Sword of Justice
Sword of Justice is the first film in a trilogy of pictures exploring the controversial character Hanzo the Razor. Hanzo was the brainchild of Kazuo Koike who brought his adventures to life in a series of Manga publications. Koike is perhaps best known however for his Lone Wolf and Cub series, which ran to twenty eight instalments, and over 8 million sales. The success of this series spawned six feature films that showcased the stoic talents of Tomisaburo Wakayama, and found their way to the West via the hotchpotch efforts of Robert Houston and David Weisman under the title Shogun Assassin (1980). The enterprising pair grafted twelve minutes of the first picture Sword of Vengeance (1972) onto the vast majority of the second picture Baby Cart at the River Styx (1972), gave it a contemporary electronic soundtrack by Mark Lindsey, dubbed it into English, and enjoyed a notable success. Koike also created the character of Lady Snowblood, and though not as successful as Lone Wolf and Cub, still ran for fifteen instalments, and led to two feature films starring Meiko Kaji as the titular lady who seeks revenge for the rape of her mother, and the murders of her mother’s husband and son. All of Koike’s most famous Manga creations are marked by grand stylisation and extreme violence, and the film adaptations do not skimp in these areas. But Hanzo possesses a grotesquery that the others do not, and this is largely due to the Policeman’s novel interrogation technique, which sees him target mistresses, whom he then fucks into such a lather of ecstasy with his oversized penis that they are begging to spill the beans in order for the pleasure to continue.
The main difficulty with the film, and the reason why it is uniformly dismissed as perverse trash, is that the central character is a walking moral contradiction. Hanzo despises corruption, detests the hypocrisy of his magisterial paymasters, and makes it abundantly clear that his primary motivation is to defend the downtrodden proletariat of Edo. In this regard Hanzo is a social warrior, anti-feudal in his sympathies, and an opponent of the various hierarchies established by the Shogunate. But at the same time Hanzo has enlisted two former convicts as his deputies, is not above using blackmail himself, employs vigilante tactics that clearly contravene the law of the land, and effectively rapes two women in order to extract information from them. Both women come to adore Hanzo’s virility, and are worshipful of his monstrous member, but they are far from consensual when Hanzo’s deputies kidnap them, and the taciturn lawman introduces them to his far from little friend! The interrogation technique is a speciality that Hanzo has created through years of self-discipline and a special study of torture techniques. After abusing his own body with a variety of torments (we are witness to one in which Hanzo instructs his crooked deputies to lay concrete blocks on his groin), he has concluded that pleasure is a far more affective tool than pain in gaining valuable information.
© Shaun Anderson 2012