you really won't care because he manages to get it down enough so as to be enjoyable.

Some of the the fight scenes are quite good with the framing such as in the battle between Zatoichi's brother and the master swordsman being beautifully done.

The trouble in the film comes from several places, first, as I said at the top the film makes no sense. Its simply characters dancing around each other until 90 minutes have run and the survivors walk off into the sunset. More importantly why are some of the characters here, I mean the flying guillotine guy has no reason for being here since he's at the opening and the end and not in the middle.

Secondly some of the fights are down right bad with them sped up to Keystone Cops rates. Its awful and funny for all of the wrong reasons.

Thirdly this film is choppy as all hell. Even allowing that the only copies I've seen are pan and scan it looks like someone took a pair of sheers to the film and cut out about 15 minutes. It makes for one messy viewing experience.

If you can get into the film say 15 minutes in and you haven't pulled your hair out the film isn't all that isn't all that good, but there are some pretty good sequences worth seeing such as Zatoichi gambling, the battle in the casino, the final fights and a few others. This is not a great viewing experience, but it is an okay one. Certainly it would play better with friends and beers.

I wouldn't pick this up for more than a buck, but it is in a couple of multi-DVD multi-film sets in which case it's worth trying.

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