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JAPANORAMA - SF WASABI RICE BANNERBabycart in Peril 01 Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Yoichi Hayashi, Michie Azuma, Asao Koike, Tatsuo Endo

Lone Wolf and Cub – Baby Cart in Peril (AKA – 子連れ狼 親の心子の心  Kozure Ōkami: Oya no kokoro ko no kokoro, Shogun Assassin 3: Slashing Blades of Carnage): Ito’s latest contract is to assassinate a killer of many samurai, but to his surprise it’s a lady with outstanding short-blade skills, and in a similar situation to himself… Oyuki presents a very strong female lead, something that the previous movies have had – but not taken this seriously. The very first frame is a tattooed boob, so it starts off great! But soon after there’s a bit of silly magic (face mask magic guy), some sizable flashback sections, and a lot more talking than previous installments. However, as good as the story and premise are, the Babycart films are never better than their action set-pieces: with Wakayama hacking, slashing, and literally flying around the frame – he can’t half move around for a big bloke. The now customary ‘final battle’ with dozens of enemies and a few ‘bosses’ is also great, and for the first time we see him properly injured/vulnerable too. More than anything, the film is a little confused about who the baddie is: the girl? Her nemesis? Itto’s old foe? The big hairy guy? By the fourth movie it does feel a bit like more-of-the-same but the film still pushes the boundaries, and does well to set up the one-armed swordsman myth.

Score: 6/10

Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades Review

Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx Review

Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance Review

Babycart in Peril 02 Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Yoichi Hayashi, Michie Azuma, Asao Koike, Tatsuo Endo Babycart in Peril 03 Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Yoichi Hayashi, Michie Azuma, Asao Koike, Tatsuo Endo Babycart in Peril 04 Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Yoichi Hayashi, Michie Azuma, Asao Koike, Tatsuo EndoBabycart in Peril 05 Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Yoichi Hayashi, Michie Azuma, Asao Koike, Tatsuo Endo Babycart in Peril 06 Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Yoichi Hayashi, Michie Azuma, Asao Koike, Tatsuo Endo Babycart in Peril 07 Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Yoichi Hayashi, Michie Azuma, Asao Koike, Tatsuo Endo Babycart in Peril 08 Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Yoichi Hayashi, Michie Azuma, Asao Koike, Tatsuo Endo Babycart in Peril 10 Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Yoichi Hayashi, Michie Azuma, Asao Koike, Tatsuo Endo

JAPANORAMA - Seven Monkey BANNER JAPAN-O-RAMA.jpg01 Baby Cart to Hades Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa , Go Kato, Yuko Hamada, Isao Yamagata, Michitaro Mizushima, Ichirô Nakatani, Akihiro Tomikawa, Sayoko Katô, Jun Hamamura, Daigo KusanoLone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades (子連れ狼: 死に風に向う乳母車, Kozure Ôkami: Shinikazeni mukau ubaguruma): Ogami Itto saves the honour of a prostitute, which leads to more work as a hired assassin. It’s yet another film that’s packed with effortless cool – slicing down the bamboo trees, ninjas fall down, Bish! Bash! Bosh! Corpses everywhere! This is definitely more wordy than the previous two outings, and the first half is overly similar to a previous story (protecting prozzies honour). The second half isn’t that memorable either, at least not until the absolute bloodbath of a finale. Wakayama plays his character with far more grit than before, he’s colder, and his dialogue is delivered with the most authoritative growl you could imagine. Poor kid though, how much bloodshed should one child be exposed to!?!? Another big game-changer is that this is the first movie in the series to feature guns, which takes the edge – and part of the appeal – from the sword fighting / showdowns. Whilst it’s not a bad film, Baby Cart to Hades isn’t really in the same league as the first two movies, and feels like it’s re-treading some plotlines.

Score: 5.5/10

02 Baby Cart To Hades Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa , Go Kato, Yuko Hamada, Isao Yamagata, Michitaro Mizushima, Ichirô Nakatani, Akihiro Tomikawa, Sayoko Katô, Jun Hamamura, Daigo Kusanom03 Baby Cart to Hades Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa , Go Kato, Yuko Hamada, Isao Yamagata, Michitaro Mizushima, Ichirô Nakatani, Akihiro Tomikawa, Sayoko Katô, Jun Hamamura, Daigo Kusano04 Baby Cart to Hades Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa , Go Kato, Yuko Hamada, Isao Yamagata, Michitaro Mizushima, Ichirô Nakatani, Akihiro Tomikawa, Sayoko Katô, Jun Hamamura, Daigo Kusano05 Baby Cart to Hades Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa , Go Kato, Yuko Hamada, Isao Yamagata, Michitaro Mizushima, Ichirô Nakatani, Akihiro Tomikawa, Sayoko Katô, Jun Hamamura, Daigo Kusano06 Baby Cart To Hades Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa , Go Kato, Yuko Hamada, Isao Yamagata, Michitaro Mizushima, Ichirô Nakatani, Akihiro Tomikawa, Sayoko Katô, Jun Hamamura, Daigo Kusano07 Baby Cart to Hades Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa , Go Kato, Yuko Hamada, Isao Yamagata, Michitaro Mizushima, Ichirô Nakatani, Akihiro Tomikawa, Sayoko Katô, Jun Hamamura, Daigo Kusano

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Babycart at the river styx Tomisaburo Wakayama, 若山 富三郎, Kayo Matsuo, 松尾 嘉代, Akiji Kobayashi, 小林昭, Akihiro Tomikawa, Minoru Ohki, Shin Kishida, 岸田 森

Yuuuuuup – that’s someone’s head that’s just been sliced in half!

