Thursday, July 14, 2005

review fish - samurai fish

since i'm not very good at these review-thingy-bobs, i have avoided saying much about the movies i've seen recently (except perhaps the ones that pissed me off - like that quantum documentary). the most notable of recent movie viewings that i have neglected to comment on was The Corporation - suffice to say, if you haven't seen it - see it now! however, i have fallen head over heals for old samurai pictures, and i must spread the joy. SPREAD THE JOY!!


my newest love is Zatoichi.

lovable and dangerous, blind Ichi travels the lands of feudal Japan, drinking, gambling and defending the innocent. this series of 26 movies (mostly from 1960's to early 70's) details the adventures of a blind swordsman, who traveled the country as a masseur during the early 1800's. everybody tries (and i do mean tries and fails) to get a drop on the poor, blind masseur and Ichi often tests people to see if they are honest. he has a gambling habit and a bad tendency to be in the wrong place at the right time to get sucked into other people's problems. invariably anyone who faces him dies a quick and sure death. he fights by hearing alone and therefore, has one of the most interesting fighting styles i've ever seen. his cane sword may seem, if not common-place, at least familiar in current day, but back in the 60's it must have been revolutionary.

i don't know about you, but if i've just watched a blind man take down ten to fifteen men with about as many sword swipes, i'd drop my sword and offer him a drink.

as a long time fan of the martial arts genre as well as an avid (if currently starved) Anime fan, i've never been much for westerns. however, in watching these movies i can see their influence on the western genre - cowboys, drunken gambling and noble outlaws - now mix that with traditional japanese culture and you're getting close.

Ichi (also Zatoichi) is played by the legendary actor Shintaro Katsu in all but the last movie (which came out in 2003). he was born in Tokyo, Japan and died of lung cancer in 1997 - he was 65 years old. this series remains a favorite in both Japan and the US - and why not, this is top quality samurai action.

Lone Wolf and Cub

so last night i was introduced to a samurai movie called "Baby Cart to Hades". unlike the Zatoichi movies, which stand alone, the six movies in the Lone Wolf and Cub series are the continuing saga of Ogami Itto (played by Tomisaburo Wakayama) and his son, Daigoro.

he was the shogun's official executioner, a master of the kill, when he was unjustly accused of heresy by the same clan who killed his wife. he now roams Japan as assassin for higher: "500 gold can buy his sword, but nothing can buy his honor".

this series came out in the early seventies and i can't resist listing the american titles, for you:
"Sword of Vengeance"
"Baby Cart at the River Styx"

"Baby Cart to Hades"
"White Heaven in Hell"
"Baby Cart in Peril"
"Baby Cart in the Land of Demons"

i have only seen one and will probably share more about them as i watch the rest. however, from what i can tell, these are strange period pieces, as they are set in a transitional period in Japanese history, where some of the samurai carry guns as well as swords and are not less honorable for all that. in the one i saw, Lone Wolf takes down an entire army with baby cart and sword. i kid you not, the baby cart is an arsenal of weaponry and much of the controls are at the hands of Daigoro, who has to be around 4 years old - you'll just have to see it to understand.

18 little fish:

Blogger theleftsock swam up to say...

lonewolf and cub are from shogun assassin, definately a classic i was introduced to it by prince of darkness Bill. as for zatoichi there is a modern movie remake of the original series. lata

2:23 PM  
Blogger mysfit swam up to say...

yeah - the one that came out in 2003 - however, from what i hear, the movie kinda sucks - at the very least, it is completely different - lots of music instead of silent scenes and the boy, who rarely spoke during the series narates the whole film

2:38 PM  
Blogger oldben swam up to say...

great reviewing. samurai rock. the influence, tho, goes t'other way, methinks. westerns influenced the japanese filmmakers. and they, in turn, influenced george lucas.

2:41 PM  
Blogger theleftsock swam up to say...

hey on a totally different note, did anyone ever beat chicken invaders?

2:44 PM  
Blogger jenn see swam up to say...

sock: you are a mine of strange information. & i got to the sun but never beat it.

mysfit: as far as that sorta thing goes, we can just pretend they never ruined it.

i have not seen the samurai of which you speak, but i trust i shall. & fear not, i will arrive bearing more than enough anime to keep a ninja-starved junkie happy for weeks.

oldben: & in the end it goes both ways, neh?

3:24 PM  
Blogger the wheel swam up to say...

