Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman
DVD + Blu-ray
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The colossally popular Zatoichi films make up the longest-running action series in Japanese history and created one of the screen’s great heroes: an itinerant blind masseur who also happens to be a lightning-fast swordsman. As this iconic figure, the charismatic and earthy Shintaro Katsu became an instant superstar, lending a larger-than-life presence to the thrilling adventures of a man who lives staunchly by a code of honor and delivers justice in every town and village he enters. The films that feature him are variously pulse-pounding, hilarious, stirring, and completely off-the-wall. This deluxe set features the string of twenty-five Zatoichi films made between 1962 and 1973, collected in one package for the first time.
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This film series is set in Feudal Japan. Zatoichi, the main character, is a blind swordsman who wanders the country living hand to mouth by giving massages (Zato can mean masseur or blind man), administering acupuncture, gambling, and singing. In every Zatoichi film, he ends up protecting the weak and defenseless from bullies, gangsters, and scoundrels - - - initially with wit and charm, but inevitably with his flashing cane sword. Ichi routinely manages to kill several dozen heavily-armed Yakuza per film. While Zatoichi may sound like a homicidal maniac, he is really quite charming - - - and you will find yourself cheering for him.
The Zatoichi films totally revolutionized the martial arts film industry in Hong Kong. After the producers and directors in Hong Kong saw the first Zatoichi film, they immediately ramped up the realism of their films.
Thanks to this DVD set and to "Samurai Saturday" on the International Film Channel (IFC), I have seen every Zatoichi film except for Zatoichi #14. I was very, very happy when Amazon offered this DVD boxed set, since I had never before seen any of the included movies. All of the Zatoichi films may be watched independently; sometimes, however, references are made to events in earlier films. You do not need to watch any of the earlier films to completely understand and thoroughly enjoy the seven films in this boxed set.
The first two films of the series are in black and white, the rest are in color. All of the films in the DVD set are in color and have excellent English subtitles.
The 26 Zatoichi films (** next to films in this DVD boxed set):
1. The Tale of Zatoichi, 1962
2. The Tale of Zatoichi Continues, 1962
3. New Tale of Zatoichi, 1963
4. Zatoichi The Fugitive, 1963
5. Zatoichi on the Road, 1963
6. Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold, 1964
7. Zatoichi's Flashing Sword, 1964
8. Fight, Zatoichi, Fight, 1964
9. Adventures of Zatoichi, 1964
10. Zatoichi's Revenge, 1965
11. Zatoichi and the Doomed Man, 1965
12. Zatoichi and the Chess Expert, 1965
13. Zatoichi's Vengeance, 1966
14. Zatoichi's Pilgrimage, 1966
15. Zatoichi's Cane Sword, 1967
** 16. Zatoichi the Outlaw, 1967
17. Zatoichi Challenged, 1967
18. Zatoichi and the Fugitives, 1968
19. Samaritan Zatoichi, 1968
** 20. Zatoichi and Yojimbo, 1970
** 21. Zatoichi, The Festival Of Fire, 1970
** 22. Zatoichi Meets the One Armed Swordsman, 1971
** 23. Zatoichi at Large, 1972
** 24. Zatoichi in Desperation, 1972
** 25. Zatoichi's Conspiracy, 1973
26. Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman, 1989
Check out Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman (Criterion Collection) (Blu-ray + DVD) for a "restored" collection of 25 of the 26 Zatoichi films.
The films are in very high quality, the subtitles are very accurate and this is a good set of films to own in one boxed set like this. I would recommend it if you like the Zatoichi films.
I also want to tell you the actor who plays Zatoichi; Shintaro Katsu, is a common gambler, a sometimes con man and a righter of wrongs. He jokes and he suffers. He is a super hero who also takes time out to wash his dirty laundry. He is pure of heart and consorts with whores and thieves. You will find yourself watching and wondering what is going to happen next, cheering for him and rejoicing in happiness when he is happy and being sad when he is sad. Powerful. No television show today could be made with such detail to the period of time Zatoichi is wandering Japan. To say I am a fan is an understatement. Watch this Amazing Series-and you will be too!
The only downside for all Zatoichi fans out there, myself included, is that there is no complete collection of the Zatoichi television series or complete seasons on Amazon or anywhere else out there and I've looked for years at least not in English dub or with English subtitles. The closest thing I've found is a used copy of season 2 with Italian subtitles, lol!