director Kenji Misumi
It was six years ago when I started this six film series with Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (1972) and it took four years for me to get around to the second installment, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx (1972). It’s another two years until I got around to the third episode here, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades. I have no excuse. It only took the filmmakers three years to make the whole series.
And the films are very good. All of them so far.
It’s the legendary character of the disgraced former executioner for the shogunate who travels the Edo-era countryside with his little tot in tow. He’s committed to the dark side of the world, ready for him and his son to perish, and thus the titles of the films moving from dark to darker to darkest.
In this one, aiding a young girl who has been sold into prostitution sets some confrontations for Ogami Ittō (Tomisaburo Wakayama), the Lone Wolf. He takes her place for her punishments and then is contracted to kill a conniving statesman, who in turn tries to hire the Wolf to kill his opponent. It all comes down to a massive bloodbath, in which the Lone Wolf takes down a legion of samurai maintaining a nobility most of the combatants could never achieve.
The contrast of the sweet and innocent face of the child Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa), implaccable and unflinching in the face of gruesome human violence is reflected in the beauty and simplicity of life and landscape of their world and the evil conniving monstrosity of humanity. The contrast is profound and the images are powerful and moving even in what is essentially a pretty pulpy samurai film.
And that is not at all a snipe!
I’ve somewhat shamed myself into finishing this series before another half decade passes. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s an issue of so many movies, so little time, not any qualitative commentary on the films. Quite the opposite. It’s great stuff.