Lone Wolf and Cub-Baby Cart in the Land of Demons (1973)
Trailer-Baby Cart in Peril, White Heaven in Hell trailers
Trailer-Madman trailers x 4
|Year Of Production||1973|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Kenji Misumi|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
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. This fifth film in the Lone Wolf and Cub series, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons (the original title was Kozure okami: Meifumado which can be either Lone Wolf and Cub: Land of Demons or Lone Wolf and Cub: The Crossroads to Hell), is certainly outside of the first film the bleakest, most pessimistic and nihilistic in the series with possibly the most convoluted plot as well.
As Ogami travels he is attacked by five separate samurai warriors, all retainers of the wealthy and powerful Kuroda clan. When Ogami successfully kills each in turn he is given 100 gold pieces and part of a message. It transpires that the warriors have been sent to find Ogami by the Chamberlain of the Kuroda clan and to test, with their lives, if he is really as good as his reputation; once he proves this by killing all five the clan wishes to hire him. The story, when Ogami gets the final piece, is this. Lord Kuroda had a son by his wife but he fell under the influence of his concubine Otae. When Otae had a daughter, Kuroda’s legitimate son was imprisoned and the girl put in his place. Lord Kuroda wrote down the full story and intrusted it to Abbot Jikei; however, now Jikei is on his way to meet Retsudo Yagyu and to give him the document, which Retsudo will take to the Shogun and use to destroy the Kuroda clan.
While this is happening Daigoro wanders through a village where a festival is in full swing. Notorious lady pickpocket Quick Change Oyo (Tomoni Sato) is at the festival stealing wallets but an investigator from Edo, Shinnoji Senzo (Akira Yamashiro), is on her trail. Pursued by Senzo, Oyo gives a stolen wallet to Daigoro, asking him to promise not to tell anyone who gave it to him. Daigoro is found with the wallet and arrested. Honouring his promise, Daigoro refuses to tell Senzo where he got the wallet, so Senzo takes him to the market square and publically threatens to whip him if Oyo does not come forward. She does, and confesses, but Daigoro refuses to identify her and is whipped, stoically enduring the punishment. He is clearly his father’s son, adhering rigidly to his own code of honour, whatever the personal pain. Indeed during the series both father and son, although assassins at the crossroads of hell, display a level of loyalty and honour far beyond anything shown by the aristocratic class, where double dealing and betrayals are commonplace.
Ogami successfully kills Jikei and retrieves the document from under the nose of Retsudo and is then helped in a battle against a horde of Yagyu samurai by the masked Kuroda lancers. But then Ogami is offered another commission by the Kuroda chamberlain: go to the Kuroda fief, kill Lord Kuroda, the concubine Otae and their daughter and restore the legitimate heir, thus saving the clan from disgrace and destruction by the Shogun. So Ogami embarks on this additional mission.
Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons is again directed by Kenji Misumi, his fourth in the series. In this film there are less camera tricks, although there is still frequent swaying camerawork plus a few slow motion sequences. However, much of this film is beautiful to look at with stunning scenes such as Ogami and Daigoro silhouetted against the setting sun or forest visages. Ogami’s assassination of Jikei on the river in his boat is an action sequence that is different, but elsewhere there is plenty of the series’ usual bloody action, with weapons piercing bodies, limbs and torsos severed and blood spraying everywhere. While the body count in this film may not be quite as high as in some of the other films, there is still plenty to go on with.
Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons is a bleak film because it highlights the moral corruption of the society, and there is no-one who comes out of it with any credit except perhaps Daigoro. He is a child and, although no longer innocent, he is steadfast in his refusal to betray a promise. In this film children suffer: Daigoro is whipped while his father looks on and, as in the first film of the series, we see a young child, the daughter of the Kuroda lord, who has to die because of the code of conduct. That Ogami kills the child without remorse is, in terms of the code, an honourable act as he has accepted the commission. But if to kill a child is honourable, this act again illustrates the moral bankruptcy of the entire system, a viewpoint that has been consistent throughout the Lone Wolf and Cub series.
Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.
This print is one of the best in the series with good clean detail, especially in close-ups although the wider shots of forests, seascapes, rivers and fields are also clear. Colours are deep and natural with the spurting and gushing blood a deep vibrant red, while sunsets are stunning. Blacks and shadow detail are very good. Skin tones are also good.
Light film grain is evident, and there is some inconsistency with brightness in scenes with the light source behind the actors, such as in the final indoor battle. There is the occasional fleck and a vertical line right at the end at 85:24, but this print looks very good for a film now 40 years old.
Subtitles in American English 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 spelling or grammatical errors. On occasions a “pop up” text appeared in white on the top of the screen to explain certain Japanese terms, such as “Genpuku” ceremony and “Jitte”.
The layer change on this disc is not noticeable.
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 good with horse’s hooves and the waterfall having some resonance although clearly the audio does not have the depth of modern audio tracks. There was no hiss or other problems. There was obviously no surround or sub-woofer use.
Lip synchronisation was noticeably out a number of times, but nothing too serious.
The original score by Hideaki Sakurai includes some of the familiar themes but adds some that are new. This score is nice and feels quite fresh.
The audio track was perfectly adequate, reflecting the original release.
|Surround Channel Use|
15 black and white film stills. Silent, use the remote to advance to the next still.
Trailers for Lone Wolf and Cub 4: Baby Cart in Peril (3:08) and Lone Wolf and Cub 6: White Heaven in Hell (2:41).
Trailers for Bangkok Dangerous (1:54), Ju-On – The Grudge 2 (1:38), Ring, The Spiral (1:15) and Godzilla vs Ebirah – Horror of the Deep (2:18).
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 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.
A Region 1 stand-alone edition of Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons is listed on Amazon.com; previous releases in Australia seem no longer to be available. But really for the price 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.
Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons is the fifth film in the Lone Wolf and Cub series. It is engrossing, violent and beautiful to look at but is possibly the most convoluted and, certainly outside of the first film, the bleakest, most pessimistic and nihilistic in the series.
The video and audio are fine, extras are limited.
The Lone Wolf and Cub: Ultimate Collection from Madman contains the six original Lone Wolf and Cub films plus Shogun Assassin, the 1980 US film that resulted when parts of the first two films in the Lone Wolf and Cub series were edited together, new dialogue written and dubbed into English and a new score added. For a RRP of $39.95 no self-respecting fan of Japanese or samurai cinema should be without this set.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S580, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 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 Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|