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Hanzo the Razor: Sword of Justice

Japan 1972
produced by
Hiroyoshi Nichioka, Shintaro Katsu for Katsu Productions, Toho
directed by Kenji Misumi
starring Shintaro Katsu, Yukiji Asaoka, Mari Atsumi, Ko Nishimura, Kamatari Fujiwara, Akira Yamauchi, Koji Kobayashi, Zenpei Saga, Daigo Kusano, Keizo Kanie, Yuuji Hamada, Renji Ishibashi, Teruo Matsuyama, Shigeyoshi Fujioka, Jun Katsumura, Shozo Nanbu, Tadashi Iwata, Ishiro Yamamoto, Yuutaroo Ban, Takeshi Yubuuchi, Shintaro Akatsuki, Kazuhito Michii, Akira Nitta, Junjiroo Shinseki, Koji Kanda, Kiyono Sakai, Takahiro Tamura
screenplay by Kazuo Koike, based on his manga and a story by Kazuo Koike, Takeshi Kanda, music by Kunihiko Murai

Hanzo the Razor

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Japan, Edo period: Hanzo (Shintaro Katsu) is pretty much the toughest cop there is, he tries all kinds on torture on himself first just to find out how effective they are, he takes special care in hardening his penis (like hammering it with a hammer) just in case he has to rape some information out of a woman (!), and he goes against everybody, even his superiors, should need arise, and quite violently, too - and he detests any form of corruption.

But since he is quite so righteous, he is a thorn in the eye of many of his superiors, especially hias boss magistrate Onishi (Ko Nishimura), who not only takes bribes on a regular basis, he also seems to have his hands in covering up the escape of Kanbei, a notorious killer for hiremostly employed by the upper class. Hanzo investigates, and soon he finds out that Kanbei's former mistress Omino (Yukiji Asaoka) has at one point suddenly become Onishi's mistress ... so he sets Omino up with a murder charge and has her brought to his home, where he rapes her into submission - and in the end, Omino doesn't only confess, she even agrees to become Hanzo's mistress.

Seems like Onishi was himself bribed into letting Kanbei go by the Oyuras, nobility who are taboo for Hanzo. But before he can go against the Oyuras, taboo or not, he has to test Omino's worth as a witness by handing her over to Onishi - who promises her to assist in her escape, but actually wants her to kill herself by jumping off a bridge. Hanzo however saves her life, and by doing so also lures Kanbei out of his hiding ... and kills him in a duel - and after he has done that, he knows he has Onishi at his mercy, forcing him to let Kanbei's body disappear and to not interfere when he goes after the Oyuras.

Soon enough, Hanzo has kidnapped Mrs Oyura and raped a confession out of her ... and the rather underwhelming resolution of the story is that Mrs Oyura was actually carrying secret loveletters of the lady Orako from the Shogun's court as tattoos on her body, which was the only way the lady could get the letters to her lover ... so despite all the to and fro, there wasn't much actual substance to the case, but at least Hanzo got something out of it: Mrs Oyura as his new mistress.

In a seperate story, tacked onto the ending of the film, Hanzo finds two kids who want to kill their father because he lives in pain and asks them to, but to keep them from being crucified for committing patricide he felks them fake daddy's suicide ...


If you say a film about a cop who routinely rapes female witnesses is a bit misogynistic and totally politically incorrect, you are of course totally right - but at the same time, maybe you aren't. Hanzo the Razor is a series you just have to take with a grain of salt. Sure, this film is dead serious about everything, but it's at the same time so over-the-top that it's doubtful that it was meant to be taken seriously - not that the film would be a laugh-riot now, it's jsut, quite simply, incredibly outrageous. The odd thing though, this was not an independent project or a sexploitation flick for select audiences but a mainstream movie (and series) starring respected chambara actor Shintaro Katsu of Zatoichi-fame, directed by veteran chambara director Kenji Misumi and produced by respected production house Toho, which in a way makes the film even more outrageous.

Having said all that, Hanzo the Razor: Sword of Justice might not be the best film you have ever seen, much of it might seem pretty routine actually, but it's still worth a look if you can leave behind your political correctness for a while.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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