Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx Review

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AKA: Lone Wolf and Cub 2, Kozure Okami: Sanzu no Kawa no Ubaguruma, Wolf with Child in Two 2, Lone Wolf and Cub: Perambulator at the Sanzu River
Genre: Jidaigeki/Ultraviolence/Martial Arts

Year Released: 1972

Distributor: The Criterion Collection
Origin: Japan

Running Time: 85 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 17+
Related Films/Series: Lone Wolf and Cub, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart In the Land of Demons, Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell, Lone Wolf and Cub (1973 TV series), Lone Wolf and Cub (1984 TV Movie Remake), Lone Wolf With Child: An Assassin on the Road to Hell, Lone Wolf and Cub: Final Conflict, Lone Wolf and Cub (2002 TV series remake), Lone Wolf and Cub (upcoming American remake)
For Fans Of: Zatoichi, Road to Perdition, Lady Snowblood, The Virgin Spring

Notes:

-This review reflects the original Japanese unedited version and not the version compiled for the dubbed Shogun Assassin movies.

-The Criterion Collection DVD Box Set was used for this review.

-Baby Cart at the River Styx is the 2nd of 6 films in the Lone Wolf and Cub series. Watching the first film is strongly recommended in order to understand the plot.
Fun Facts:

-Director Kenji Misumi has also worked on the Zatoichi series and Sakura no Daimon.

-Co-creator/illustrator of Lone Wolf and Cub Goseki Kojima was part of the Eisner Award’s Hall of Fame class in 2004 which was posthumous since Kojima died four years prior to that award.

-Akiji Kobayashi played Ozuno who’s the leader of the Kurokuwa group. Some tokusatsu fans might recognize that name because he was in several productions of Ultraman as Captain Muramatsu and the Showa Era Kamen Rider series as Tobei Tachibana.

-Hilarious in Hindsight: Okay, raise your hands if you weren’t thinking about Kung Lao from Mortal Kombat when Sayaka’s warriors threw bladed hats at Itto. No hands raised?


Exactly…

Here’s part two of my unofficial Lone Wolf and Cub challenge. I had actually watched this film the same day as the first one. If you read that review, one could say I was quite disappointed to say the least. Check out the first review if you want to know my full thoughts on it. I will do my best to soldier on to watch the original sextet of films.

Baby Cart at the River Styx continues the journey of Itto and Daigoro Ogami. They are busy killing people yet again with Itto’s master swordsman skills and with Daigoro’s bulletproof stroller that’s armed to the teeth with projectiles, knifes, and death traps (I can’t make this up if I tried). They find work by a clan that owns a unique indigo dye known as Awa indigo. They have to protect the formula while also killing someone in the company who plans on selling the secret to the shogunate. In the meantime, the Yagyu clan is still after the Ogamis, but this time, it’s from Lady Sayaka and her all-female army of ninjas.

I will say that River Styx was a bit of an improvement over the first movie. The fight scenes certainly get crazier even though some of them are unintentionally laughable with the huge body count involved. Seeing Daigoro pushing buttons in his perambulator to kill people was quite hilarious in a darkly comic way as this three year old boy catches bodies left, right, and center alongside his dad. You know what they say: “The family that slays together stays together.” There was certainly some excitement going on and some legitimate surprises that happened as alliances shift.

I have to give some props to one of the villains Lady Sayaka. She may be over-the-top, but I really liked how much of a legitimate threat she was to so many characters including Itto. In her debut scene, she commands a ninja to escape the garden before her women literally chop him up to bits before she starts maniacally laughing. Sayaka’ actress just nails it with those crazy eyes and creepy smile while looking like some typical ladylike woman. Also, she’s the first person to actually lay a finger on Itto and beats him up before escaping. Finally! Someone was actually able to go toe-to-toe with this Marty Stu and make him look vulnerable for once. This was a huge breath of fresh air because I hate it when heroes become so invincible that none of the villains become legitimate threats.

Even though I thought River Styx was a better movie, this is still quite flawed. Itto is still able to slice and dice his way through several villains. What really turned me off was some aspects of his acting especially when Daigoro was kidnapped. Sure, he was just recovering from being beaten, but if I were him, I’d still be fully enraged and tell everyone that I would kill them for kidnapping my son (okay, if I had kids, but you get the point). I had a major issue with how he saves a female character (spoilers avoided) where he strips her naked in a frigid boat and warms her up by putting their bodies together. I know it worked, but couldn’t he have done it in a way that wasn’t so rapey-looking even though he didn’t have sex with her? There was also some bad dubbing on Daigoro’s part. He talks a bit more in this movie and the scenes where he’s talking were clearly taken off screen and the words didn’t match the lips at all. This was kung fu dub bad when those scenes happened.

Baby Cart at the River Styx was still mediocre even if it wasn’t as bad as the prior film. The actions scenes are over-the-top in their ridiculous glory. The visual production is more or less the same as the prior film which makes sense since they were made in the same year. I’m glad that there was a villain who can actually make Itto bleed and hurt for once even though I didn’t agree with the story at large. Itto’s PCM and invincible nature are still there even if the latter is downplayed during his encounter with Sayaka. Maybe the rest of the films will be an improvement if this keeps up? I’m not sure, but I’ll keep going despite being underwhelmed.


Adjustable Point System:

Add 1-3 points if you like some ultraviolence.
Subtract 1-2 points if you don’t like stories where women are the aggressors against men.

Pros:
-Lady Sayaka
-Entertaining fight scenes
-Some good plot twists

Cons:

-God Mode Marty Stu in full effect despite lessened
-Itto’s continued Protagonist Centered Morality
-Bad dubbing in Daigoro’s scenes

Final Score: 4/10 points



Content Warning: Still for older audiences only. The violence is actually bloodier and more explicit in the different ways some characters get killed. One villain has his head literally vertically split by Itto’s sword during the final battle. Some of the violence is woman-on-man stuff where Itto kills Sayaka’s underlings in self-defense which could make feminists outraged. There’s some swearing, nudity, and a “rescue” scene that out of context could be seen as attempted rape instead of a way to save everyone involved. I don’t condone that method of rescuing, but I’m letting you know that scene is in this movie.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at The River Styx is property of Kazuo Koike, Toho, and The Criterion Collection. The DVD photo is from Amazon and is property of The Criterion Collection.

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