Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell Review

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AKA: Lone Wolf and Cub 6, Kozure Okami: Jigoku e Ikuzo!, Wolf with Child in Tow: Let’s Go to Hell, Daigoro!
Genre: Jidaigeki/Ultraviolence/Martial Arts
Year Released: 1974

Distributor: The Criterion Collection
Origin: Japan
Running Time: 84 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: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons, 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:

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

-White Heaven in Hell is the final film in the original Lone Wolf and Cub series. Watching the previous five films is strongly recommended.
Fun Facts:
-White Heaven in Hell was directed by Yoshiyuki Kuroda, who would be the third and final person to direct a Lone Wolf and Cub film in the original series.

-The secondary villain Hyoe is played by Isao Kimura. This is cast against type as this rogue sorcerer swordsman was played by the same guy who portrayed Katsushiro Okamoto from Seven Samurai. You know, the young naive samurai who joins the rest of his team? Yes, that’s him.

-Lone Wolf and Cub ran in Weekly Manga Action magazine. It’s a seinen manga magazine that’s still running today. Other series that would be featured on there are Lupin III, True Getter Robo, and Oldboy.


I finally did it. The final film has been watched and reviewed by me. Six films of gory samurai ultraviolence is something I have conquered. I can finally move on and focus on other films or series as I’ve subjected myself to Kazuo Koike’s little period piece franchise. How good is the ending of the original series with Lone Wolf and Cub? Let’s find out.

White Heaven in Hell kicks off with Itto and Daigoro surviving a very snowy Japan. Itto even uses the baby cart as an Edo Era snowmobile of sorts as he’s whizzing around in the winter landscape with skis underneath the armored perambulator. Retsudo Yagyu is furious and is desperate to kill the Lone Wolf at all costs as him and his daughter Kaori are the only surviving pureblood Ura-Yagyu. He even tries to recruit his bastard son Hyoe who was abandoned at five years old and resents the Yagyu family. In the meantime, the people who help Itto are getting slaughtered by Hyoe’s manipulated sorcerer underlings who have the ability to crawl underground and strike their enemies. With all this bloodshed around them, Itto and Daigoro have no other choice to do what they know best: killing people.

This finale did have potential to it. The cinematography with the snowy landscape was certainly different from the previous films. It added a new dynamic and it did feel like I was in a wintry Japan like I was in Nagano or Sendai in January even though I’ve never been to those cities let alone Japan itself. I did think the converted baby cart was really cool in an anachronistic way. There was even the element of fear that permeated as Itto actually gets a bit scared at a couple points when Hyoe’s men is killing everyone around them without a sound. That made the villains more threatening this time around as they had unconventional methods of catching bodies with a mix of martial arts and black magic undertones to them. The ending scene with Itto having his arms open willing to embrace his son had a heartwarming element to it. No, I won’t add context to it, but it was a highlight.

While White Heaven in Hell was an improvement from the abysmal previous film, but it’s not saying much with all things being said. Itto is still invincible despite his moments of being afraid. Sure, it took longer to defeat some of the villains, but he still walks out with barely a scratch. Kaori and Kyoe had so much potential in being the best villains in the movie. They had great build up and they had legitimate reasons to go after the Lone Wolf, but they were defeated easier than they had any right to be. The ending scene with the father and son reuniting after the battle was great, the context around it was disappointing as it never lead to a major ending. I read about what really happens in the ending of the original manga and I was even more disappointed. The manga goes way farther than the six movies did and the real ending should’ve been adapted as it would’ve really made all the characters better. Look it up yourselves assuming if you want to be spoiled.

This finale of Lone Wolf and Cub ended with a whimper even though I wasn’t a fan of this film series as I watched all six films. It was just a continuation with barely any progression going on with the plot, characters, or anything else. The action is still fine, but I see old habits being presented ad nauseum. White Heaven in Hell felt like a tease especially with Kaori and Hyoe looked like they were going to be major threats to Itto only to be undercut (no pun intended) later on. The lack of a clear ending was certainly bogus on so many levels and finding out that the original story goes farther doesn’t help. Lone Wolf and Cub is fine for people that like samurai films or ultraviolence, but I thought this six film series was quite overrated as a whole.


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.
Subtract 1 point if you can’t stand super bloody action.

Pros:
-Good fight scenes
-The build up to Kaori and Hyoe as villains
-The reuniting scene at the end



Cons:
-Lack of a conclusive ending
-The undermining of Kaori and Hyoe’s characters
-Invincible hero syndrome in full display



Final Score: 2/10 points

Content Warning: White Heaven in Hell is another example of a film that is not for younger audiences. The action is still quite violent as people still bleed buckets full of blood. There’s a high body count with protagonists and antagonists alike. There’s some occult undercurrents going on with Hyoe and his troops which can be creepy. One very disturbing scene is one villain raping his sister who was fully naked before both of them are killed by another villain.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell is property of Kazuo Koike, Toho, and The Criterion Collection. The DVD cover is from Amazon and is property of The Criterion Collection.

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