Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades [IMDB]
Directed by Kenji Misumi
Starring Tomisaburo Wakayama
After coming to the aid of a young woman sold into prostitution, Ogami Itto and his son Daigoro – the wandering assassins-for-hire known as “Lone Wolf and Cub” - are hired to avenge the fall of a once proud clan by killing a powerful, scheming official. In addition to battling the forces of his enemy, Ogami must also face a lowly but skilful ronin and the continuing attacks of the treacherous Yagyu clan.
The Lone Wolf and Cub series continues to be amazingly consistent with its third instalment, again directed by Kenji Misumi and released in 1972. By Baby Cart To Hades, the series' basic elements are firmly in place. We know how Ogami Itto came to walk the path of an assassin, we know how he is hired, we know of the Yagyu clan's ongoing determination to take his life. We are also familiar with the themes which the series is preoccupied with: chiefly, the moral bankruptcy and corruption which are masked by a veneer of honour.
This third entry builds upon these established elements and, like all good sequels, it iterates intelligently upon them. It's clear by this point in the series that Lone Wolf and Cub is at least as good at this process of iteration as the best American series in this respect, like Dirty Harry or Lethal Weapon. Again, it's another of the primary thrills of the series that each entry combines its familiar elements of impeccable style and brutal violence with new intrigues which further explore the characters and the rich themes that are in play.
Baby Cart to Hades is significantly more complex and deliberately paced than the first two films – quite close attention is required to fully grasp the political scheming in which Ogami and Daigoro become ensnared. Accordingly the film is also a bit more talky, but this serves to expose the increasing complexity of Ogami's character and several new characters as well. Ogami's interactions with both the troubled ronin Kanbei and the fearsome female yakuza leader Torizo are superbly sketched and provide insight into more aspects of the cruelties and absurdities of life in the Tokugawa shogunate.
It can't be said that action takes a back seat, however: brilliantly-staged battles are again a huge part of Baby Cart to Hades and are interspersed throughout the film. The best may be the briefest, which is a stunningly executed battle between Ogami and a trio of Kurokuwa ninja which has no bearing on the plot. By contrast, there is also a truly massive engagement which closes the film and has something of a spaghetti western feel – in particular, it has shades of Ferdinando Baldi's Django, Prepare a Coffin (1968).
While it is possibly a tiny bit too complicated for its own good and drags very slightly in places, Baby Cart to Hades is another enormously entertaining instalment in this stunning series. If you're not converted to the cause by this point, you never will be.
Bodycount 102 (Ogami racks up 85)
Best Moment Outcast ronin Kanbei explains his past and the cause of his pain.
Sometime film reviewer, Letterboxd user, novice Blu-Ray collector. Top 3 directors: Woo, Hill, Leone.
Henry V (UK, 1989) ★★★★½
The Fast and the Furious (USA, 2001) ★★★★
Goodfellas (USA, 1990) ★★★★★
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