Sunday, July 31, 2022

#2,792. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx (1972) - Lone Wolf and Cub Series


The second entry in the Lone Wolf and Cub series gets off to a great start! Before the opening title flashes on-screen, our hero, Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama), is attacked by two members of the Yagyu clan, both of whom eventually wish they’d stayed at home. It is a bloody, amazing introduction to a film that is non-stop bloody and amazing.

Still roaming the countryside of Feudal Japan with his young son Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa), Itto is eventually hired by a clan that has perfected a formula for indigo-colored dye, which nets them a small fortune each and every year. It seems that one of their members plans to sell the clan’s formula to the Shogun, so they pay Itto to make sure this traitor never gets a chance to do so.

Along with trying to complete his mission, Itto must also continue his fight against the Yagyu clan, which has recruited Sayaka (Kayo Matsuo), leader of the Akari Yagyu, to finish him off once and for all. But are Sayaka and her highly-trained female assassins up to the challenge?

Having already given us Ogami Itto’s backstory in Sword of Vengeance, director Kenji Misumi hits the ground running in Baby Cart at the River Styx and never once lets up, providing wall-to-wall action and plenty of bloodshed (aside from the opening, Itto and his trusty sword polish off damn near everyone the Yagyu clan throws his way, and usually in brutal fashion). Misumi also brings plenty of style and flair to the movie, with close-ups galore and frantically-paced showdowns that feel as if they were lifted straight out of a Sergio Leone western.

As he was in Sword of Vengeance, Wakayama is superb as Ogami Itto, speaking even less this time around but only because he lets his sword do the talking for him; his battles in this entry are among the finest in the series. In addition to its more intense scenes, Baby Cart at the River Styx boasts several dramatically effective sequences. At one-point, young Daigoro must care for his wounded father, and a scene in which Itto, Daigoro and Sayaka try to keep from freezing to death (after escaping a burning ship) takes the story in a new and unexpected direction.

I’m a fan of the entire Lone Wolf and Cub series, but when it comes to balls-out action and severed limbs flying through the air, it’s hard to top what transpires in Baby Cart at the River Styx. It is, hands-down, my favorite of them all.
Rating: 10 out of 10

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