5 April 2017

THE CRITERION COLLECTION PRESENTS: LONE WOLF AND CUB. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.



LONE WOLF AND CUB: THE CULT CLASSIC SIX-FILM SERIES BASED ON THE INTERNATIONALLY BEST-SELLING JAPANESE MANGA COMICS. (1972-1974) STARRING TOMISABURO WAKAYAMA.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I'll never forget the few nights I spent watching these wonderful films back-to-back. Based on the manga comics by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, each film in order tells the continuing story of a Japanese man and his toddler son on a journey through nineteenth-century Japan. It's a journey that sees them pursue and be pursued by any number of villains, cut-throats, ninjas, samurai and ordinary people, and no small number of these colourful characters are women, believe it or not.

Itto Ogami, the Shogunate's Executioner, is the man in question and Daigoro is his adorable, infinitely huggable and cuddly little three-year-old infant son. They take to travelling the scenic roads of old Japan after Itto's wife and Daigoro's mother is brutally murdered by the Yagyu clan.

They advertise their services as assassins under the trade name of 'Lone Wolf And Cub: Assassins For Hire.' Well, it does exactly what it says on the tin, anyway. They charge 500 ryos per job. If, on their travels, they can manage to track down and kill any members of the Yagyu clan, of whom there are four brothers and two sisters as well as their elderly but still belligerent father, well then, so much the better. That's how Itto and his little boy see it, anyway.

There are six films in the series, each filled with the most spectacular fighting sequences. Itto is a master swordsman, you see. No, not that kind of swordsman, haha, although the women who meet him all seem drawn to his courage, his solid but athletic body and, of course, his cute-as-a-button little son. Little Daigoro seems to have a good eye for an attractive female too, I might add. Talk about like father, like son...!

Back to the swordsmanship. Itto's possibly the best, most agile and most fearless fighter ever featured in Japanese cinema and, trust me, there have been quite a few of these. Against a background of the greenest, most gorgeous scenery you've ever seen, he can take on dozens of would-be assassins at a time and send the lot of them straight to hell with his sword and knives.

Don't think that he achieves this all by himself. Oh no, he's got little Daigoro, sitting comfortably in his brilliantly pimped-out baby cart or pushchair, pushing buttons and pulling levers that activate the pram's firepower and other hidden miracles. The asassins don't know what's hit 'em when they're blown-sky high at a nod or brief word from Itto to his clever, clever little son.

Father and Son have a great little system going on between them and it helps to get them safely through the barrage of enemies that greet them no matter what town they arrive at. The Shogunate's Executioner Itto Ogami is a much wanted man and he has enemies everywhere. But there's another side to Japan's toughest, most ruthless fighter who can sense a hostile presence a mile away without so much as moving a muscle or blinking an eye.

The guy loves his son. Yes, he's bringing him up the hard way, on the road like that all the time without the loving, comforting presence of a gentle mother. Yes, he even lets Daigoro learn a few lessons the hard way, for example, in the fifth film when keeping a promise to a lady pickpocket earns the honourable little Daigoro a ferocious whipping from a stranger which his Dad makes no attempt to stop.

But Itto Ogami loves that little lad to bits. The relief on his otherwise impassive face when Daigoro survives a terrible pram crash in the snow tells its own story. The tenderness he shows when he gives the boy some carefully-folded dock leaves with which to wipe himself after little Diagoro does a poo in the forest is just so sweet to witness.

It's hard to keep from laughing out loud also, though, when Dad is pleased that Daigoro has picked up and eaten some rice he dropped on the floor. Waste not, want not, isn't that what they say? Father and Son make a great team. They share the same food and the same dangers and they sleep on the same inn floors and wash in the same streams. Daigoro's Mum would be as proud as punch of the way that Itto is looking after her little lad.

Dad doesn't allow any women to get close to him but it's strange, nonetheless, how many times he manages to be in close proximity to a stark-nekkid beautiful woman, haha. There's the time in the hot springs, for example, and the time he has all the sex with a prostitute in front of a group of bandits while Diagoro slumbers nearby. Then there's the time that he tells a different woman that being naked next to him will save her life in the cold weather, on account of their combined body heat, see? Nice line, Itto...!

On the other hand, in the third film he endures a considerable amount of torture- of the spinning and water variety- to save a prostitute from undergoing the same fate, so he can be a real gentleman wheh he wants to be. He's a man of courage, honour, physical strength and enormous stores of dignity, and he puts up with discomfort without a word of complaint, just like he expects little Diagoro to.

Speaking of honour and dignity, there's a lot of talk in the films about samurai and suchlike dying with the aforementioned qualities. You may already know what committing hara-kiri is, but these films will teach you about seppuku as well. It's having someone else chop your bonce off while you are commiting hara-kiri. Nice, huh...?

The films draw to a close with one last showdown between our intrepid pair and what remains of the Yagyu clan, their sworn enemies. Will our heroes finally 'walk the Demon Way in Hell' for real, or will they trundle away with their pimped-out pram over the horizon, all fit and healthy and ready to fight another day? Well, you'll have to watch this utterly spectacular series of films to find out, movie buddies...

The good news is that the jolly nice folks from THE CRITERION COLLECTION have recently released all six films in this incredible series in a lovely Blu-Ray box-set. The six films are as follows:

SWORD OF VENGEANCE.
BABY CART AT THE RIVER STYX.
BABY CART TO HADES.
BABY CART IN PERIL.
BABY CART IN THE LAND OF DEMONS.
WHITE HEAVEN IN HELL.

Aw, what darling titles, so cute! The last one is so-called because it's shot partly in the snow and our two lads have to build an igloo to bed down in. It's really sweet. The extra features, by the way, include a new interview with Kazuo Koike, writer of the manga series and screenwriter on five of the films.

There's also, among other things, a discussion about and demonstration of the real sword techniques that inspired the ones used in both the manga and the films. It's all terrific value for money and a must-have for the lover of Japanese swordfighting films, or chanbara, as I believe they're called.

A word of warning to any women who might watch these films. A woman's natural instinct is to hone right in on the attractive, eligible single dad with the cute little kid. Keep your sticky mitts off this one, ladies, however. He's married to his sword. You can jiggle those assets as much as you like. You'll never come between 'em...


AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

 You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com








No comments:

Post a comment