Lighter in gore-content than its predecessors, this thoroughly entertaining third installment of the saga ups the body count and offers a complicated story line that delves into numerous peculiar (to the Western mind) Japanese customs and concepts.
Wandering ronin Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama) stumbles into a situation in which another ronin, Mangomura Kanbei (Katoo Goo), disrupts the attempted rape of two women by three samurai-for-hire. The resulting carnage leaves the women, their male companion, and the three samurai dead. Ogami
considers dueling with Kanbei, but ultimately refuses, as he sees Kanbei as a true samurai warrior.
Some time later, a scared virgin recently sold into prostitution kills her captor by biting off his tongue and then flees into Ogami's room. Refusing to hand her over to Tori, the female yakuza running the establishment, Ogami undergoes torture in the virgin's place, freeing her from servitude.
But Tori is still owed one life in return for the man, and Ogami agrees to kill Sawatari Genba for his normal fee of 500 gold pieces. Formerly the Chamberlain of Tori's father's clan, Sawatari betrayed the clan and became a territorial deputy when the clan was dispersed.
Summoned to Sawatari, Ogami finds himself offered 1000 gold pieces to carry out an alternate mission for the man he is hired to kill. He refuses. Lured to a remote location, he finds himself facing a virtual army of well-armed men. With guns, bombs, and swords, he defeats them all, finally killing
At which point Kanbei reappears: challenging Ogami to another duel, he is mortally wounded and reveals himself to have been a lord's guard who once drove off a bevy of assassins intent on his lord's death, only to find himself banished for having left his lord's side to fight the enemy.
Questioning the samurai ethic, he is gratified to hear Ogami condone his actions, and pleased to have Ogami be his second when Kanbei commits hara-kiri.
Considering its thematic concern with honor and nobility and what it means to be a samurai, several sequences of this LONE WOLF installment seem ponderous, almost unfathomable to the non-Japanese viewer. Kanbei's initial murder of the rape victims for one, although rape is treated so casually
throughout the series that it makes a certain perverse sense within the internal logic of the films.
The film itself has less flourishes than previous, less striking imagery, although when the troubled Kanbei is finally granted the honorable death he's been seeking, we do get a tumbling shot from the point-of-view of his severed head as it bounces down a hill. Curiously, the film is largely
music-free, with very sparse accompaniment, mostly during fights, including nicely eerie backwards effects and dissonance. To make up for the lack of music throughout, there is a closing theme, sung by Wakayama himself, with lyrics by Kazuo Koike: "Crows cried in the night... someone is going to
die... from the netherworlds come the Gods of Death... the Wolf and his Cub... are coming..." (Graphic violence, extensive nudity, sexual situations, profanity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1972
- Rating: NR
- Review: Lighter in gore-content than its predecessors, this thoroughly entertaining third installment of the saga ups the body count and offers a complicated story line that delves into numerous peculiar (to the Western mind) Japanese customs and concepts. Wander… (more)