ZATOICHI: THE BLIND SWORDSMAN Blu-ray/DVD Box Set from Criterion
The colossally popular Zatoichi films make up the longest-running action series in Japanese history and created one of the screen’s great heroes: an itinerant blind masseur who also happens to be a lightning-fast swordsman. As this iconic figure, the charismatic and earthy Shintaro Katsu became an instant superstar, lending a larger-than-life presence to the thrilling adventures of a man who lives staunchly by a code of honor and delivers justice in every town and village he enters. The films that feature him are variously pulse-pounding, hilarious, stirring, and completely off-the-wall.
This deluxe dual format Blu-ray/DVD set features the string of twenty-five Zatoichi films made between 1962 and 1973, collected in one package for the first time.
Collector’s Set Includes…
THE TALE OF ZATOICHI (座頭市物語, Zatoichi Monogatari)
Kenji Misumi • 1962
The epic saga of Zatoichi begins.
THE TALE OF ZATOICHI CONTINUES (続・座頭市物語, Zoku Zatoichi Monogatari)
Kazuo Mori • 1962
Zatoichi is hired to give a massage to a powerful political official who, he discovers, is mentally ill — a secret that the nobleman’s retinue is determined to keep at any cost.
NEW TALE OF ZATOICHI (新・座頭市物語, Shin Zatoichi Monogatari)
Tokuzo Tanaka • 1963
Zatoichi is back — and in color! Hoping to leave violence behind, the blind masseur wanders to a village, where he meets an old friend fallen on hard times.
ZATOICHI THE FUGITIVE (座頭市兇状旅, Zatoichi Kyoojoo-tabi)
Tokuzo Tanaka • 1963
Zatoichi triumphs at a village wrestling match, much to the chagrin of his yakuza opponents. The defeated gang members pay a hotheaded ronin to take out the masseur; unbeknownst to them, the hired assassin is married to a former flame of Zatoichi’s, further complicating matters.
ZATOICHI ON THE ROAD (座頭市喧嘩旅, Zatoichi Kenka-tabi)
Kimiyoshi Yasuda • 1963
The itinerant Zatoichi comes across a dying man, who begs the masseur to escort a young woman back to her family in Edo. The honorable swordsman agrees, but in so doing, he catapults himself between two warring yakuza clans, each with its own interest in kidnapping the girl.
ZATOICHI AND THE CHEST OF GOLD (座頭市千両首, Zatoichi Senryoo-kubi)
Kazuo Ikehiro • 1964
After arriving in a small village, Zatoichi finds himself accused of stealing the citizens’ hefty tax payments. To clear his name, he must face off against a corrupt official, a succession of hired blades, and a bullwhip-wielding titan.
ZATOICHI’S FLASHING SWORD (座頭市あばれ凧, Zatoichi Abare Tako)
Kazuo Ikehiro • 1964
The blind swordsman is shot and nursed back to health by kind strangers. He soon discovers that his saviors are caught between sparring crime lords; bound by honor, Zatoichi stays to ensure their safety.
FIGHT, ZATOICHI, FIGHT (座頭市血笑旅, Zatoichi Kesshoo-tabi)
Kenji Misumi • 1964
While on the road, Zatoichi befriends a young mother right before she is savagely murdered. Promising her that he will hand over her baby to its father, the blind masseur embarks on an adventure both sentimental and beset by perilous action.
ADVENTURES OF ZATOICHI (座頭市関所破り, Zatoichi Sekisho-yaburi)
Kimiyoshi Yasuda • 1964
The blind swordsman wanders into a town to celebrate the New Year. There, he befriends a young woman whose father has gone missing; as he tries to help her find him, he becomes entangled in a web of corruption and a series of tragic twists of fate.
ZATOICHI’S REVENGE (座頭市二段斬り, Zatoichi Nidan-giri)
Akira Inoue • 1965
Nearing the village of his sensei, Zatoichi decides to pay the teacher a visit, only to learn that he has been murdered and his daughter forced into prostitution.
ZATOICHI AND THE DOOMED MEN (座頭市逆手斬り, Zatoichi Sakate-giri)
Kazuo Mori • 1965
An elderly prisoner accused of murder begs Zatoichi to find evidence of his innocence. The blind swordsman, for the first time, chooses not to help, but fate has other plans for him.
ZATOICHI AND THE CHESS EXPERT (座頭市地獄旅, Zatoichi Jigoku-tabi)
Kenji Misumi • 1965
Kenji Misumi, who directed the first installment of the Zatoichi series, returns with this tale in which the blind swordsman once again finds himself the protector of a child: a little girl pursued by both devious family members and bloodthirsty ruffians.
ZATOICHI’S VENGEANCE (座頭市の歌が聞える, Zatoichi no Uta ga Kikoeru)
Tokuzo Tanaka • 1966
Zatoichi encounters a dying man, who asks the itinerant masseur to deliver a bag of money to his young son; he agrees to fulfill the request, finding the boy in a village terrorized by criminals.
