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Zatoichi At The Fire Festival
cast: Shintaro Katsu, Tatsuya Nakadai, Reiko Ohara, and Masayuki Mori

director: Kenji Misumi

96 minutes (15) 1970
widescreen 2.35:1
Warrior DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Donald Morefield
Another title from the film series about a Japanese blind swordsman - coverage launched on this site a year ago by my colleagues Ian and Jeff. This film sees the hero up against a big boss of mediaeval gangsters that demand protection money from all and sundry. But what's unusual, here, is that it turns out the boss man is blind, too.
   Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu) 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?
   DVD extras include biographies, artwork and photo gallery, plus six previews of similar genre releases on the Warrior label.
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