Zatoichi’s Flashing Sword (1964)

78% – Critics
78% – Audience

Zatoichi’s Flashing Sword Storyline

Blind masseur Zatoichi is nursed back to health by a young woman after he is shot by a gang member. Zatoichi, who had come to the village to repay a debt, now feels further indebted. He commits himself to use his amazing sword skills to help the young woman’s father, whose river-crossing service is under attack by the same gang responsible for Zatoichi’s wounds.—Jim Beaver

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Zatoichi’s Flashing Sword Movie Reviews

Explosive final scene with fireworks and lightning slashes of the cane sword

This is a solid entry in the series. It’s true that there is little action until the closing minutes, but when the dam breaks, it breaks big!

I very much appreciated the portrayal of the two bosses. In many Zatoichi films all bosses are equally bad and sometimes disgusting in their greed and avarice. In this film Zatoichi winds up in the house of boss Bunkichi. Bunkichi turns out to be the real deal. He avoids confrontation, does not exploit the locals, and even puts on a fireworks display during O-Bon (summer festival). Zatoichi respects Bunkichi’s household and the values they stand for.

In contract, the boss on the other side of the river is Yasugoro. The actor who plays Yasugoro shows up in many of the films in the series. Here he does a great job as the bad guy, strutting around when he is safe and stuttering with nervousness whenever things get rough.

And while the fireworks go off overhead, Zatoichi crosses the river to make Yasugoro pay for his crimes. The lighting in the last fight scene is menacing. Ichi wreaks bloody vengeance in a systematic and frightening manner. As the last firework explodes overhead, Zatoichi delivers the final devastating blow.

One of the best in the series

True, Zatoichi movies follow the same general pattern from one film to the next, and they’re uniformly watchable. With Zatôichi abare tako, however, the film-making is on a higher level, with a convincing balance of swordplay, drama, and genuinely amusing moments. Perhaps most satisfying of all, the plot has a few truly disconcerting twists – even from the very beginning, when Zatoichi is nearly killed.

Period details are rendered nicely, as with the primitive ferrying service, and let’s not forget the sword tricks; at the very start, Zatoichi, troubled by a few flies and unable to sleep, dispatches the insects in two quick strokes. When we see the culminating “fireworks,” it’s perfectly integrated into the film.

This film shows enough film-making craft to put it near the top of the Zatoichi canon.

Rather typical, but very well made.

This Zatoichi film starts off in an unusual way. The camera is mounted on the ceiling looking straight down on the people in the room! The scene itself is fine, but the way they filmed it was nice as a change of pace. Interestingly enough, the final shots of the film were also done in much the same way, but in a darkened hallway.

Immediately after this, a guy is yelling because he apparently shot Zatoichi. However, they can’t find a body because Ichi swam away and was cared for by an old woman until he could go back on his journey. Oddly, some unnamed benefactor paid her for her nursing him to health. Who this is and why, we don’t yet know.

In the next scene, a group of punks invade a kendo dojo. Looking to hurt someone, they pull Ichi inside and proceed to get their butts kicked. I was actually more impressed with actor Shintaro Katsu’s work with the bamboo kendo sword than his usual swordplay–it was very fast and impressive.

While not as impressive technically, there also was a very unusual underwater fight. Five thugs attacked Ichi while he was bathing in the river. He led them to deeper water and then dove under–and one by one the bad guys were gutted as if Zatoichi were a shark! There was also a bit more humor in the film than usual. One routine is a cute one involving a guy who makes money carrying people across the river on his shoulders, but the one I really liked was Zatoichi and the guys peeping at the lady taking a bath.

The main story is pretty typical of a Zatoichi film. One big boss is trying to muscle in on the territory of another lesser one. The big boss is a nasty, laughing, obese stuttering guy and again and again he tries a variety of tricks to try to hurt the other boss. Fortunately, Zatoichi is on hand to help out when things start to spin out of control. And, as fireworks begin to go off, so do arms, legs, etc. as Ichi takes the battle to the evil warlord. Yay, Ichi!