Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summer Of Samurai: Lone Wolf And Cub: Baby Cart In Peril

Lone Wolf And Cub Baby Cart In Peril is the fourth installment in The Lone Wolf And Cub Series, which remains for my money the greatest of the samurai series.

Noted badass Ogami Itto continues his trek across Japan leaving a venerable trail of corpses in his wake. You would think that people would eventually learn that the lifespan for someone sent to kill Ogami Itto is usually roughly the same as “Henchman for the Joker.” But Motherfuckers keep making the same mistake and Itto keeps cleaning them up.

This was the first of the Baby Cart films not be directed by Kenji Musumi and it shows. Unlike the previous three entries which went for epic storytelling Baby Cart In Peril is   lower key and more atmosphere heavy than other entries. Instead of a master plot it’s almost a series of vignettes. The action is also downscaled with the epic storytelling (until the last scene). But what the fight sequences lack in scale they make up for with innovation and superb choreography, and feature some of the best in the series, including a truly creepy fight sequence against some “living Buddha’s” that gets even the usually unflappable Ogami Itto a little freaked out.

The film follows Itto as he goes to kill a female assassin who is killing members of a samurai family in her own quest for revenge. The assassin has gruesome tattoos over her body and fights topless because hey this is exploitation cinema in the seventies that’s why.  But the film isn’t as plot driven as the others, Itto doesn’t so much relentlessly track her as remember two thirds of the way through the film “Oh yeah I have that thing I gotta do.” In the meantime he kills some of the monumentally foolish people sent to assassinate him, gets briefly separated from his child Daigoro and gets a rather unnecessary retcon to his back story.

This retcon introduces Gunbei the only man to ever defeat Ogami Itto in a duel, and one of the douchiest characters I’ve ever seen in a samurai film. How Douche? Upon meeting Daigoro in a temple he realizes that the child is not afraid of swords. His natural response? To take the child and leave him in a burning field, and then murder a Buddhist Priest who tries to protect. Once again this is done with absolutely no motivation. He’s just kind of pissed that the child isn’t scared of him.

This entry does have a couple of issues; there are a few sequences that have an unnecessary and cumbersome narrator. The retcon also is a bit strange, reducing Itto’s quest for vengeance from a battle against a mad system to the machinations of a single family for the humiliation of a single fighter and to top it all off the series continues its tradition of having the most rape happy villains this side of Dr. Light.

But setting all that aside, The Baby Cart series remains one of the toughest, coolest, and yes best Samuari series ever made. And thanks to its brisk pace, atmospheric style, and hardcore action Baby Cart In Peril remains one of its best entries. 


le0pard13 said...

Oh, Hell YES! It was this series, specifically the third installment (Baby Cart to Hades) that started my love of Japanese cinema in general and of course the samurai flicks. Great look at this one, Bryce.

Benjamin Parkinson said...

Just finished watching Baby Cart 1 and Baby Cart 2. Now waiting for Netflix to bring me 3,4,5,6. According to Wikipedia, it influenced Frank Miller to do Sin City.