Lone Wolf and Cub-Baby Cart to Hades (1972)

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Released 8-May-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Gallery-Photo
More…-Feature Liner Notes
Trailer-x 3 for other Lone Wolf and Cub films
Trailer-Eastern Eye Trailers x 4
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1972
Running Time 85:08
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 ?
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

“What is the true way of the Warrior?”

     Master swordsman and ex-Shogun’s Executioner, Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama), continues to travel the roads of Japan as an assassin for hire pushing his baby son Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa) in a wooden baby cart. However, this third film in the Lone Wolf and Cub series, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades (the original title was Kozure okami: Shinikazeni mukau ubaguruma which translates literally as Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart Against the Winds of Death), is less about the ongoing feud between Ogami and the Yagyu clan than a deconstruction of Bushido, the warrior codes of behaviour practiced by the lords and samurai of feudal Japan. As such the screenplay, again by Kazuo Koike, who with Goseki Kojima wrote the manga upon which the films are based, has a limited narrative arc, concentrating instead upon the actions of a few characters in addition to Ogami: Kanbei (Go Kato), an honourable samurai turned watari-kashi (a ronin for hire) who is an excellent swordsman, Torizo (Yuko Hama), the female leader of a gang who control the brothels of the district, and Genba (Isao Yamagata), a chamberlain who betrayed his master and was rewarded with the post of Deputy of the district.

     When we meet Kanbei he is waiting at a crossroads with three other watari-kashi. Kanbei is aloof and restrained, but the other three are low-life, really only interested in drink and raping woman they meet on the road. When the three rape a mother and daughter, and show their cowardly true nature when the daughter’s retainer attacks them, Kanbei saves his fellow samurai but to protect the reputation of the lord they serve he kills the innocent retainer, the mother and daughter, as well as one of the samurai. But Kanbei knows that what he is doing is not right or just, and he feels deeply about it.

     In this period in Japan it was common for poor farmers to sell their daughters into prostitution in order to get enough money to survive. At an inn Ogami intercedes when a young virgin, Omatsu, who has been sold by her father, kills a man as he attempts to rape her. The brothels are controlled by a gang led by Torizo and they cannot afford to let Omatsu get away with murder, nor are they willing to challenge such as great swordsman as Ogami. As a compromise Ogami undergoes ritual torture on Omatsu’s behalf to satisfy Torizo’s code, and Omatsu goes free. Torizo, although leader of a criminal gang and, as she says, without honour, nevertheless has her own code of behaviour, and although Ogami is defenceless during the torture, she honours their agreement and frees Omatsu.

     Indeed, Torizo has an assignment for Ogami. She was a member of a clan that was destroyed when their lord was falsely accused by Genda and ordered to commit seppuku by the Shogun, a sentence that had, in fact, been carried out by Ogami. They ask Ogami to kill Genda, and he accepts. Shortly afterwards, Ogami is summoned by Genda and offered an assignment to kill the lord who had sponsored Genda until this time; Genda, indeed, is totally without honour or scruples in his ambitions. When Ogami refuses the assignment Genda orders his retainers to kill Ogami and Daigoro. After a number of attempts, father and child face a hundred plus warriors armed with bows, rifles and swords in a bloody battle to the death.

     Although Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades includes the biggest battle so far in the series, in which as usual limbs and heads are severed, blood spurts theatrically and bodies lie strewn all across the landscape, the film was not as well regarded as the previous film in the series, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx, which was all action and indeed a hard act to follow. However, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades, again directed by Kenji Mishmi, is a far more complex creature with its examination of the warrior code. Certainly the high ranking Genda has no code, unless it is self-interest; instead it is the outcasts, such as Torizo, and Ogami, who allows himself to be tortured to save an innocent girl from prostitution and who rejects a commission he considers dishonourable, who display compassion, understanding and honour, although as outcasts they are outside the warrior code. The most complex character however is Kanbei. We learn that he was banished from his clan when he broke ranks and attacked during a battle, winning the battle but breaking the rule of duty that required him to stand beside his master, even if that led to defeat and the death of them all. Kanbei is an honourable man, who now does not comprehend what the code requires, and seeks atonement in a final duel with Ogami. Then, as Kanbei notes, at least he can die honourably as a warrior.

     In Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades, Mishmi continues to bring to the film innovative ideas and stylish camera techniques, although this film feels more “stagey” and the techniques are more noticeable. For example, we get flashbacks that are either very bright and glary or filmed through a heavy red filter, freeze frames, lots of waving camera in battle sequences and some “hero” shots, such as Ogami and the baby cart silhouetted on the ridge against a blood red sky (19:23). There are still some silences in the sound design, and some abrupt changes from loud action to silence, and the music is more noticeable, sometimes having a very spaghetti western feel. The humour is also still present, mostly in the looks and reactions of Daigoro, and the baby cart is now amassing quite a wide range of weaponry, including multi-fire guns!

     Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades may be more slowly paced that some of the other films in the series, but it is an intelligent, interesting film with complex characters and themes all too seldom attempted in an action film. The film also remains anchored by the continuing stoic, unsmiling performance of Tomisaburo Wakayama as the deadly assassin for hire, and includes the biggest, bloodiest battle so far. As a series Lone Wolf and Cub continues to prosper with such strong, but different, films.

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Transfer Quality

Video

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

     This print is quite soft in places, but still looks pretty good for a 40 year old film. Close-ups have good detail, as do some wider shots, but others can be quite hazy. Colours are nice and natural, the countryside, trees and rivers nicely rendered and the spurting and gushing blood is a deep red. Blacks are not perfect but are acceptable, shadow detail can be indistinct at times. The film does include some deliberate brightness changes in flashback sequences, but contrast does vary elsewhere. Skin tones are good.

     Film grain is evident throughout the print, sometimes quite strongly, there is slight aliasing and the occasional dirt mark, but nothing serious.

    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. On occasion a sort of “pop up” text appears in white on the top of the screen to explain certain Japanese terms, such as “watari-kashi”.

    The layer change at 46:10 created a slight pause.

     A quite good 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 more noticeable in this third film, sounding quite spaghetti western-like sometimes. 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
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
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Overall

Extras

Stills Gallery

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

Liner Notes

     8 text pages of notes about historical places, terms, customs and people mentioned in the Lone Wolf and Cub films, some repeated from notes in earlier films in the series. The 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 4; Baby Cart in Peril (3:08), Lone Wolf and Cub 5; Baby Cart in the Land of Demons (3:02) and Lone Wolf and Cub 6: White Heaven in Hell (2:41).

Promo Trailers

     Trailers for Infernal Affairs (1:55), Born to Fight (1:28), Brotherhood of War (2:37) and Seven Samurai (4:05).

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, Region 2 and Region 0 Japanese stand-alone editions of Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades 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 to Hades, is another fabulous film. For an action film it contains a quite complex deconstruction of Bushido, the warrior code of behaviour by which the samurai lived, as well as a spectacular battle.

     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 to Hades 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)
Friday, July 05, 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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