In 1962, Shintaro Katsu brought to life the character of Zatoichi, the blind swordsman. Over then next 11 years, Katsu starred in 24 sequels, and he reprised the role for a final film in 1989. In my mind, and I am not alone in this, Shintaro Katsu WAS Masseur Ichi, the blind swordsman.
That being said, Beat Takeshi Kitano (From Battle Royale and MXC... Which is kind of like saying "Alec Guinness from Star Wars," because Kitano has been in like, a hundred movies) brings an interesting spin to the character, but he never strays far from the character Katsu played. All in all, the film is an exciting and worthy successor to the Zatoichi legacy.
The movie comes in a standard Amaray-style case with a very nice cover showing Kitano in a classic pose as Zatoichi. The cover is somewhat reminiscent of the US VHS covers from the 1980's series release, with a more modern feel and darker tones.
I was really impressed by the presentation. First off, it was presented in 16:9 letterbox format, which is the preferred format for movie fans, myself included. But the video itself seemed flawlessly clear on the screen, even on my computer, which normally has software issues on any disc I play in it.
In the spirit of 19th century Japan when the film is set, I've composed a haiku on the quality of the audio, which is available in Stereo and minty-fresh Dolby 5.1. At least it says it is, I don't actually have six-channel speakers to try it on.
The sound of the film
Was quite pleasant, clear and true;
I was filled with warmth.
Not one noticeable mistake. Not one. Perfect timing, spelling, and grammar consistently throughout the movie. Only complaint I can see is the lack of subtitles on the special features.
There are fourteen chapter breaks over the course of two hours of movie, which averages out to be around 7-8 minutes between breaks, which I would consider a good average.
Aside from the movie, the disc has a very small special features section. Specifically, the fourth option on the main menu will take you to submenu that houses the original theatrical trailers and tv commercials. Altogether there are four, and it's fun to see.
Since the menu is in... well, it looks like Japanese to me, anyway... but since it's in Japanese, I'll give you a run-down of what each option does. First, we have "Play Movie" which plays the... well, you know. Second is the Scene Selection menu, which has those cool moving images of the scenes, but no chapter names. Third is options, which lets you set the audio and subtitles. Since it doesn't seem to have any effect whatsoever in my experience, you're better off changing those with your remote once you start the film. And last is the aforementioned special features menu.
Watching this DVD for this review was the first time I had seen this movie. You may be asking yourself "Why didn't he go see it in the theater if he's such a fan of Zatoichi?" Well, I'll tell you why. My lame-ass local theater didn't think this movie was worth playing. Nor was House of Flying Daggers. And I had to drive 2 hours to see Fahrenheit 9-11 (until it made 80 million dollars opening weekend and the theater could show it fast enough). But the movie was worth waiting for, and this was a very well done presentation.
Publisher: MAC Discs: 1 Episodes: Movie Price: $4.00