Lone Wolf and Cub - Baby Cart at the River Styx (Kozure Ôkami: Sanzu no kawa no ubaguruma) (Shogun Assassin) Reviews
Most of this film, along with 12 minutes of footage from Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance was used to make Shogun Assassin, a 1980 film released as an English-language compilation of the Baby Cart series for American audiences.
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Fantastic! Despite the cheesy and surreal intro, we're provided with a fantastic story, no matter how many splashes of campiness are offered throughout. The relationship between Ogami Itto and his son Daigoro is strengthened here, and this is the movie where it is first shown how both of them start to become one: one mind, one heart, one entity carrying a demonic and soulless life. "Leone shots" and camerawork prevail during the first half and the final duel is a joy to watch.
It got remixed and rereleased for Americans as Shogun Assassin, but this one is a little better. A little grittier and more concise.
The only drawbacks are a few moments when some characters strangely disappear after battling Ogami. There are some other unrealistic moments in the fight scenes, but they were made to be stylish that way. Overall, check it out.
Lone Wolf is hired by opprobrious Yagyu clan in order to assassinate a spy who has stolen some secrets about their plantation that harvests a precious dye. Lone Wolf's job is simple... kill him before he gets back to the Shogun. It's not going to be easy though as there are assassins all around him with a hit on his head as well as his son. The result is one of the bloodiest, most action packed Samurai films ever made.
What makes this sequel just a tad better than the first film (not enough to warrant a star rating difference) is that it is a hair more ambitious in its approach. The first film of course focused on establishing our anti-hero Samurai where this sequel hits the ground running, expanding on themes and concepts that the original was only able to hint at.
Director Kenji Misumi also makes this sequel a tad more likeable as he injects a sly sense of underlying humor and even a few heartfelt moments (the scene where our young boy brings his injured father some water from the river in his mouth being a sequence that succeeds on both accounts). The film is also a little more over-the-top in its approach to the violence, my personal favorite being a shot where director Misumi shows Lone Wolf's face through a split, blood spurting head of a man. HARDCORE!
These over-the-top action sequences are extremely graphic, even slightly poetic in their approach. There are villains to get cut apart around every turn! Lone Wolf is attacked by a woman ninja clan, a male ninja clan, some spies and finally three assassins that no doubt inspired the look of the 'three storms' in one of my all time favorite films "Big Trouble in Little China" with their large straw hats and various weapon usages.
The baby cart Lone Wolf pushes his baby around in even plays a bigger part in this story as it is a mobil gadget, with swords and other stabbing weapons hidden through-out to ensure heads are going to role.
To top it off there is even entrancing subplot which revolves around a female assassin (with a moving performance by Kayo Matsuo) that becomes emotionally compromised by Lone Wolf and his son when they decide to save her life.
I liked this sequel even more than the original and I would even go as far to say it's my favorite of the six part series. It's just more ambitions, violent and over-the-top with a nice underlying sense of humor that doesn't compromise the dramatic story. "Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx" would be edited together successfully with the first film and re-titled "Shogun Assassin" for the American film market. Followed by "Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades".
Picking up where the first film lets off, Ogami Itto and his son Daigoro are traveling and are attacked by ninjas. The sinister Yagyu clan are still after him, and they send another district after him. Ogami must contend with this new threat, as well as perform an assassination on the side.
With nearly non-stop action, the movie is never boring. It matches the pacing of the first, with skillful precision. The action is fluid and suspenseful, milking out every action scene to its fullest extent. You'll find yourself holding your breath during the more intense set pieces.
As for the rest, it does delve into some themes of fate and destiny, showing some character development when Ogami refuses to kill one of his enemies and shows her the error of her ways. We also get some touching development with the father/son relationship, as Daigoro has gotten a bit older since we last saw him.
Being only the second film in a series of six, this installment is strong as a stand alone film. Definitely worth seeing, but for a better experience seek out Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance first.