Director: Kenji Misumi
Starring: Tomisaburo Wakayama, Fumio Watanabe, Tomoko Mayama
More info: IMDb
Plot: In this first film of the Lone Wolf and Cub series, adapted from the manga by Kazuo Koike, we are told the story of the Lone Wolf and Cub's origin. Ogami Itto, the official Shogunate executioner, has been framed for disloyalty to the Shogunate by the Yagyu clan, against whom he now is waging a one-man war, along with his infant son, Daigoro.
My rating: 8.5/10
Will I watch it again? Definitely.
In 1980 an American producer thought it'd be a great idea to take a couple of these LONE WOLF movies, combine them, keep all of the action and throw out the drama bits, dub it with American actors, slap a modern electronic score on it and call it SHOGUN ASSASSIN (1980). It wasn't a bad idea because on the level of kickass samurai action, it's fun but as a dramatic narrative it's lacking. I suspected then that I would enjoy the original films better and I was right.
Wakayama is great as the titular samurai on a quest of vengeance and that kid is super cute. There are lots of surprises when it comes to the fighting. The baby cart is tricked out with all kinds of neat modifications. The fights are fast and furious with lots of arterial blood spray and you-know-who is going to be triumphant every time. Even though he's the best in the land, meaning you know he'll always, it's still very exciting and fun. The Hideaki Sakurai wrote a wonderful score with a smattering of fuzz guitar that works surprisingly well.
One thing that took me by surprise is how quiet and gentle the film is. There are fight scenes with no music, scenes with little to no sound (like the complete silence during the rainstorm) or dialogue. For a samurai action movie it's very relaxing and that's probably the film's biggest strength. It's a remarkable picture and the only thing that makes it better is that there's 5 more films in the series and they're regarded as being just as good as the first!