Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril Review

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AKA: Lone Wolf and Cub 4, Kozure Okami: Oya no Kokoro; Ko no Kokoro, Wolf with Child in Tow: The Heart of a Parent; the Heart of a Child, Shogun Assassin 3: Slashing Blades of Carnage
Genre: Jidaigeki/Ultraviolence/Martial Arts
Year Released: 1972

Distributor: The Criterion Collection
Origin: Japan

Running Time: 81 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 at the River Styx, 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, Kekko Kamen, Shigurui: Death Frenzy
Notes:
-This review reflects the 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 in Peril is the 4th of 6 films in the Lone Wolf and Cub series. Watching the prior three films is strongly recommended.
Fun Facts:

-Baby Cart in Peril is the first film in the Lone Wolf and Cub series not to be directed by Kenji Misumi. This is the first film directed by Buichi Saito.

-Cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa (funny enough, he shares a first name with Lone Wolf and Cub’s creator Kazuo Koike) has worked on three different films by Akira Kurosawa including Rashomon. He’s also considered to be the inventor of the bleach bypass effect which would later be emulated in movies such as 1984, Minority Report, and Saving Private Ryan.

-Creator Bonus: There’s an assassin named Oyuki or Yuki for short who’s a secondary character in Baby Cart in Peril. This wouldn’t be the last time Kazuo Koike would have a female assassin named Yuki since he would eventually work on a character with the name Yuki who also goes by the codename Shurayuki-hime or you might know her by the English title of Lady Snowblood.

-Hilarious in Hindsight: Speaking of Oyuki, she’s an assassin who is masked while fighting topless. How much do you want to bet that Go Nagai watched this movie and was inspired to create Kekko Kamen?

-Like the first four films, all of them were released in the same year in 1972. Four movies in a year? That’s amazing. Even the Millennium Trilogy (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series) didn’t have that many films made in a year


Could it be? Did the Lone Wolf and Cub series just improve by actually doing things a bit differently? I had to let it sink in as I progressed through the challenge as I made it past the 2/3rds point of the original film series. Maybe a change in director certainly helped. I’m not saying this is a perfect film, but I did notice a jump in quality and no it’s not for the reasons why a guy would like this film. No need to project any perverted thoughts around here. It’s not about what one would think after reading that Hilarious in Hindsight tidbit in my Fun Facts segment.

Baby Cart in Peril deals with a female assassin running loose named Oyuki. She fights shirtless which reveals a tattoos on her left breast and her back respectively while slaughtering tons of men around. Itto is hired to assassinate Oyuki. Meanwhile, Daigoro is separated from his father Itto after watching some clowns performing on the streets. The toddler assassin is away from his dad for days and ends up meeting another assassin named Gunbei Yagyu. Yes, he’s related to the clan responsible for killing Daigoro’s mom and Itto’s wife even though Gunbei had nothing to do with it. The father and son finally reunite in front of Gunbei which causes a confrontation because the ostracized Yagyu heir has a history with Itto. The Ogamis have to deal with the Yagyus while also trying to find their target Oyuki.

There were more things that I liked about Baby Cart in Peril that the other previous films. I liked how they portrayed Oyuki as an anti-villain or tweener character who has a very sympathetic backstory and how she’s both a threat to Itto and villains way worse than her. Sure, I did have an issue of her being over-sexualized with how she flaunts her tattoos on her body as she’s killing people, but I enjoyed how she’s more than just some eye candy despite the male gaze moments in certain scenes. The Gunbei character was someone who’s quite complex. They could’ve made him some kind of baby kidnapper which I thought they were going with, but they didn’t resort to that. He has an issue with the Yagyus albeit for different reasons than Itto. His backstory with the Lone Wolf was fascinating only for one major fact: He was able to beat Itto in a sword fight in front of the Shogun. That alone made him really interesting as he won the battle, but lost the ability to get the executioner job which Itto got (it makes sense in context which I won’t spoil) which causes him to be disowned by the Yagyu patriarch Retsudo. Itto even gets character development as he faces more challenging villains and he even gets severely wounded against Yagyu troops. There’s even some continuity consistency as Itto’s scar on his back can still be seen when he’s at the hot springs. Itto is finally a vulnerable character for once with the backstory and with the big final battle! These facets made Baby Cart in Peril so much better.

While there were noticeable upgrades from the previous films, I’d be lying if I said this was a Grade A masterpiece. First of all, there’s the rampant sexuality that continues. Half of Oyuki’s scenes involve her being topless like most of her fight scenes which I know will turn off some people. I also thought there was some issues with Itto being separated from his son. I know Daigoro is surprisingly resourceful for a three-year-old, but his father should’ve been concerned instead of being mildly inconvenienced. His lack of emotion was concerning to me on this subplot in the beginning of the film. Itto’s invincible hero status is diminished compared to the older films which I greatly appreciate, but he is still able to beat so many people. I wish they would’ve made him more vulnerable, but I guess it’s just baby steps.

Baby Cart in Peril is the best Lone Wolf and Cub movie I’ve seen so far. The production is still the same, but the fight scenes still deliver in their ultraviolent glory. The plot has certainly improved with more storylines going on. There are some more interesting characters like Oyuki and Gunbei which really improve the storylines. The fact that Itto has lost in the past against Gunbei and that he gets severely hurt in the final battle against the Yagyu ninjas made me like the Lone Wolf even more. I did have issues with some of the acting and with the sexual overtones with Oyuki, but Baby Cart In Peril had more positive things going for it this time around. Sure, I think it would be an average movie in other contexts, but I take what I can get.


Adjustable Point System:

Add 1-3 points if you’re a Kazuo Koike fan.
Add 1 point if you like ultraviolent action.
Subtract 2-3 points if you get bothered by nudity or sexual content.

Pros:
-Itto’s invincible hero status being greatly dminished
-Gunbei and his backstory with Itto
-Improved storylines and plotting



Cons:

-Oyuki’s penchant for fighting topless
-Itto’s underselling acting of losing Daigoro
-Some morally questionable aspects of the plot

Final Score: 5/10 points

Content Warning: The first scene in Baby Cart in Peril involves a close-up of Yuki’s tattooed breast. I’m not even joking, and that should tell you about some of the content of this film let alone the Lone Wolf and Cub series. The violence is still graphic with buckets of blood and people losing limbs. Yuki has a backstory of being raped by her master which is disturbing to watch. The language is stronger than most films with one caustic word being said by one of the more peaceful characters ironically enough.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril 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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