Zatoichi: Any opinions on the movies or DVD's?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Scott Leopold, May 24, 2002.

  1. Scott Leopold

    Scott Leopold Supporting Actor

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    I believe the first two installments came out this past week. I've thought about picking them up and was wondering if anyone had scene them, or had any opinions on the movies/transfers.
     
  2. Peter M Fitzgerald

    Peter M Fitzgerald Screenwriter

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    I haven't seen the DVDs yet, but I've seen the first 16-17 films in the 26-film ZATOICHI series on the INDEPENDENT FILM CHANNEL several months ago (they are currently being rerun on the channel, on Saturday mornings and afternoons). All the films are quite good (with some notable standout episodes, like ZATOICHI & THE CHEST OF GOLD, and ZATOICHI & THE CHESS EXPERT)! All were shot in 2.35:1 ratio, and the first two films are in black & white, the rest in color.

    If you enjoy samurai flicks, particularly Kurosawa's tongue-in-cheek YOJIMBO and SANJURO, then ZATOICHI is right up your alley. The films fall into a formula (corrupt officials scheme to increase their power base and/or revenue stream, through strong-arm tactics and assasination against poor locals, Zatoichi stumbles in (usually while doing a favor for a stranger), and craftily saves the day), but it's a very enjoyable formula, with numerous interesting variations throughout the series. They play even more like good westerns than some other samurai flicks I've seen.

    Unlike other samurai characters (such as Mifune's warriors, and Itto Ogami of the LONE WOLF & CUB/BABY CART series), Shintaro Katsu's Zatoichi character is down-to-earth, ingratiating, witty, sometimes buffoonish, though he too has his stoic side. Besides being a swordsman of almost supernatural ability, he's also a gambler (also of high ability, think James Bond), and a fair masseur (the films indicate that massage was the prime career choice of Japan's blind in those days). Lots of great swordplay, but very little blood/gore, though I've heard that later installments of the series are grimmer/bloodier, and Shintaro Katsu went on to produce the legendarily bloody LONE WOLF & CUB/BABY CART series, starring his real-life brother (!) Tomisaburo Wakayama.

    The first two Zatoichi movies seem to me to be a bit more somber than subsequent entries, although that may be due to the fact that they're in black & white. The first film is a bit longer than the films usually are (typically a little over 80 minutes), and the second film is perhaps the shortest (around 73 minutes; also, its ending seems fairly abrupt).

    The first two films are also a bit more interrelated than later entries; in the second film, Zatoichi returns a year later to the town he spends most of his time in in the first film, relating to some of the same characters. The (Janus Films) prints shown on IFC looked pretty good, though I have no idea whether new tranfers have been made for the DVD editions. Some of the earlier color films were a bit light/faded, so I hope some work will be done on those before Home Vision releases them on Region 1 DVD later this year. I can't speak or read Japanese, but for what it's worth, the English subtitle translations seemed better-than-average to me. I didn't feel that I was missing anything, or that dialogue was being badly-conveyed. I believe Animeigo is planning on releasing some/all of the later Zatoichi films that Janus/Home Vision doesn't have the domestic rights to on DVD, including ZATOICHI MEETS YOJIMBO (with Toshiro Mifune), perhaps even later this year.

    Anyway, everyone should give Zatoichi a try (especially those of you whot are fans of the cartoon SAMURAI JACK, which borrows bits from the ZATOICHI and LONE WOLF & CUB films); they're fun & fairly accessible foreign adventure films. Hope this was of some help.
     
  3. Mike Levine

    Mike Levine Agent

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  4. Randy A Salas

    Randy A Salas Screenwriter

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    Those reviews don't mention it, but the mono audio shows its age on these DVDs. A lot of hiss and some distortion when there's a lot going on. Still, these movies are quite enjoyable.
     
  5. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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  6. Leon Liew

    Leon Liew Stunt Coordinator

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    Since this thread has been started I guess I can jump in
    too. Yes The Blindswordsman adventure series was my all time favourite movie series during my youth. Never misses an
    episode. I thought that there was a total of 13 movies only
    and never did realised that it was more than that. They even
    have a TV series but the only TV series shown over here in
    Singapore was The Sumarai series.
    Since the advent of VCR & VHS tapes I was longing to own
    the series but it was not to be. I guess they did not put
    it on VHS then. Shintaro Katsu was cut out to be Zatoichi
    The Blind Swordsman a role only he could possibly portrayed.
    Only recently did I managed to collect a few titles on VCDs
    produced in Hong Kong and is looking out for more.All are in
    widescreen or Tohoscope, Toho being the company which produces the series.With DVDs coming out on the series I hope they can reach Singapore.
    My VCD collection now are : Zatoichi Monogatari(B&W)
    Zatoichi & Yojimbo (Color)
    Zatoichi at Large (Color)
    Zatoichi & The Chess Expert(C)
    Zatoichi Challenged(Color)
    Zatoichi Jigokutabi (Color)
    Zatoichi in Desperation(Color)
    Zatoichi Conspiracy (Color)
    With the series on either VCDs or DVDs it sure bring back
    good old memories. Don't expect much on video & audio becoz
    of the dated films and sound but that do not prevent me from
    expanding my collection.
    [​IMG]
     
  7. Leon Liew

    Leon Liew Stunt Coordinator

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    Oh one more thing to add guys. During the early60s/70s where
    the Blindswordsman series was very popular, there were alot
    of Hong Kong sword fighting epics produced. One was The One
    Armed Swordsman,starring Jimmy Wang Yu. One can say he was
    'THE'swordsman of Hong Kong produced flicks.
    There was a collaboration between Toho films & Shaw Brothers
    films that produced a movie titled The Blind Swordsman versus The One Armed Swordsman it was really awesome. Some
    how I hoped that either a VCD or DVD can see the light of
    day on that movie.It was from this joined effort that
    spawned the martial arts film genre later.
    The Chinese Boxer,also starred Jimmy Wang Yu, pitted Chinese martial arts against Japanese karate and later
    we have Bruce Lee's & Jackie Chan's martial arts films coming on to join in the trend. I am still hunting for these
    two movies.
    [​IMG]
     
  8. Andy Sheets

    Andy Sheets Cinematographer

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    I was just reading DVDFile's review of the first Zatoichi dvd and to my surprise the review states that the transfer is anamorphic. I've read a couple of other reviews that state otherwise. Am I to take it that DVDFile is in error here?
     
  9. Jason Hennigan

    Jason Hennigan Stunt Coordinator

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    I would recommend getting these disks. The picture quality isn't perfect (far from it), but the quality of the films more than makes up for it.

    Very enjoyable! Thank you Home Vision Entertainment!
     
  10. Scott Leopold

    Scott Leopold Supporting Actor

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    I picked these up at Best Buy of all places this week. I haven't had a chance to watch them yet, but I'm looking forward to it. I saw part of one of the movies on IFC on Saturday, and it was rather enjoyable.
     
  11. John Blankenship

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    So, are these discs anamorphic or not? Does anyone know for sure? I've read reviews on several sites that say they are not.
     
  12. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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  13. Jussi Tarvainen

    Jussi Tarvainen Second Unit

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    Animeigo is releasing at least the first film in the series next year. It's going to be anamorphic.
     

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