ZATOICHI’S PILGRIMAGE (座頭市海を渡る, Zatoichi Umi o Wataru)
Kazuo Ikehiro • 1966
Troubled by his violent past, Zatoichi begins a journey to a series of shrines for a dose of cleansing spirituality. But as always, trouble isn’t far behind, and the blind swordsman soon finds himself defending a widow from the self-interest of ruthless thugs and despicable townsfolk.
ZATOICHI’S CANE SWORD (座頭市鉄火旅, Zatoichi Tekka-tabi)
Kimiyoshi Yasuda • 1967
Wearying of his wandering lifestyle, Zatoichi yearns to settle down; unfortunately, when he does so it’s in a town overrun by yakuza. He has an eye-opening encounter with the town’s blacksmith, who reveals himself to be the apprentice of the man who forged Zatoichi’s legendary cane sword.
ZATOICHI THE OUTLAW (座頭市牢破り, Zatoichi Rooyaburi)
Satsuo Yamamoto • 1967
Zatoichi arrives in a town where a gambling house is kidnapping its poor, debt-ridden patrons. A rival establishment moves to pay those debts and free the peasants, but this second house’s seemingly altruistic boss is actually laying the groundwork for a ruthless money-grabbing scheme.
ZATOICHI CHALLENGED (座頭市血煙り街道, Zatoichi Chikemurikaidoo)
Kenji Misumi • 1967
A dying woman begs Zatoichi to reunite her son with the father he has never met, but when the blind masseur searches for the man, he discovers that he has been forced by a local yakuza boss to pay off his gambling debts in an unusual way: by painting illegal erotica.
ZATOICHI AND THE FUGITIVES (座頭市果し状, Zatoichi Hatashijoo)
Kimiyoshi Yasuda • 1968
The wandering swordsman finds himself in a small village that serves as hideout for a band of fugitives who control the town officials and enforce brutal slave labor in the local silk mill.
SAMARITAN ZATOICHI (座頭市喧嘩太鼓, Zatoichi Kenka-daiko)
Kenji Misumi • 1968
Hired by a yakuza boss to eliminate an accused debtor, Zatoichi fulfills his task, only to witness the victim’s sister paying the owed amount minutes later. When the crime lord tries to possess the woman along with the cash, the blind swordsman wrestles with the injustice he has caused.
ZATOICHI MEETS YOJIMBO (座頭市と用心棒, Zatoichi to Yojinbo)
Kihachi Okamoto • 1970
Zatoichi treks to a village that has always been a favorite spot of his, only to discover that it’s become a living hell, plagued by feuding father and son yakuza as well as the younger crime boss’ bodyguard — Toshiro Mifune’s scruffy, smart-mouthed, cash-hungry Yojimbo of legend.
ZATOICHI GOES TO THE FIRE FESTIVAL (座頭市あばれ火祭り, Zatoichi Abare-himatsuri)
Kenji Misumi • 1970
Co-written by star Shintaro Katsu, this adventure pits Zatoichi against one of his most diabolical foes: a blind yakuza boss whose reign of terror and exploitation has made him nearly mythic.
ZATOICHI MEETS THE ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN (新座頭市・破れ！唐人剣, Shin Zatoichi: Yabure! Toojin-ken)
Kimiyoshi Yasuda • 1971
It’s East meets East when one of Japan’s action idols crosses paths with an iconic kung-fu hero from Hong Kong.
ZATOICHI AT LARGE (座頭市御用旅, Zatoichi Goyoo-tabi)
Kazuo Mori • 1972
Zatoichi comes across a pregnant woman dying from sword wounds and helps deliver her baby. Her final request to him: take the boy to see his father.
ZATOICHI IN DESPERATION (新座頭市物語・折れた杖, Shin Zatoichi Monogatari: Oreta Tsue)
Shintaro Katsu • 1972
Star Shintaro Katsu sits in the director’s chair for this psychedelic and unremittingly bleak entry in the Zatoichi series, which is unlike any other in its grind-house grimness.
ZATOICHI’S CONSPIRACY (新座頭市物語・笠間の血祭り, Shin Zatoichi Monogatari: Kasama no Chimatsuri)
Kimiyoshi Yasuda • 1973
Capping off Zatoichi’s feature film era before he made the transition to television in 1974, this chapter is suffused with melancholy, closing the series on a note of seriousness and emotional heft that it has well earned.
Genres: Foreign, Action/Adventure, Japanese Cinema, Martial Arts, Samurai
Rating: Not Rated
Number of Discs: 27
1962-1973 • 2198 minutes • Color/Black & White • PCM Monaural • In Japanese with English subtitles • 2.35:1 aspect ratio
• New digital restorations of all twenty-five films
• The Blind Swordsman, a 1978 documentary about Shintaro Katsu
• New interview with Asian-film critic Tony Rayns
• Trailers for all twenty-five films
• New English subtitle translations
• Booklet featuring an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien; synopses of the films by critic, novelist, and musician Chris D.;
The Tale of Zatoichi, the original short story by Kan Shimozawa; and twenty-five new illustrations inspired by the films,
by twenty-five different artists
Catalog #: CC2330BDDVD
Release Date: November 26, 2013
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