Monday, September 18, 2006

Lone Wolf And Cub: White Heaven In Hell (1974)

Trust me, snowbound Samurai are better than any downhill Bond, anyday.

Genre: Samurai Period Action Drama Serial (Japan)

Starring: Tomisaburo Wakayama (Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold, The Ninja), Akihiro Tomikawa as Daigoro!

Directed By: Yoshiyuki Kuroda ("Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman")

Overview: In the sixth and final episode of the Lone Wolf and Cub Series, our assassin is bent on vanquishing the Yagyu clan that framed him, but the Lord has several worthy opponents to put between himself and Lone Wolf.

Acting: It's too bad that after seeing Daigoro in action last episode we don't have a plot that involves him as much, but I suppose that stands to reason, given this is the film with the most dudes to slay. As for the target dudes in question, they're all solid choices for skill of word and blade. This isn't one of those cheesy ninja movies, it's quality.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: There was someone getting bisected in number five, and I guess that was so popular they did it here again, and it's great. Yes, dying painfully kicks ass, as long as it doesn't happen to me. Hey, it's not like the 14th century Japanese populace didn't love goin' out and getting de-limbed for a lord. It was probably the funest and noblest thing you could do back in the day, so don't blame me for knowing how cool it is to watch powerful jets of spraying blood flying all over the place. Yeah, that's right. Oh and great scenery too.
Rating: 9

Script: There's even some interesting subplots going on, like when the Yagyu lord starts watching his entourage bite it one at a time, and he goes and digs up his concubine's children. You'd expect this simple action-inviting "yes sire" kind of response, but there's twists and turns that keep you guessing even when you know it's the last film in the set. Fun indeed.
Rating: 8

Plot: Frankly, I shouldn't have been surprised that this does'nt get resolved all nice and clean. Sure there's a big final showdown but instead of completing the series here, they leave it open ended, most likely in hopes that the series would continue. So yeah, a little disappointing in the end because it's not actually the end. Reminds me all too much of "The Kindgom". I guess I'll have to actually pick up the manga and READ something to get the final conclusion that I wanted. Rating: 8

Mood: Lone Wolf not only faces his long sought after foe, but also is chased by his hardest opponents yet, men who are neither man nor corpse, spirit not corporeal. When your enemy has more tricks up his sleeve than you could imagine to the point that he pull out flying ghost assassins... you know it's going to keep you glued to your seat. The most supernatural Lone Wolf yet turns out to be one of the most interesting. I mean not only is it samurai, it's freaky powers samurai!
Rating: 9

"Yes my son, every night I follow the ritual sucking-of-the-blade-I'm-gonna-shank-dudes-with... it's like the noblest thing you could trick out, Bro."

Overall Rating: 84% ("In Heaven, Everything Is Fine...")

Aftertaste: Well for as much as it was disappointing ending a film series with a bit of a cliff-hanger, it was a good run overall. In fact the whole series, including the re-dubbed, re-edited Shogun Assassin, averages out to a solid 86%, and that is 'highly recommended' in my books. Had this been just a story about some lone samurai wandering around chopping people up, it still would have been great, but adding the element of a child that needs protecting all while learning the way of the Bushido early on, well that adds just a nice sweet touch that adds depth and reason to the tale being told.

Double Happiness Daigoro Detail Corner: The lever-pulling cub nails three kills and three-dozen assists!

Total kill tally for our young cub: 8 Kills, 37 Assists!