Eye For Film >> Movies >> Lone Wolf And Cub: Baby Cart In The Land Of Demons (1973) Film Review
Lone Wolf And Cub: Baby Cart In The Land Of Demons
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
The fifth entry in the Lone Wolf And Cub/Sword Of Vengeance/Baby Cart series, this is the most formulaic and cartoonish, suggesting that the potential of the story is diminishing; but as it's the penultimate film this isn't really a worry, and it doesn't mean that it's lacking in craft. Indeed, it sees to the return of original director Kenji Misumi, and though he is not on peak form, there are still some very impressive moments.
By this stage, our heroes have not only travelled some distance from the fiefdom where it all began, they have travelled far along what Ogami Itto (Tomisaburô Wakayama) calls the Demon Way, leaving behind the moral system to which others feel obliged to adhere. This makes them doubly valuable as assassins. Many viewers will flinch at the assignment they accept here, but it's consistent with the systems of honour to which they do still adhere and which form a central aspect of this particular story.
At the outset, Itto is challenged by five assassins, sent to test him; if he defeats them all, he can take from each a portion of his fee and some of the information he needs to complete his assignment. Dying nobly in the service of their clan, they are concerned only with making sure they have the right man. Yet as Itto faces this test, his toddler son, Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa), must face one of his own. Pressed into making a promise to a pickpocket, he is determined to keep it no matter what happens, even when he is faced with being flogged in the public square. His stubborn heroism makes a big impression on onlookers and serves as a reminder that this is as much his tale as his father's. Whilst Itto has given up on his soul, the Demon Way may carry Daigoro to a different destination.
With this series of assassinations underway, there's a guarantee of good swordplay, and Wakayama's speed and skill are shown off to great effect. We also get to see Itto taken on several ninjas at once and, ultimately, a whole roomful of enemies. He meets a woman undertaking her own journey of vengeance, providing a point of sympathy and understanding about the constraints of honour, and Daigoro enjoys a brief, ill-fated flirtation with a child his own age who is every bit as dangerous.
Beyond the exploration of ideas around honour and morality, there's not much thematic depth here. The film is smart and entertaining but doesn't stand on its own as well as others in the series; it's busy setting the tone for the final showdown. Nonetheless, it will appeal to fans, and Wakayama is always worth watching.Reviewed on: 22 Mar 2017