8 August 2015 | mevmijaumau
Zatoichi and the Chess Expert (1965)
Zatoichi and the Chess Expert (Zatoichi #12), known under the more obscure title Showdown for Zatoichi (while the original title translates to something like Zatoichi's Infernal Journey) is director Kenji Misumi's third Zatoichi film and is often brought up by fans when discussing the best entries of the series. While I certainly understand why some people would think this was one of the better ones, I don't really hold it in much of a high regard, especially when compared to previous Misumi films.
#12 doesn't throw a lot of its budget on action sequences, focusing instead on character-driven drama and suspense. The few action scenes we get sadly can't hold a candle to sword-fight choreography of previous installments, although the violence in #12 is a bit more brutal at some points. The characters are nothing new, really. There's the love interest, the endangered kid and the obligatory up-to-no-good ronin dressed all in black (the titular chess master). However, we do get an ass-kicking lady taking vengeance on the said ronin, and this isn't really the shiniest spot in Zatoichi's career either. His gambling streak oscillates and he is really clumsy in this movie.
It is kinda refreshing that there is no criminal organization in cahoots with the officials this time, but the major problem of the film that it spends too much of its running time on numerous run-on-the-mill gambling scenes instead of developing the female samurai sub-plot. Also, the ending is rushed. So, so rushed. The only thing I got out of this movie is that chess figures had a very unimaginative design in feudal Japan.
Highlight of the film would probably have to be Zatoichi's mini-speech on dirt: "The man you're looking at is dirt. And everyone who comes close to him or touches him, in one way or another gets muddied by that dirt. There's nothing I can do about being dirt myself, but I don't what you to get mired in my dirt."