Lone Wolf and Cub-Baby Cart at the River Styx (1972)

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Released 8-May-2013

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Gallery-Photo
More…-Feature Liner Notes
Trailer-4 trailers for other Lone Wolf and Cub films
Trailer-Eastern Eye Trailers x 9
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1972
Running Time 77:36
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kenji Misumi
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Tomisaburo Wakayama
Fumio Watanabe
Tomoko Mayama
Shigeru Tsuyuguchi
Tomoo Uchida
Taketoshi Naitô
Yoshi Kato
Yoshiko Fujita
Reiko Kasahara
Akihiro Tomikawa
Kauji Sokiyamo
Teruo Matsuyama
Toshiya Wazaki
Case Amaray-Transparent-Dual
RPI ? Music Hideaki Sakurai


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Master swordsman and ex- Shogun’s Executioner, Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama), travels the roads of Japan as an assassin for hire pushing his baby son Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa) in a wooden baby cart. His sworn enemies, the Yagyu clan, ally with the Kurokuwa clan, the Shogun’s spies, and send out orders to their retainers to kill Ogami on sight. One group who receive the order is the deadly Akashi Yagyu all-female warrior group led by Sayaka (Kayo Matsuo), who join with some ninjas led by Ozunu Kurokuwa (Akiji Kobayashi) to hunt Ogami down. Ogami and Daigoro must be constantly be on their guard to defend themselves from a succession of surprise attacks, such as by a troupe of female acrobats or women in the fields washing vegetables, who all turn out to be from Sayaka’s group.

     Just to complicate things further, Ogami is offered a commission. The Awa clan are rich, having a monopoly on indigo dye manufacture. The Shogun wants to break their monopoly and a worker with knowledge of the process is being escorted to the Shogun, protected by the three superb warrior brothers known collectively as the “Gods of Death”. Ogami accepts the commission to attack their caravan, deal with the brothers and assassinate the worker. On the way to fulfil his mission, Ogami faces constant attacks, including one in which Daigoro is captured and threatened with execution by Ozunu, shipwreck, and a confrontation with Sayaka. Finally he faces the Gods of Death in a battle amid the sand dunes.

     The Lone Wolf and Cub films are based upon the manga written by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, fealty to the manga being assured by the screenplays being written by Koike himself. The second film in the series Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx (the original title was Kozure okami: Sanzu no kawa no ubaguruma which translates literally as Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart of the River Sanzu), is a fabulous film, one of those rare second films that top the first in the series. The River Sanzu in Buddhist cosmology is the river that is crossed by those on their way to the next world, thus it is similar to the River Styx in Greek mythology. It is an apt title for the film, for in this film Ogami and Daigoro venture to the very outskirts of hell.

     First and foremost Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx is an exhilarating action film, with inventive and bloody action sequences, including a ship on fire and the climactic battle on the sand dunes against the Gods of Death, one of the most spectacular sequences in the series. The film has the reputation of being very bloody, and this is well deserved as during the action sequences arms, legs, fingers and heads are severed amid copious sprays, no gushes, of blood. However, these are more comic book than real, and these days most look quite tame. But this concentration by critics and viewers upon the bloody aspects of the film overlooks both its themes and the experimentation that makes Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx such an interesting film.

     Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx is directed by Kenji Mishmi, who also directed the first film, and he continues to bring to the film innovative ideas and stylish camera techniques. Unlike Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance, this second film is much more straightforward in structure, telling the story without flashbacks. However, innovative camera techniques and sound design remain. Some of the camera tricks work well, such as deliberate brightness, colour and contrast changes and slow motion, others less well, such as dual exposure during a fight scene that just looks messy. There is also the use of extreme close-ups of eyes, a technique so enjoyed by Sergio Leone, and used to good effect by Misumi. The film’s sound design continues on from the first film with the use of silences during action scenes, with no music and no sound of feet, only the sound of the sword slashing into bodies. There are also a couple of excellent scenes with only a single chime sounding, allowing the tension to develop as Ogami waits for an attack.

     There is less cultural comment in Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx than in the first film, but it is there, especially about the role of women. In the films women are frequently victims of attacks by violent men, but they also, like the prostitute in the first film, are more clear sighted than many of the male characters who are often so tightly bound by the code of Bushido they cannot see right from wrong. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx also introduces the first of the strong female roles in the series, that of Sayaka who is not outwardly a victim. She starts off as an over the top villain, and a better swordsman than any man (except Ogami of course), but her relationship with the father and son becomes much more complex and ambivalent as the film continues, and at the end she has a difficult choice to make about duty and honour. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx is also more overtly humorous, with Daigoro’s baby cart acquiring enough hidden features to make James Bond’s Aston Martin look tame in comparison. However the father / son relationship is still at the heart of the film, and the sequence where Daigoro brings water and food to his wounded father is humorous and poignant, played in an excellent way by young Akihiro Tomikawa.

     Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx is a ripper, arguably the best film in the entire series. The filmmaking is innovative and interesting, the action sequences colourful and bloody, there is humour and cultural comment and the characters of father and son continue to develop and delight. This is breathtaking filmmaking, with more invention and depth than is usually expected from a bloody action film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     This is a print that can seem soft, but it still looks pretty good for a 40 year old film if not as good as the first film. Colours are natural, the green countryside and forests nicely rendered. Blacks are not perfect, but are acceptable, shadow detail can be indistinct at times. The film does include some deliberate brightness changes, but even so some sequences are quite bright and glary, such as the opening credits (if you were a reader of Japanese script you would have a very difficult time reading the credits) and while on board the ship. Skin tones are good.

     Film grain is evident throughout the print, sometimes quite strongly, there is slight aliasing and the occasional fleck and scratch (such as at 66:10), but nothing serious enough to spoil one’s enjoyment.

    English subtitles are easy to read and seemed timely. They are mostly in a yellow font, but when two people were talking the other dialogue is in a white font. I did not notice any serious spelling or grammatical errors. The credits are in a white font, and on other occasions a sort of “pop up” text appeared in white on the top of the screen to explain certain Japanese terms, such as “Sanzu River”.

     A reasonable looking print given the age of the film.

Video Ratings Summary
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Audio

     The audio is Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 Kbps, which is not surround encoded. The film was released with mono sound, so this represents the original mix.

     Dialogue was clear. The sound effects were quite sharp and the use of silences or limited sound effects worked well. The original score by Hideaki Sakurai is evocative and effective, well suiting the film. Perhaps surprisingly, the score for the Lone Wolf and Cub series were the only scores Sakurai wrote. There was obviously no surround or sub-woofer use.

    Lip synchronisation was sometimes very approximate.

     The audio track was perfectly adequate, reflecting the original release.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
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Extras

Stills Gallery

     15 black and white film stills. Silent, use the remote to advance to the next still.

Liner Notes

     9 text pages of notes about historical places, terms and people mentioned in the Lone Wolf and Cub films, information about ninjas, cotton production. Small black text on a yellow background could make them a bit difficult to read for some. Silent, use the remote to advance to the next text screen.

Lone Wolf and Cub Trailers

     Trailers for Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (2:20), Lone Wolf and Cub 4: Baby Cart in Peril (3:00), Lone Wolf and Cub 5; Baby Cart in the Land of Demons (2:54) and Lone Wolf and Cub 6: White Heaven in Hell (2:33).

Eastern Eye Trailers

     Broken into two sections. Trailers for Eastern Eye Live action: Eastern Eye Promo Reel (2:21), Azumi (1:20), Sanjura (2:32), Lady Snowblood 2 (2:22), Seven Samurai (3:56) and Violent Cop (2:11). Trailers for Madman Anime: Peacemaker (0:31), Ninja Scroll Movie (0:33) and Kaidohmaru (0:37).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     There are Region 1 US and Region 2 UK collections of the Lone Wolf and Cub complete series. The UK set includes the 7 films the same as our release; extras are again trailers and written liner notes. The US release is a 6 disc set, excluding Samurai Assassin and has no extras listed. There is also a Region A Blu-ray with the six Lone Wolf and Cub films on 2 discs.

     Region 1 and Region 2 Stand-alone editions of Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx are listed on Amazon.com; previous releases in Australia seem no longer to be available. There is no reason to go past the Lone Wolf and Cub: Ultimate Collection from Madman which contains the six original Lone Wolf and Cub films plus Shogun Assassin at a good price.

Summary

     Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx, is an absolute ripper, full of invention, action, blood and insights into feudal Japan; it is one of those rare second films that top the first in the series.

     The video and the audio are fine. Extras are limited, but nothing much else is available in any other region.

     Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx is included in the Lone Wolf and Cub: Ultimate Collection from Madman which contains the six original Lone Wolf and Cub films plus Shogun Assassin, the 1980 US film that came about when parts of the first two films in the series were edited together, new dialogue written and dubbed into English and a new score added. For a bargain RRP of $39.95 no self-respecting fan of Japanese or samurai cinema should be without this set.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, June 24, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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