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Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman, Vol. 1 - The Tale of Zatoichi


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Product Details

  • Actors: Shintarô Katsu, Masayo Banri, Ryûzô Shimada, Hajime Mitamura, Shigeru Amachi
  • Directors: Kenji Misumi
  • Writers: Kan Shimozawa, Minoru Inuzuka
  • Producers: Ikuo Kubodera
  • Format: Black & White, Dubbed, Letterboxed, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Home Vision Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: May 14, 2002
  • Run Time: 95 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000063UQU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,823 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman, Vol. 1 - The Tale of Zatoichi" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Gallery of original theatrical stills

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Zatoichi, the wandering masseur and master swordsman, is a mercenary hero with a difference: he's blind, and no less deadly for it. In his debut, Ichi shuffles into a gangster-run town like a wry con man, fleecing the dim-bulb gambling thugs and sponging off a local mob boss who wants the deadly Ichi on his side in an impending gang war. Released the same year Akira Kurosawa unleashed Yojimbo, stocky Shintaro Katsu's modest and soft-spoken Ichi couldn't be more different from the dynamic Toshiro Mifune's swaggering and arrogant Yojimbo. Director Kenji Misume can't match Kurosawa's searing cynicism or dynamic action, but when Ichi finally lets loose after avoiding conflict for the entire film, his spare, sudden attack makes a startling contrast to the usual flashing swords and furious movements. Zatoichi returned in 25 sequels and a long-running TV series, always played by Shintaro Katsu.

The newly restored DVD features a small stills gallery, a fold-out insert with an essay by Tatsu Aoki (a self described "Ichi Freak"), and four collector cards. --Sean Axmaker

From the Back Cover

This is the movie that introduced the legend of Zatoichi and its star Shintaro Katsu, ushering in a new era of the Japanese samurai film. Practicing his trade as a masseur in a small province, Satoichi finds himself caught in a turf war between rival yakuza gangs. Aware of Zatoichi's reputation as an undefeatable swordsman, yakuza leader Sukejoro tries to hire him-unsuccessfully-as a mercenary. But it's too late. The other gang leader, Shigezo, hires a warrior with an equally fierce reputation to challenge Zatoichi. Thus the legend of Zatoichi begins with intensely choreographed battle scenes and an expertly crafted story.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Popular Discussion Topics

beta: what do you think?
  • "Opinions" 15
  • "Series" 12
  • "Story" 6
  • "Content" 6
  • "Characters" 5
  • All Topics

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

70 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Robin Simmons VINE VOICE on May 30, 2002
Format: DVD
Criterion in association with Janus Films has exquisitely remastered the first two of 26 sequels in the life and adventures of Japan's most popular and enduring cinematic hero, Zatoichi, the blind swordsman. A common man with an extraordinary skill and an even greater moral imperative.
"THE TALE OF ZATOICHI" introduces the legendary character and its star, Shintaro Katsu. This film from 1962 also introduced a new era of samurai film. Zatoichi, a lowly blind masseur who practices in a small province gets caught in a turf war between rival yakuza gangs. Yakuza honcho Sukejuro, aware of Zatoichi's reputation with his deadly cane sword, tries to hire him -- unsuccessfully -- as a mercenary. Unfortunately, Shigezo, the other gang leader, has already hired a fierce warrior with an equally intimidating skill to challenge Zatoichi. Thus, the legend begins. The finely honed story is greatly enhanced by the stunningly choreographed action. The black and white widescreen picture looks great and the English subtitles are easy to read. Bonus material includes a gallery of original theatrical stills.
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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Irene Hamilton on January 30, 2005
Format: DVD
I enjoy watching all of these films, especially this one. I appreciate the lack of blood and gore, and the mere two swordswipes the hero uses to take out about four bad guys at once. I'm sure many of us long for a protector like this to vanquish evil in the world. Great acting and directing, with nice humourous elements woven into the tale. I also like that the words are not dubbed over with English. I think subtitles are the best way to go with these films to maintain the intentions and artistry of the filmmakers.
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Mel B on January 2, 2005
Format: DVD
In today's age, there are so many martial arts movies that glorify the killing, and little of the rest of the package that makes up a martial artist. In my opinion, this film surpassed all my expectations. The emotional depth of this film went far beyond the uninvolving MA films of later generations. I truly enjoyed the sub plots of the movie - especially the friendship that developed between Zatoichi and the man that was supposed to be his enemy, Master Hirata.

I recommend this highly to any person who wants to expand their martial arts library.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Michael Valdivielso on January 5, 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The reason I had to get this movie, and will likely collect more of the sequels, is Shintaro Katsu. I saw some of his latter work and wanted to see his earlier movies. So I got the first Zatoichi flick. And I am happy I did.

There is a story here. The basic plot of two rivel yakuza gangs fighting over the same turf. Common enough story. But that's just it - the movie stays on the story. Little or no sword fighting happens till the end of the film. Most of the scenes, most of the energy, focus on the characters and their interaction. The details that made a fair movie great overflow from the screen. Zatoichi is not a Hero or a Samurai, just a blind masseur trying to make a buck and stay out of trouble.

I would suggest it to any fan of Samurai films or even a beginner who wants to see an uncommon Samurai flick.

96 minutes and in the original widescreen.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Charles E. Bradshaw on December 7, 2003
Format: DVD
"Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman" is as delicate a film as a feather to a sword. It follows the blind massuer of the title who has taken up the ways of the sword as he visits a gang leader on invitation and gets caught up in the imminent turmoil brewing with rival gang, Sasagawa. The film's plot is nothing new or original as far as the genre is concerned; it's one part "Yojimbo," one part "Sanjuro." However, the vivid focus on characterization leads this film into the realm of the unique. Unlike such films like "Yojimbo," where Toshiro Mifune served as the rough cutting tool to slice up carboard bad guys, Zatoichi brings the focus down to the characters, driving the story with quiet emotion and sub plot rather than rousing music and bloodshed. The film is already onto something interesting with it's quiet, almost enigmatic, blind hero, but then it pits him against an alcholic samurai who is looking for a good final duel to go out on. And what a duel it is, filling the width of the widescreen atop a ragged bridge in the middle of turf war. The only thing that would have made it more dramatic would have been rain, but with the emotions this film grants its characters and the relationships it builds between them, who needs rain? The film steadily progresses into a poetic, moralistic tale of lonliness, destiny, and responsibility for the choices we make in our lives. The story is simple, but it's point is as piercing as the blind massuer's sword. To that degree it's got Kurosawa beat.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Brent Himes on May 22, 2002
Format: DVD
The first Zatoichi film I ever saw was "Zatoichi vs. Yojimbo" and it left me feeling biased to the older, B/W films as well as stuck on "Seven Samurai". Like a number of other "samurai" pics, this isn't just slash and rip non-stop mayhem- there's a story going on here. I would compare this first in the series to the story in "Yojimbo" where two sides are being played against each other, and in Zatoichi's case there's another swordsman whose skill and respect is thrown into the equation. Shintaro Katsu exudes a quirky air of dangerous skill mixed with worldly determination, and plays blind convincingly. I bought this without having seen it already and I must say it was a pleasant surprise! There IS plenty of action, the pace doesn't necessarily lag on account of side-story, and Janus Films provides yet another beautifully restored widescreen print with clear and easy-to-read subtitles. This is a good buy for the price and I plan to get as many of the series as I can...
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