Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold (1964)

83% – Critics
83% – Audience

Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold Storyline

In the 1840s, Ichi, blind masseur and quick-draw swordsman, travels to the village of Itakura to pay his respects at the grave of Kichizo, a man he killed two years’ ago. The villages in the area, after several years of famine, have struggled to raise 1,000 ryo in taxes they owe. The money is stolen while in transit to the governor. Ichi is accused as is Boss Chuji, a samurai Ichi respects. Ichi sets out to find the money and clear his own and Chuji’s names. Along the way, he must face Kichizo’s sister, some of Chuji’s own gang, a corrupt governor, and his henchmen. Loyalties shift even as Ichi’s moral compass stays true.—

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Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold Movie Reviews

A leap forward in the series

The Zatoichi series really took off with this entry. Shintaro Katsu is, of course, outstanding in his role as the blind swordsman/masseur. What sets this one aside from the earlier entries in the series, though, is the kinetic camerawork of Kazuo Miyagawa. Utilising every inch of his Panavision frame, Miyagawa set new standards for the samurai genre, choreographing outstanding fight sequences and adding the element of gore to the recipe. For those who think widescreen mayhem began with The Wild Bunch, this is essential viewing!

Good entertainment

In this classic samurai tale, we follow the deadly trail of Zatoichi-a blind swordsman who has sworn to prove his innocence with regards to his unknowing involvement with the robbery of a chest of gold containing the local farmers tax payment while bringing the real culprits to justice. Here we have the classic hero, the defender and champion of the poor albeit here a most unlikely since the farm villagers think he was responsible for the robbery and he is as he might say “a simple blind man”. A bit of suspension of disbelief is required but boy is this ever great stuff! Any fan of sword-fighting films should find much to enjoy here.


I think this stunning film ranks among the great action films of all time but could be hung as stills in any art museum. Hokusai & Hiroshige influences abound.

Yet best of all is the unforgettable character Zatoichi himself. Shintaro Katsu created an everyman/superhero who had no equal, at least in western culture. A squat, homely, bandy-legged self-deprecating blind man full of humor & humility & an abundance of spirituality. And could he make that sword dance.

These movies have no equal. Each one is as perfectly made as any movie can be. I used to go see them when they first appeared in the theaters of San Francisco & Los Angeles Japanese neighborhoods. I still love them every bit as much now.