Lone Wolf and Cub #2 – Babycart at the River Styx (AKA: 子連れ狼 三途の川の乳母車 and Kozure Ōkami: Sanzu no kawa no ubaguruma) – a disgraced executioner lives on the road with his son as a mercenary, avoiding about five assassination attempts per day. While it feels like more of the same, this film expands on much of the first outing – pushing the larger story forward, upping the action, and having even more stylish and poignant moments – like a slashed-up guy appreciating the sound of blood flying out from his neck. Shots like the sword dripping blood whilst tearing down a fusuma wall, and frozen bodies synchronously hitting the deck – are just fantastic to watch, pure cinema escapism, soaked in cool – it feels decades ahead of its time. Tomisaburo Wakayama further expands his role as the dangerous, effortless, perfectly timed slayer of baddies. This also pushed the boat out by having a crew of super-dangerous female ninjas – which isn’t seen too often in the genre. Simplified, it’s essentially about a guy that walks down a road, mows down some killers (baby sometimes mucks in) then carries on walking down the path – yet this film gets away with it because it’s got so many layers. The biggest disappointment is that all of the scenes filmed at night (around 60% of the film) are terrible and you can’t make out a thing for the most part. This film’s great, and I’d love to give it a 7 or 8 out-of-10, but because such a large chunk of it is just a black frame with something moving around in it, it’s often frustrating to watch.

Score: 6/10

Babycart Sword Tomisaburo Wakayama, 若山 富三郎, Kayo Matsuo, 松尾 嘉代, Akiji Kobayashi, 小林昭, Akihiro Tomikawa, Minoru Ohki, Shin Kishida, 岸田 森

JAPANORAMA - Seven Monkey BANNER JAPAN-O-RAMA.jpgLone Wolf and Cub Sword of Vengeance 01 Kenji Misumi, Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Tomoko Mayama, Fumio Watanabe, Keiko Fujita, Reiko Kasahar, YunosukeLone Wolf and Cub #1 – Sword of Vengeance (子連れ狼  子を貸し腕貸しつかまつる, or Kozure Ōkami: Kowokashi udekashi tsukamatsuru): when his wife is killed by ninjas and he is betrayed by a rival clan, the Shogun’s lead executioner becomes an assassin for hire, wondering the country with his infant son. The film opens with the lead character beheading a child… which lets you know exactly what to expect from the film, and what the lead, Itto Ogami is capable of. Despite this, being played so well by Tomisaburo Wakayama means that you still relate to, and feel for the character and his situation, as he transforms from obedient executioner, to a masterless badass – even if he’s out-of-shape. He is another one of Japan’s surprisingly complex – well acted – anti-heroes. The action scenes are second to none; heads literally roll across the screen, limbs fall to the ground, jets of blood spray everywhere – it’s completely over the top, yet so ridiculously stylish and meticulously planed; it was the first of the more extreme, exploitative Chambara movies. There’s also surprisingly good period detail for an out-and-out exploitation movie; the weirdest part however is that there’s a strangely high volume of scenes involving suckling on teats (OK, only two, but that’s still two more than most films). Sword of Vengeance is over 40 years old now, but it’s crammed full of everything that most modern exploitation films can’t even do right – the main difference is that it’s filmed by an absolute auteur – the film looks like art at times, which is a testament to the story’s manga roots.

Score: 7.5/10

Lone Wolf and Cub Sword of Vengeance 02 Kenji Misumi, Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Tomoko Mayama, Fumio Watanabe, Keiko Fujita, Reiko Kasahar, YunosukeLone Wolf and Cub Sword of Vengeance 03 Kenji Misumi, Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Tomoko Mayama, Fumio Watanabe, Keiko Fujita, Reiko Kasahar, YunosukeLone Wolf and Cub Sword of Vengeance 04 Kenji Misumi, Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Tomoko Mayama, Fumio Watanabe, Keiko Fujita, Reiko Kasahar, YunosukeNOTE: Some people will be familiar with this from the Shogun Assassin movie – which takes the bloodiest bits from the first two Lone Wolf and Cub films and mashes them together to create an even bloodier samurai slasher film aimed at Western audiences. That banned VIPCO vault of horror DVD was my first exposure to the series, and god was it brilliant.