Zatoichi the Fugitive (1963)

J.P. and I are back with a double shot review of the fourth Zatoichi film, Zatoichi the Fugitive. When you’re done here, make sure you head over to his site to read his thoughts on the film (link at the bottom of my review).


Zatoichi the Fugitive [座頭市兇状旅] (1963)
AKA Zatoichi 4

Starring Shintaro Katsu, Miwa Takada, Masayo Banri, Toru Abe, Junichiro Narita, Katsuhiko Kobayashi

Directed by Tokuzo Tanaka

Expectations: Moderate.


I love samurai films. I’ve heard great things about the Zatoichi series over the years, but I have yet to really dive head first into the world of the blind masseur. About five years ago, I saw the first film in the series and I was underwhelmed. Zatoichi had been built up to me as this amazing series of films, but I found the first film to be slow and just okay. I liked it enough to remain interested in the series, but I had shelved it in my mind for future times. Sometime between then and now, I saw the 2003 Takeshi Kitano remake. I used to really like his films, but again I was underwhelmed with his remake. I don’t remember a lot about it, but I do remember hating the very obvious computer generated blood effects in the film. Get a bag of blood and splatter it around. C’mon.

So going into Zatoichi the Fugitive I was hoping that it would reignite my interest in the series and show me what everyone was going on about. The first thing I noticed was that this film was in color. I had expected black & white like the first, so this was a welcome surprise. I love black & white cinematography more than most, don’t get me wrong, but after seeing this film, color is the correct choice for Zatoichi. The one downfall of using color though, is that for the fights I come in expecting blood-letting and Zatoichi the Fugitive is very sparse in that department.

Continue reading Zatoichi the Fugitive (1963) →

Once Upon a Time in China (1991)

My new friend J.P. and I share a love for Hong Kong movies. We are celebrating it with a special double-post, Siskel/Ebert kind of review for one film. Make sure you head over to his site when you’re done here to read his thoughts on the film. Now back to your regularly scheduled reviews.


Once Upon a Time in China [黃飛鴻] (1991)
AKA Wong Fei-Hung, Kungfu Master

Starring Jet Li, Yuen Biao, Rosamund Kwan, Jacky Cheung, Kent Cheng, Yee Kwan Yan

Directed by Tsui Hark

Expectations: High. I love this movie.


Bravery soaring! Magnanimity overflowing!

It has been at least eight years since I’ve seen this. Back when I was watching nothing but Hong Kong movies with my friends, this was one of our top films. Going into watching this again, I had incredibly high expectations. There was no way it could live up to those kind of hopes, and in some ways it doesn’t, but overall I still really love this film. My tastes have changed over the years and it struck me how old the film felt. It didn’t feel like 1991, it felt more like 1971. That was when it hit me. This movie has more in common at a base level with a traditional Shaw Brothers kung fu flick than I had ever noticed before. The fight choreography and wire work are completely modern, but it has the feeling and the charm of a classic from the Run Run Shaw studio. In this way, Once Upon a Time in China is a look back, while taking a step forward.

The fights are spectacular. They’re what you are here for, and if not, they should be. The umbrella fight early on is quite good, but nothing can prepare you for the final battle in the warehouse involving multiple ladders. Even with the wire-work, the sheer level of acrobatic and physical ability on display is amazing. I remembered this fight a lot better than I remembered the rest of the film because my friends and I used to re-watch this fight over and over back in the day. It’s truly fantastic. I was a little disappointed that Yuen Biao didn’t get more to do in the way of fighting, but as his character was a guy that wanted to learn kung fu, I suppose I can forgive this.

Continue reading Once Upon a Time in China (1991) →

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