Zatoichi at the Fire Festival – 1970
Zatoichi attends an auction of women in order to rescue a samurai’s bride. He teaches petty thugs a sharp lesson in humility, and plays with stilt-walking kids on the country road. After some clowning around in the gambling den there’s a naked swordfight at the bathhouse with a hot-tub full of tattooed yakuza killers. There’s also a very strange ‘vision’ sequence, and the amusement of the two blind men playing checkers and trying to catch each other out cheating. In the end, of course all the unruly humour is simply a diversion and mounting tensions between members of the criminal fraternity develop into a murder plot, against Zatoichi, then explode into a demonstration of the power of a blind man as invisible slayer. The festival of the title isn’t a fireworks display but a sacrificial ritual. Guess who the baddies intend to roast alive?