GenreAction, Adventure, Drama Music directorAkira Ifukube CountryJapan
Release date18 April 1962 (1962-04-18) Based onThe Tale of Zatoichi
by Kan Shimozawa WriterMinoru Inuzuka (screenplay), Kan Shimozawa (short story) CastShintarô Katsu (Zatoichi), Masayo Banri (Tane), Ryuzo Shimada (Sasagawa yakuza boss), Hajime Mitamura (Hanji of Matsugishi), Shigeru Amachi (Hirate, Miki), Chitose Maki (Yoshi / Hanji's wife) Similar moviesThe Ambush: Incident at Blood Pass, Troy, Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island, Prisoner 701: Sasori, New Shadow Warriors III: Jiraika 1, New Shadow Warriors II
The Tale of Zatoichi (Japanese: 座頭市物語Zatōichi monogatari), directed by Kenji Misumi, is the first film of a classic Japanese samurai drama saga starring Shintaro Katsu as Zatoichi, a character created by Kan Shimozawa.
The blind masseur Zatoichi is hired by yakuza gang-leader Sukegoro (Eijiro Yanagi) as he thinks that war is inevitable with the rival yakuza Shigezo (Ryuzo Shimada). Zatoichi has a distinguished reputation as a swordsman and Sukegoro thinks he is money well spent. Shigezo responds by hiring a ronin of similar repute, Miki Hirate (Shigeru Amachi). Ichi is a meek and humble man who is commonly underestimated by most men, and looked upon suspiciously. His being a masseur, which was a position of low regard in feudal Japan, merely increases the hostility that is shown towards him. They even try to take advantage of his blindness in a gambling den, but from early on it is clear that Zatoichi draws strength from his disability.
The only person who respects him is Hirate, who has a similar code of practice. Though Hirate and Ichi know they must fight when the war begins, they develop a kind of friendship. Hirate is eager to fight Zatoichi, as he is terminally ill with tuberculosis and considers death at the hands of a master swordsman preferable. As Hirate becomes increasingly sick, Sukegoro decides to attack Shigezo. He also tells Ichi that he is no longer needed. However, as the war begins, Shigezo informs Hirate of his fallback plan since Hirate is ill, that he intends to shoot Ichi with his rifle. Hirate drags himself from his bed to fight Zatoichi on the condition that the rifle is left behind. Ichi learns from a boy at the temple where Hirate was staying that Hirate will be fighting after all, and also learns the reason. Zatoichi travels to the battle to duel with the dying samurai. After the tense final fight, in which Zatoichi prevails, Zatoichi leaves Iioka and rejects the advances of Otane (Masayo Banri), who has become disillusioned with the yakuza lifestyle, to continue as a solitary wanderer.
Shintaro Katsu as Zatoichi
Masayo Banri as Otane
Ryūzō Shimada as Shigezō of the Sasagawa Yakuza
Hajime Mitamura as Hanji of Matsugishi
Shigeru Amachi as Miki Hirate
Chitose Maki as Hanji's wife Yoshi
Ikuko Mōri as Shigezō's wife Oyutaka
Michio Minami as Tatekichi of the Iioka Yakuza
Eijirō Yanagi as Sukegorō of Iioka
Toshio Chiba as Masakichi of Iioka
Manabu Morita as Seisuke of Iioka
Yoichi Funaki as Yogorō of Sasagawa
Kin'ya Ichikawa as Mokichi of Sasagawa
Eigorō Onoe as Rihei of Sasagawa
Yoshito Yamaji as Tatekichi's father Yahei
Yukio Horikita as Kanaji of Sasagawa
Ryūji Fukui as Daihachi of Iioka
The Tale of Zatoichi was released in Japan on April 12, 1962. It was re-issued theatrically in 1976. The film was followed-up with The Tale of Zatoichi Continues in 1962.
The film received positive reviews earning 100% from review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes according to 7 reviews. The film summoned the most sequels of a samurai film and has also spawned a remake in 2003.