Tossing absolutely everything into the stew--incest, the supernatural, a climactic battle royale on skis--the final installment of the LONE WOLF series goes completely over the top. It's great fun, and wickedly clever in parts, but strangely contrived and ultimately the slightest entry in
The reputation of the Yagyu is on the line if they can't eliminate Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama). Retsudo's last daughter, Kaori, engages Ogami with her juggling-dagger technique and, naturally, dies. But Retsudo has another son, Hyoei, a bastard he abandoned as a child in the mountains and now
summons to kill Ogami. Unfortunately for Retsudo, Hyoei wants nothing to do with his father, setting out instead to kill Ogami in the name of his adopted clan, using three assassins ritually granted supernatural abilities. These three are able to move beneath the ground, and methodically kill
anyone with whom Ogami comes into contact, forcing him to shun other humans.
When a stranger summons Ogami to a boathouse for a contract, it turns out to be a ruse by Hyoei, and Ogami is forced to fight Hyoei's clansmen. Trapped in a field by the clansmen and certain to be slaughtered, Ogami challenges Hyoei to an individual duel instead and mortally wounds him.
Following Ogami into the snow-capped mountains, the three assassins find themselves unable to use their burrowing abilities in the frozen ground and are killed by Ogami. Then the Yagyu attack. Charging down the mountainside using the cart as a sled, Ogami wipes out yet another army, this one on
sleds and skis. In a ten-minute battle, he uses guns, knives, spears, and of course his trusty swords to kill everyone in sight, except for Retsudo, who skis away vowing to get Ogami next time.
Director Kuroda Yoshiyuki, in his sole contribution to the series, infuses the film with a nice dark atmosphere--sometimes too dark, as in the fight at the boathouse, which is difficult to see. There are isolated memorable images, but the director's most interesting contributon is the fact that he
has Tomikawa overacting for the only time in the series, at different moments showing shocked surprise and covering his face in fright.
The ending, while exciting, gets a bit hokey with the cart snowmobiling down the hill in a Ben Hur race alongside Retsudo, blades jutting from of the side to cripple the enemy vehicle. Rewritten James Bond music doesn't help the scene any; Murai Kunihiko, in his sole score for the series, also
saddles this entry with an inappropriate early-1970s funky theme, complete with wah-wah guitar.
Alas, the promised rematch with Retsudo never occurred. All six movies were made within a two-year span; when they proved not to be the runaway success the studio hope for, the series was discontinued. The manga ran for another several years, concluding with an actual Ogami-Retsudo showdown, and a
TV series followed, along with more films, stage plays, even hit albums, and a TV special that cast Tomisaburo Wakayama not as Ogami, but as Retsudo. (Graphic violence, nudity, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1974
- Rating: NR
- Review: Tossing absolutely everything into the stew--incest, the supernatural, a climactic battle royale on skis--the final installment of the LONE WOLF series goes completely over the top. It's great fun, and wickedly clever in parts, but strangely contrived and… (more)