Zatoichi's Flashing Sword was released July 11 1964 and Shintaro Katsu is Zatoichi the blind swordsman. It's screenplay is written by Shozaburo Asai and Minoru Inuzuka from a story by Kan Shimozawa. It's directed by Kazuo Ikehiro. It's the 7th film made in the initial run of 25. Shintaro would come back to make a last Zatoichi film in 1989. Criterion only put the first 25 films in it's set. No matter, the last one is available and I have a copy. I'll get to that one once I pass the first 25 in front of these old eyeballs.
Zatoichi is travelling when the son of a local boss shoots him in the back. A young lady rescues Zatoichi, pays for his doctoring, and disappears before he wakes up. The wound is not too bad and he's up on his feet right quick. He decides to go visit the young lady and thank her in person.
When he gets to her house she welcomes him warmly. Her father, a local boss, asks Zatoichi to stay, they give him food and a new kimono. He's a nice boss and he runs the local river crossing which a rival boss wants it for his own. The man who shot Zatoichi turns out to be the son of the nice boss. He's a no good layabout and trouble maker. Zatoichi knows it's him but he doesn't do anything to the son.
Things come to a head pretty quickly and Zatoichi is right in the middle of it. The rival boss, having the local magistrate in his pocket, attacks openly. There's plenty of fighting and people are dropping like flies. Zatoichi slashes his way though the film leaving piles of corpses for the locals to take care of. No one ever seems to mention the dead bodies.
There's a scene that shows a big splash of blood on a paper wall, the wall bursts open and a man falls out. It stands out in the film, most of the fights are nearly bloodless. There would be more blood in later Japanese Samurai films. Fountains of it.
Zatoichi finally puts an end to the feud. Now mostly everyone is dead and peace comes to the town. It's a nice looking film with plenty of interesting scenes and shots. There's plenty going on, the right number of extras and characters you're familiar with. The sets, props and costumes remain high quality. I'm not sure if they're that acurate but they work well for me. Zatoichi's a nice mix of hero and trouble. Where he goes, bad people die. We could use a bunch of him.