With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Commemorating Shintaro Katsu on his 84th Birthday

Shintarô Katsu as Zatoichi
Shintarô Katsu
Born: November 9, 1931 in Fukagawa, Tokyo, Japan
Died: June 21, 1997 at age 65 in Kashiwa, Chiba, Japan

Today marks the 84th anniversary of the birth of Shintarô Katsu. Born Toshio Okumura, Katsu is one of the most beloved Japanese actors. His filmography as an actor includes well over a hundred films and several TV series. He also has seven credits as a director, twenty as a producer, and five as writer. He was the younger brother (by two years) of actor Tomisaburô Wakayama, who is well known for playing Ogami Itto in the Lone Wolf and Cub series.

Katsu as Hanzo "The Razor"

Katsu is, of course, most well known for his role as Zatoichi, the blind masseur, yakuza and swordsman, in numerous films and several TV shows. Another of his notable roles was as Hanzo 'The Razor' Itami in three films released 1972-1974. This character is an incorruptible and unorthodox magistrate who is prodigiously endowed. He pounds his ample meat and rams it into sacks of uncooked rice to toughen it up, so that he can maintain his rigidity while "interrogating" female suspects.

Back in 2013, The Criterion Collection released the awesome box set Zatoich: The Blind Swordsman. It contains 25 movies on both DVD (seventeen discs) and Blu-ray (nine discs). Supplements are on both a separate eighteenth DVD and on the ninth Blu-ray disc. There is also a slim hardcover book that has an essay by Geoffrey O'Brien, synopses of the films by Chris D., and "The Tale of Zatoichi," the original short story by Kan Shimozawa. To say it's an awesome box set is an understatement.

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