Lone Wolf & Cub
Sound: C+ Extras: C Films: B-
A young infant is about to be executed, but at the last
moment, the executioner decides to kill the elder witness and run with the baby
in the beginning of the first feature film in the Lone Wolf & Cub
series. AnimEigo has issues all six
films in the series staring Wakayama Tomisaburo as Ogami Itto. Those films are:
Sword Of Vengeance (1972)
Baby Cart At The River Styx (1972)
Baby Cart To Hades (1972)
Baby Cart In Pearl (1972)
Baby Cart In The Land Of The Demon (1972)
White Heaven In Hell (1973)
Based on the famous book series by Koike Kazuo and Kojima
Goseki, you can see from the release dates that the films were shot quickly as
a series. Kazuo himself wrote or co-wrote
most of the screenplay adaptations.
These are uncut for the most part and have the usual quotient of blood
and violence all films from this cycle are expected to have. They have some humor, but are not overly
funny, also examine class division and discrimination. The relatively more serious take on the
genre allows these films to hold up well and I also appreciated how AnimEigo
once again has two sets of English subtitles.
The better set captions signs and offers additional facts so the viewer misses
no detail about what is going on in historical context. The fights are pretty good, though the
violence does, as is the case in these films, become spoofs of themselves to
some extent. The use of the baby cart
throughout and all the dangers, including from various clans and organized
crime organizations adds to the fun. Lone
Wolf & Cub is a highlight of the martial arts cycle that deserved the
restoration and attention it got here.
The 2.35 X 1 anamorphically enhanced Tohoscope images on
all six DVDs are impressive for their age, being new digital High Definition
transfers form 35mm elements, they fair better than the Lady Snowblood
DVDs that lacked detail and clarity, and can go a few rounds with the Zatoichi
films AnimEigo have issued to date. Both
series are reviewed elsewhere on this site.
These original film elements here are in fine shape for their age too,
with the picture image consistent and sometimes very impressively clear. The various directors handle the material
well, as do the cinematographers, who use the scope frame well. The Dolby Digital 2.0 is boosted to simple
stereo, but the age of the recordings and the distortion and even warping are
problems that need addressed down the line, if possible. All six discs have equally performance
quality that is sometimes remarkable for their age in the image
department. Unlike some of Fox’s recent
Martial Arts releases, purists will at least be happy no multi-channel remixes
Extras on all DVDs include trailers for other AnimEigo
Video Samurai Cinema titles and both print and DVD text sections explaining the
history and coined terms in the films.
I commend the translators for using extended subtitles to explain
everything, even using multiple colors so the viewer can learn all about the
world these characters inhabit. A file
card for each film is included in each DVD case. Those who like and especially own the books will be able to fit
these DVDs nicely in the same bookcase.
They are nicely put together and AnimEigo does them justice without the
kind of basic hack versions of this and like films we have seen in the past.
- Nicholas Sheffo