Today I watched Kenji Misumi’s Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades (1972)
This film, moreso than it’s predecessors, feels very episodic at the beginning. itto Ogami and his son Daigoro are continuing their wanderings and run into numerous colourful characters who confront them, giving Itto opportunities to show off his impressive sword skills and morality. Eventually a main plot does reveal itself as Itto is hired by an old, disgraced Noble to avenge his clan and his daughter, both of whom were taken from him by Sawatari Genba. A twist comes when Genba wants to hire Itto himself, but Itto refuses and uses it as an opportunity to scout his opposition before brutally murdering them, and at least a hundred of their retainers.
The body count here gets pretty ridiculous, especially in the finale. This movie pushes the mass slaughter to new heights, that afformentioned finale involves Itto literally killing an entire small army single handedly. Because of actor Tomisaburo Wakayama’s intense sword skills, it is actually believable. The film also takes a slightly more realistic apprach to it’s style, coming off less pulpy and comical for the most part. This only enhances the impact of the ludicrous action, while also allowing this film to have something of a theme.
All the different events presented here have one unifying element, women, more specifically the roles of women in the intensely oppressive culture of feudal Japan. While this film does romanticize the samurai code, it has no good will to show for those in authority. The Samurai servants are noble in their loyalty, but it’s a running theme in almost all Samurai films that power corrupts and the same noble dignity that defines the Samurai as a celebrated symbol of Japanese culture and history also makes them victims. Itto Ogami walks the ‘path of hell’ because of this betrayal, illustrating a certain anarchistic sensibility. So definitly check this film out, it offers a number of unique twists on the samurai formula and some damn fine action. 5/5