Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold 1964
After paying his respects at the grave of a man he accidentally killed, the legendary blind swordsman Zatoichi (played in top form as always by Shintaro Katsu) arrives at a village where the impoverished locals are in mid-celebration. It seems they’ve finally gathered enough money to pay off their heavy tax burden–a great relief to everyone in this drought-stricken area. At first, they invite Ichi to join in their fun. When the money is stolen by a group of samurai thugs, however, the villagers blame Ichi too, thinking that he’s in on the heist. Desperate to clear his name, Ichi swears to find those responsible and return the money.
But it won’t be easy. First, Ichi has to investigate a local and much loved boss, who has gone into hiding. Then he’ll have to tangle with those thugs… including one of his toughest adversaries yet–a samurai by the name of Jushiro who wields a dangerous bullwhip as skillfully as a sword.
Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold is arguably the most theatrical of all the Ichi films. Its stylized opening credit sequence recalls the Bond film intros, for example. Chest of Gold is also the first film in the series to graphically depict violence. When swords fly here, so does the blood.
For these reasons alone, the film would be interesting. Making it even more so are Ichi’s face-offs with Jushiro, first over a game of chance and later on the field of battle. Ichi buffs will be interested to know that Jushiro is played here by Katsu’s real-life brother, Tomisaburo Wakayama, who would later star in the Lone Wolf and Cub series of films (produced by Katsu).