AKA: Lone Wolf and Cub 3, Kozure Okami: Shinikaze ni Mukau Ubaguruma, Wolf with Child in Tow: Perambulator Against the Winds of Death, Shogun Assassin 2: Lightning Swords of Death
Genre: Jidaigeki/Ultraviolence/Martial Arts
Year Released: 1972
Distributor: The Criterion Collection
Running Time: 89 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 17+
Related Films/Series: Lone Wolf and Cub, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx, 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
-This review reflects the original Japanese unedited version and not the version for the dubbed Shogun Assassin movies.
-The Criterion Collection DVD Box Set was used for this review.
-Baby Cart to Hades is the 3rd of 6 films in the Lone Wolf and Cub series. Watching the first two films is strongly recommended before watching this one.
-A major spoiler will be revealed in regards to Itto’s character in the final act.
-Go Kato, the actor who played Kanbei is still active in acting at the age of 80. He also won a Purple Ribbon award in Japan. It’s an award that is about excellence in achievement in acting and the arts.
-Hilarious in Hindsight: Itto uses guns at one point in the movie. Would this make him the original Samurai Gun like that little-known anime series?
-Baby Cart to Hades was dubbed by Columbia Pictures of all people when it was edited in the Shogun Assassin series.
I’m now halfway through my Lone Wolf and Cub challenge. Three down and three more to go when it comes to the adventures of the assassin Itto Ogami and his baby son Daigoro as they travel around Japan leaving behind a huge body count every time. As one may have guessed, I haven’t been having the most enjoyment from watching the first two films. However, I must soldier on to see this challenge through.
Baby Cart to Hades starts off where Itto and Daigoro going to go on a boat. They couldn’t fit Daigoro’s baby cart inside, so Itto puts his son in it and hooks it up to the boat in question while it floats. They end up in another town that has a problem with watari-kashi (lowly mercenaries for daimyo and other lords) who have been violating some women in town, but are stopped by Itto and one of the watari-kashi’s top men Kanbei. Kanbei challenges Itto to a duel, but he “quits” while proclaiming that the noble mercenary who slaughtered the rapists in his crew was a real samurai. Meanwhile, a prostitute that was on the same boat as the Ogamis kills the pimp that sexually assaulted her which puts her in legal trouble. Itto protects her from the brothel owners such as Toriza and her men (who are also the local Yakuza). There’s also an assassination plot where Itto is hired for it because…you should know that’s his main job after being fired from his job as a shogunate executioner.
I really felt that this was more of the same from the Lone Wolf and Cub series. I was starting to get bored with the gratuitous violence, sexual scenes, and the craziness involving Daigoro’s perambulator that has as many gadgets as the Batmobile. However, I was surprised about somethings happening that got my attention. This was one of the few times where Itto got bloody and it wasn’t because of other people’s blood on him during battle. It started when he takes the prostitute’s place in being punished which involved being hogtied while getting dumped in a giant pool like some kind of hardcore Edo period version of waterboarding. He even gets the “spinning treatment” where he’s upside down and gets whacked by bamboo stalks where he’s all red, bruised, and swollen from the beatings. What shocked me even more was him sparing Kanbei as if he was a legitimate threat despite the two of them only holding their swords up. When they meet for a second time for a duel under Kanbei’s ardent insistence, something happened in the duel that legitimately shocked me. Spoiler warning: Kanbei was able to slice Itto’s back! Not going into all the details of the duel, my jaw dropped when someone was able to lay a finger on the Lone Wolf which is something that made him just a little bit more vulnerable. I don’t care. I’ll take it.
Most of my issues with the previous Lone Wolf and Cub still present themselves in Baby Cart to Hades. Despite one aspect of the final duel happening, Itto still looks untouchable. During one major fight scene, he goes up against over two hundred people, yet he’s able to take them all on with barely even a scratch. I also knew he was going to win against that army or when he fought against some of the top swordsmen. Why even bother watching when I know Itto is going to reign supreme.
Much like how I talked about Protagonist Centered Morality in my Debutante Detective Corps review, I now feel obligated to dedicate a whole paragraph dealing with another trope I just cannot stand. It’s none other than the invincible hero trope. Here’s my opinion as to why I greatly dislike it. The protagonist has to have some flaws like some personality traits or if they’re in some kind of conflict, they need to fall at some point. If you have a hero who always wins, then there are no obstacles around, the hero becomes the obstacle which is something that the villain(s) should be. I hate it whenever there are characters like Yugi Muto from Yu-Gi-Oh! who always wins clean and only loses whenever someone cheats or he intentionally loses to teach his opponent a lesson about something. There’s Ryoma Echizen from The Prince of Tennis. Not only is he a certified Jerk Marty Stu, but he never loses any major matches and some of his opponents are unintentionally more likable than him. Batman himself has been written as an invincible hero in some storylines in the comic books how he just beats everyone physically and/or psychologically. Heroes who have no threatening antagonists aren’t worth rooting for. Even bad movies, stories, and media have at least tried to make flaws in their heroes. Having invincible heroes is just terrible writing in general. Wouldn’t it be funny if people parodied that awful trope in some kind of story? Oh, wait. I did.
Baby Cart in Hades is just another mediocre film. The production is mostly the same. The fight scenes are still there in their bloody and gory glory, but even then they are starting to get tedious. I did like how there were slivers of weakness in Itto present, but they could’ve done so much more with those weaknesses. It’s just more of the same. Maybe the next few films will be better, but I’m not sure.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1-3 points if you like Kazuo Koike’s works.
Add 2 points if you like ultraviolence.
Subtract 1 point if sexual scenes make you really uncomfortable.
-Itto finally getting cut in the final duel
-Good fight scenes
-Rehashed story concepts
-Invincible hero/God Mode Marty Stu effect is still there
-Overdone sexual assaults despite being relevant to the plot
Final Score: 3/10 points
Content Warning: This is still for older teens and up. The violence is still brutal with the massive killings, dismembering, torture, seppukus, and beheadings going on. There are two rape scenes that happen within the first 25 minutes of the film which is very unsettling even though all of the rapists get bodied. The concept of prostitution is brought up as there are characters that own a brothel.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades is property of Kazuo Koike, Toho, and The Criterion Collection. The DVD image is from Amazon and it is property of The Criterion Collection.