Hanzo The Razor: Sword of Justice (1972, Kenji Misumi)

Apparently the dirty, ugly unpleasantness of American 70’s cinema made it to Japan. This is basically Shaft as a samurai flick, more icky and less funny than Black Dynamite.

Why did I watch this? One summer at the beach I read an article by Jonathan Rosenbaum about Japanese filmmaker Yasuzo Masumura. I was impressed that so many essential films were made by someone I’d never heard of, so I sought them out when I got home – enjoyed his Afraid to Die and Blind Beast but I didn’t try very hard to find more, got distracted by other things, until I saw his name on this box set of filthy samurai cop films. Years later I am finally watching the first in the trilogy, which is not by Masumura but Kenji Misumi, director of some Zatoichi and Lone Wolf & Cub movies. So this is a bad movie watched in preparation for a bad sequel by a recommended director. Auteurism at work.

Hanzo is played by Zatoichi himself, Shintar├┤ Katsu, also of The Loyal 47 Ronin. The 40-year-old actor’s speed and agility are unimpressive, but he can put on spiked metal knuckles and punch a dude’s eyes out. Hanzo’s main weapon is his cock (“You’re so virile,” exclaims a witness he is raping). Hanzo is so good that the girls give up information not when he threatens to rape them, but when he threatens to STOP raping them. And yes, it’s “them,” because the movie ran out of ideas so it used that one two or three times.

The uncorruptible Hanzo takes on his corrupt boss (K├┤ Nishimura), the escaped Killer Kanbei, and some sad little girl’s dad who is dying from stomach cancer. In the end, having wreaked some major vengeance upon the criminal justice system and raped every woman in sight (because females don’t deserve justice), he hangs the dad, then his theme song plays and it’s over.

I liked some of the stylish transitions and split-screen and backdrops anyway. IMDB isn’t being cooperative with character names, so I’m not sure exactly who fought whom or who got raped when, but I’m sure all lingering questions will be answered in the sequel.

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