Hanzo the Razor Box Set
By: Mr Intolerance on May 30, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Eastern Eye (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). Japanese DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 267 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Kenji Misumi / Yasuzo Masumura / Yoshio Inoue
Starring: Shintaru Katsu, Ko Nishimura
Screenplay: Kazuo Koike, Takeshi Kenda / Kazuo Koike, Yasuzo Masumura / Kazuo Koike, Takeshi Kanda
Country: Japan
Year: 1972/1973/1974
Now, this is a series you may not have heard of, so I'll give you a brief overview before dealing with each film in turn. Hanzo the Razor (or Razor Hanzo, as most characters refer to him) is an uber-cool, super-tough cop, who, aided by his cowardly, yet oddly resourceful servants, Viper and Devil-Fire, enforces law and order in his own way in Edo period Japan.

Hanzo's preferred method of interrogating the female of the species is by forcibly having sex with them. Yes, you read that correctly. He has a disturbingly large cock (which by the way, he beats regularly with a big fuck off stick, douses repeatedly with cold water, and thrusts alarmingly into a basket of rice, in order to toughen it up – yes, I crossed my legs at that part, too), which the ladies seem to find irresistible.

The series is one part Dirty Harry, one part Shaft (even down to the super-cool blaxploitation soundtrack- especially in the first one), one part Lone Wolf and Cub (ahhh…the soothing sight of a geyser of fire engine red blood fountaining from a severed limb…). Yes, it's that good. These films never take themselves seriously, and that is one of their strengths.

Hanzo dispenses justice of an extremely rough kind, but always looks out for the innocent and the common folk. But break the law and oooh….fuck. Like the aforementioned Dirty Harry and Shaft, he's a one man army against government corruption and abuse of power, and he uses any means available to set things to rights. Yep, anti-authoritarian cop stories are the name of the game. An added bonus is that Hanzo doesn't just flail about with a katana like in most chambara films, but has a vast arsenal of weaponry at his command (one favourite moment of mine from Sword of Justice is when Hanzo punches a ninja in the face with spiked knuckledusters – reaction shot: ninja reels back screaming, with blood literally pouring – and I mean a total fucking deluge – from his eye sockets) – even down to his impressively booby-trapped house.

I must say, the sexual element to these films can at times get a bit weird. Again from Sword of Justice: when Hanzo "interrogates" Omino, we get what I can only describe as a "penis-eye" view from INSIDE the lady in question – yeeesh!

But, when all's said and done, it's a series from the creator of Lone Wolf and Cub, and features the star of the Zatoichi films (the original ones, obviously). You can't go wrong.

Sword of Justice: To begin with, this film features the truly immortal line: "Hari-kiri hurts, you know." Kind of sets the tone, don't you think? Well, that and the scene where Hanzo "interrogates" Oruya by having her stripped, hoisted up in the air in a net, and then repeatedly lowered onto his mighty cock – when she's impaled, he starts spinning the net (and Oruya, obviously) around in circles – between her reactions and the 70s porn soundtrack, it's spit-sprayingly funny.

Basically the plot is pretty straight-forward: Hanzo suspects that his superior, Chief Onishi, is corrupt, and so goes on a blood-soaked and rather circuitous search for the truth, which takes him right to the top, power-wise.

The first of the series, it's a strong contender in the chambara film genre, while taking affectionate pokes at the conventions. Highly recommended for those who love action films and have a sense of humour. My only caveat to you is that the ending seems a little anti-climactic – I was hoping for a Lone Wolf and Cub style outrageous battle-fest.

The Snare: What starts out as a quest to find a shrine where women go to get illegal abortions gets progressively weirder as this totally fucking loopy film goes on.

And I must say (as I'm watching the film while I'm writing this), it certainly ups the boob quotient on the first film. By the time you hit the S&M convent (oh yes), things have most definitely been boobalicious.

Truly excellent moment: Hanzo, in drag (and let me tell you, he does not make a particularly attractive woman), goes to break up the S&M shenanigans.

Priestess Nyoaki: Who are you?

Hanzo: (in dress and make-up) I'm an officer from Hell!

And I've gotta tell you, Hanzo's retaliation when his house is attacked by ninjas – oh yes. You'd better believe there's blood. But I must say, I was disturbed by how much fighting Hanzo does in his undies…

This film features what is quite possibly the best line in motion picture history. Hanzo fakes committing hari kiri, and after plunging the sword in and rummaging around a bit, roars, "My stomach is full of complaints!"

My personal favourite of the series, and the final battle scene is a real ball-tearer.

Who's Got the Gold?: In my opinion, the weakest of the three, but still a rather enjoyable romp. Basically, it's a story of gold smuggling, and features all the things the series is known for. I think if they'd kept making more in the series, it would have become too diluted, and possibly ended up as a parody of itself – you can see the danger of that happening here. Don't say it wouldn't have happened – look at Lone Wolf and Cub.

Having said that, the ninja attack at the start is worth the price of admission alone.
Video
Beautiful picture. The oldest of these films is as old as me and in far better condition! Seriously, Eastern Eye have done a spectacular job on these babies – not a trace of speckle or grain. These films look the business. Each is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ration with anamorphic enhancement.
Audio
When Hanzo speaks to anyone, he shouts – and it's all loud and clear! Japanese 2.0 for each movie.
Extra Features
Reversible covers are a nice touch – you can either have the new covers, or the old 1970s Japanese movie posters (which is my preference). Besides that, there's not too much else, which is a bit sad. Some kind of doco or interview would have been nice. I don't consider a trailer for a film you've just watched to be a special feature.
The Verdict
Well, it's not Lone Wolf and Cub, but it's highly entertaining and tremendous fun – swordfights, torture, boobs, great one-liners, high pressure jets of blood – it's hard to ask for more. Check it out now!
Movie Score
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