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Category:    Home > Reviews > Martial Arts Cycle > Lone Wolf & Cub film series (AnimEigo)

Lone Wolf & Cub series (AnimEigo)


Picture: B-     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 were produced.


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


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