Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart In Peril (1972)
Starring: Tomisaburo Wakayama (Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold, The Ninja), Michie Azuma (Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx)
Directed By: Buichi Saito
Overview: In the fourth instalment the Lone Wolf and Cub Series, our hero is hired to kill a tattooed female assassin, all the while learning more about the Yagyu clan that framed him.
Acting: The Japanese manga style of characters, each with their own stark individualism is present again here as each sports a distinct uniqueness, like our imposing and calculating deep-voiced hero, the female assassin and her mentor. This acting style is solidly rooted in a touch of the melodramatic but in that awesome Sin City / The Crow way, or if you prefer, in the way the original graphic novel did it. Even the kid gets all tough in this one.
Cinematography: The film opens with a beautiful woman adorned with tattoos being attacked by a group of samurai. She quickly dispatches them amidst flying gore and spraying blood. The fighting is again the thing that will draw you if you like such awesome stuff as severed limbs and heads flying about. This films is visually impressive in its simplicity of camera amidst intricate surroundings like fog-filled villages, serene temples filled with buddahs, or lone bridges silhouetting our opponents.
Script: The quality of the script is what sets this apart for the standard 'chop em up cause you're paid to' action films out there. As it's always been with this series, there is reason behind these actions, and that reason is integral to the core of our hero, one who knows he is sinister and walking down the road to Hell for turning against his Lord and becoming a Ronin.
Plot: Simple enough: 'Kill this woman'. The story mostly revolves around the motivations of that female assassin however, and her story is uniquely told. None of the other Lone Wolf And Cub films have taken so much time in defining a character who is to be enemy, and this is what you will appreciate. Then just when you think that'll be it, a pretty interesting twist invites a climactic and exciting ending to this fourth instalment, but also a bit of a cliff-hanger, which didn't bother me because I felt it should have ended cleanly, it frustrated me because I didn't have the next one on hand.
Mood: I'll admit that after the third one, this series was getting just a teeny bit stale. Those three were all directed by Kenji Misumi. I would have thought that a new director would interfere with the unique style set by one man, but instead I was impressed at the fresh eyes this was seen through. We have a revisiting of the deep importance of honour and duty, we return to the old way of duel fighting and it's realistic again, with far less of the 'untouchable hero' factor.
Overall Rating: 86% (Perilicious!)
Aftertaste: This is the one thing I don't like about being at the mercy of a DVD delivery service. They sent me the sixth one before the fifth, and this cliff-hanger would have easily been resolved had they known that this was a series to watch in order. I will say they are far better than the long ago dismissed Blockbuster. I always knew I just should have been loyal to my local indy place, but that whole new 'no late fees' thing seems to have come back and bit them on the ass.