Samurai movies are cool, but I really need to see The Corporation after visiting that link. I can't believe I haven't seen it yet. Watching it has been added to my list of things to do this weekend.

3:48 PM  
Blogger jenn see swam up to say...

agreed, Corporation on ToDo list.

do fish it up, mysfit, you take on Noam Chomsky so much better than i can...

3:55 PM  
Blogger mysfit swam up to say...

ok, ok - but methinks i need to watch it again (and take notes) in order to do it justice

and fear not jennsee: i will show you Zatoichi (whether you like it or not)

4:51 PM  
Blogger Carl V. swam up to say...

Sounds like some interesting stuff to add to the ol' Netflix list.

Welcome back from the Under-the-Weather land Mysfit!!!

6:14 PM  
Blogger banzai cat swam up to say...

Oh cool. I remember seeing a scene of that Lone Wolf and Cub on cable: he was facing off against an enemy samurai in a river.

Actually, it's my dream to collect the Dark Horse collection of Lone Wolf and Club (20+?). Wonderful art, incredible stories. There was one which I remember, how the babe was trying to escape a samurai who was trying to flush him out of a field of tall grass by burning it. Harrowing stuff.

And is that 2003 Zatoichi the one by Kitano? I thought it was good but then, I hadn't seen the originals yet.

1:24 AM  
Blogger Daniel Heath swam up to say...

if you're feeling the samurai thing, visit:
the book of five rings.

I love this thing. it's full of useful life lessons, for martial practice and for everyday life. things like:

"The Chinese Monkey's Body is the spirit of not stretching out your arms. The spirit is to get in quickly, without in the least extending your arms, before the enemy cuts. If you are intent upon not stretching out your arms you are effectively far away, the spirit is to go in with your whole body. When you come to within arm's reach it becomes easy to move your body in. You must research this well."

I'm thinking about having this tattooed on my stomach.

2:20 AM  
Blogger mysfit swam up to say...

thanks so much for that link monkey - i am always looking for more inspiration for my book

10:09 AM  
Blogger mysfit swam up to say...

oops - i just realized that i got the Lone Wolf and Cub movie and the Zatoichi movie mixed up in my first comment - sry for any confusion - i think i'll have to see the zatoichi movie (2003) to really make a comment - however, i have trouble picturing anyone but Katsu as zatoichi

10:13 AM  
Blogger jenn see swam up to say...

thanks monkey that looks like some hours of entertainment.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Daniel Heath swam up to say...

the thing about it is (and yes, this is how much of a dork I am), some of his advice is -actually useful- in martial application. it's kind of a trip to read a book that old which is concrete enough to improve your sparring game. he talks about how you should always have the intention to stab your opponent in the face, and even in a friendly match that's extremely good advice--you never let your offensive intentions flag, especially your obvious and overt threat to the face, which keeps your opponent always moving away from you (or getting stabbed in the face, which works, too). even that bit about being a Chinese Monkey is actually good advice, but I will not let this degenerate further into martial-arts geekery so I will shut up now.

I can just see the t-shirt... front: what would Musashi do?

mysfit, if you write a book using Musashi, I'll buy it...

3:25 AM  
Blogger mysfit swam up to say...

monkey - cool, thanks - perhaps i should post some of that book at some point - i thought about making it it's own site...

FYI - the reading list i have so far for the book (most of which i've read and other's i pick up and read random pages) is: the tao-te-ching; the chuang-tsu; not always so (a zen book), a stack of Zen meditation cards; The Art of War, by Sun Tsu; and i'm sure there's more that i can't think of off the top of my head.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Daniel Heath swam up to say...

mysfit... If you're writing the book just for fun/practice (e.g., my blog), then you should definitely post it. If, however, you're thinking about actually trying to write something you might someday try to get published (which is kind of insane and I don't recommend it even though I'm trying to do it myself), then remember you can't post it... if it goes on a blog, you can't sell first rights to it anymore.

maybe you know that and I'm stating the obvious, but... sometimes the obvious calls to me...

that said, I use my blog for character sketches and stuff that are relevant to the novel but not actually part of it. (cf. May and the shrimp.) that I find very useful. and it keeps everything from happening in a total vacuum, which is nice.

on samurai in general, I assume that you've accepted Ghost Dog as your personal Lord and Savior? I know I have...

4:22 PM  
Blogger jenn see swam up to say...

wow...ghost dog...haven't thought about him in a long time. now he was a man with a code.

6:23 PM  

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