AKA: Lone Wolf and Cub 5, Kozure Okami: Meifumando, Wolf with Child in Tow: Crossroads to Hell
Genre: Jidaigeki/Ultraviolence/Martial Arts
Year Released: 1973
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 to Hades, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril, 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
-The Criterion Collection DVD Box Set was used for this review.
-Baby Cart in the Land of Demons is the 5th of 6 films in the Lone Wolf and Cub series. Watching the previous four films is strongly recommended to understand the plot.
-Some spoilers will be mentioned in this review.
-Baby Cart in the Land of Demons was the first Lone Wolf and Cub movie not to be edited or dubbed into a Shogun Assassin film.
-This is the fourth and final Lone Wolf and Cub film to be directed by Kenji Misumi.
-Wakita was played by Eiji Okada who had experience in American cinema. He starred alongside Marlon Brando of all people in the movie The Ugly American.
I made it to the penultimate film in this long-running samurai series. That’s right, I’m almost done with my little self-imposed challenge of covering the Lone Wolf and Cub series. I didn’t know what to expect after seeing noticeable improvements over the previous film Baby Cart in Peril. Once I saw that Kenji Misumi returned to the director’s chair for the fifth film, I became quite concerned. I know Misumi has done a lot of work in Japanese cinema, but I much preferred the direction of Buichi Sato. Let’s see how film number five stands.
Baby Cart in the Land of Demons starts out with the typical footage. It showed Itto and Daigoro Ogami traveling around with the armored baby cart in tow all across the Japanese landscape. One major twist is that Itto has five messengers meet him at different points with each one giving a partial payment and information before dying by the Lone Wolf’s sword. Each one of them challenged the former executioner to prove himself which explains why that happened. Itto’s target this time involves a daimyo who imprisoned his young son while his illegitimate daughter is disguised as a prince and she was a product of him and his mistress while the son was the legit heir to the throne. Also, Itto uncovers a plot of Abbot Jikei, who’s a respected monk, but he got protection from his mortal enemies the Yagyu clan. Retsudo, the clan patriarch is the main person involved in protecting the corrupt abbot. This was a huge obstruction to Itto and Daigoro in their journey. It would certainly be a bloody one as one could guess from the previous films.
There was some change starting with the five masked messengers. Even though Itto was able to easily defeat them, I did like the concept of each one carrying 100 ryo on them and a secret about the hit job itself. This was a needed change and it certainly shook up the first act unless it would’ve been way too formulaic at the beginning. I also thought the protection angle with the abbot being aligned with the Yagyu clan interesting as it could show a satirical aspect of so-called holy people being involved with the wrong people. The abbot was a villain with good publicity as no one else suspects him of being with some bad people. I’m a bit of a sucker of that trope even though Jikei wasn’t the main villain. It was a nice touch with that little aspect.
Besides that, I thought Baby Cart in the Land of Demons was more of the same if not worse than the previous films. Watching this not long after Baby Cart in Peril, I easily saw the drop in quality. Some of the audio effects were laughable such as cartoon bouncing sounds with some frogs in the b-roll footage, but that was the least of my worries. Itto’s invincible hero status returns which was frustrating because he looked more vulnerable in the previous two films. I also noticed a formula of getting the assassination job, having fight scenes, some brief “family time” with Itto and Daigoro, and the big fight where Itto just kills dozens if not hundreds of people despite being outnumbered. That was predictable. They even reuse the separation subplot again as Daigoro gets away from his father briefly.
The biggest issue I had of the film was the subplot with Daigoro meeting the pickpocket “Quick Change” O-Yo. This woman is this adept thief who’s been stealing people’s wallets without them noticing. During one botched thievery attempt, she gets Daigoro to take the wallet. The cops find and accuse him, so his punishment involved being flogged by a bamboo cane unless O-Yo shows up (they knew she was involved beforehand). What made this scene disturbing for me was the fact that the officers commence this caning on a three-year old boy. Later on, the viewer can see Itto in the background as the child is getting struck by this rough bamboo cane. I can handle people getting beheaded, amputated, and bleeding their brains out, but watching the flogging was too much for me. What made me angry and disturbed was that Itto just stood there in the crowd as his toddler son is physically abused. I’m sorry, but if I had kids and I saw someone abuse them, then I would end up in jail for what I would do. This is MAJOR PCM (protagonist centered morality) on Itto’s part on so many levels. I don’t care about him following the Demon Path to Hell, any father with a shred of decency wouldn’t let anyone beat up their kids. Unbelievable. An unrelated event at the end makes Itto even more unlikable as he should really know better given the main reason why he became an assassin to begin with.
Baby Cart in the Land of Demons is the worst film I’ve seen in the Lone Wolf and Cub series. There were some decent changes which did add some kind of spice of variety. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to salvage everything else. The rest of the film was more of the same in the Lone Wolf and Cub series. Bloody action sequences, talking about the demon path to hell, assassinations, and other things are typical. I was disgusted by Itto’s PCM in the film as it really ruined that anti-hero for me with his inaction during Daigoro’s flogging for a crime he didn’t commit and the last-minute assassination he does which was disgusting. Please skip this film.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1-3 points if you’re a Lone Wolf and Cub Fan.
Add 1-2 points if you’re a Kazuo Koike fan.
-Some interesting twists with the messengers
-Good fight scenes
-O-Yo mending her ways
-Major PCM with Itto
-God Mode Status returns with Itto
-Rehashed moments from previous films
Final Score: 1/10 points
Content Warning: This is still for older audiences. The blood and gore is still there. There’s male nudity from a couple of characters in brief scenes. The flogging scene is way too disturbing for it’s own good as the three-year old Daigoro is beaten constantly which would clearly be child abuse. There are onscreen deaths that even include women and children which is darker than the other films.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons is property of Kazuo Koike, Toho, and The Criterion Collection. The DVD cover is from Amazon and is property of The Criterion Collection.