Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Zatoichi and the Chess Expert (1965)

Zatoichi :  Shintarô Katsu

Director : Kenji Misumi

IMDb : 7.5

Grade :   A-

The movie begins with Zatoichi trying to bargain a cheaper rate for a boat ride and then joining a dice game once on board. We see Zatoichi pull the old trick where he "accidentally" shows the dice instead of keeping them under the cup. Everyone collects, but when he does it again, and gets the wagering up higher, he tricks them. Zatoichi turns the tables on the cheaters by having two dice under the cup, and tells them the others they saw fell out of his sleeve. Because they were trying to cheat him, and they know it, his trick works. 

When of the gamblers try to get their money back from him Zatoichi throws them overboard. He then makes friends with another chess-playing samurai making the trip with him. The samurai's name is Tadasu, and they have a game of chess. When they land on Honshu island some friends of the losing gamblers try to break Zatoichi's fingers to teach him a lesson, but he quickly turns the tables on them. A little girl, Miki, is hurt in the fray and Zatoichi checks on her to make sure she is all right. 

Zatoichi and Tadusi play chess again and Tadusi observes that Zatoichi only attacks when he is forced to. Tadusi on the other hand says his philosophy is to kill to win. 

The little girl gets and infection and is close to death, but Zatoichi volunteers to pay for the medicine. Zatoichi feels guilty because she was hurt in his fight. Tadusi goes along to a dice game with Zatoichi as his bodyguard because he needs to make the money. He tries the same trick on the new group who are anxious to take advantage of the blind man. But once gain Zatoicho pulls the naughty dice that "fell" out of his sleeve, and overturns the ones in his cup. But this time something went wrong. When he overturns the cup he still loses. Zatoichi has lost all of his money. 

Tadusi, who makes money by letting people try to hit him on the head wih a stick at fairs, gives his spot at the fair to Zatoichi. Zatoichi then makes money by catching coins on a stick and goes off to gamble where he wins. He then goes to buy the medicine but gets ambushed on the way back. This time he uses his sword to fight off the attackers. Zatoichi brings the little Miki the medicine and she calls him Uncle Ichi, and then her fever breaks. 

Tane, Miki's aunt, explains to Zatoichi what has happened in their lives. Miki is her brother's girl, but he went bad and got killed in a gang war. The mother had already run away. Tane is beginning to fall for Zatoichi who is very fond of Miki. 

Zatoichi gives a massage to a samurai he knows is out for revenge. His sister is traveling with him and is dressed as a man. Their retainer is killed because he knows what the man they are seeking looks like. The samurai's father was killed over a friendly bet about chess. He an his sister can not return home without their revenge. 

The gangster looking for Zatoichi show up. Tane tells Zatoichi that she is really Miki's mother, and that it was her husband who had been killed. And he had been killed by Zatoichi, but she fell in love with Zatoichi. Zatoichi, Tadusi, Tane and Miki start out on the trail again. Zatoichi and Tadusi play chess by calling out the positions. While playing Zatoichi knows Tadusi is the killer of the samurai's father, and of their retainer. He draws on him and injures him and the samurai and his sister rush in and finish him off. 

Five gamblers then attack Zatoichi, nut he finishes them off quickly. He then heads off down the road as Miki and Tane yell after him. 

The plot was a little hard to follow, as were some of the decisions Zatoichi made, but overall a very good movie.

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