Lone Wolf And Cub: Baby Cart At The River Styx


The blood staining the sword of Ogami Ittõ barely had time to dry before the core creative team behind Sword Of Vengeance got stuck into adapting more of the original Lone Wolf And Cub manga. Thus Director Kenji Misumi, writer Kazuo Koike and the glowering dad-bod of lead actor Tomisaburõ Wakayama all returned to gift exploitation freaks and and samurai nuts with Baby Cart At The River Styx a movie that continues the gruesomely violent, father and son journey as they continue on the “demon way in Hell” (that’s revenge to you and me).
Swords flash, blood sprays and the filmmakers confidence increases exponentially as all involved manages to deliver what fans generally agree as the best entry of the entire series.
So sharpen your sword, load up your baby cart with a ton of concealed weapons and prepare to weather arterial sprays that blast you in the face like a crimson fire hose.


Grizzled Ronin Ogami Ittõ and his adorably oblivious three year-old son Daigoro continue on their journey to get revenge on the shadowy clan of spies and assassins that cost him his post of executioner to the Shogun and the life of his wife. However, when they’re not living off the land, they still need to make the occasional cheddar, so Ogami hires himself out as an assasin, hoping that every job he takes means another subtle slice at the evil Akari Yagyū and his seemingly countless number of ninja.
As the grim-looking swordsman and ludicrously cute sprog gain some much needed comfort at an inn, forces are even now moving against them as Sayaka and her band of wiley female assassins have been tasked with cutting the Lone Wolf & Cub down as a band of shinobi-class ninja keep tabs on his whereabouts as the wait for them to surface.
And surface they do when they accept a job from a clan that makes its fortune from producing a particular brand of indigo dye who wish for Ogami to kill a turncoat who wishes to sell their secrets to the Shogun in order for him to rebuild his flagging funds. However, the task isn’t exactly going to be straightforward as not only does the travelling pair have ninja and a band of slicing, dicing women on their trail, but to get to their target their have to square up to three vicious brothers who each kill with an iron claw, a studded club and spiked gauntlets and are collectively known by the cuddly moniker of the Monks Of Death.
As Ogami blows through his enemies like a dose of the shits, even he can’t avoid suffering a bit of wear and tear every now and then and so it’s time for his nomally passive toddler to prove his mettle, save his father’s life and even claim a few bloody victims of his own.


Anyone who has seen Roger Corman’s infamously raucous 80’s recut, Shogun Assassin, will be more than a little familiar with some of the eye-popping imagery on offer here as footage from Baby Cart At The River Styx made up most of the bulk of the run time of the gaudy limb-hacker. However, stripped of its pounding disco synths, out of control pace and sledgehammer dubbing, the second Lone Wolf And Cub outing is revealed to be just as measured and deadly as its main characters.
Director Misumi keeps the same, unnervingly quiet approach as his first film only allowing sound to penetrate the deafening silence when speech, clanging swords or the death gurgle of yet another victim is required and it works even better here at underlining the ludicrously gratuitous bloodshed than it did in Sword Of Vengeance. While the first film essentially set up the legend of the Lone Wolf And Cub in a series of flashbacks and then sent its titular characters on the most harrowing example of “Bring Your Child To Work Day” you have ever seen, River Styx is free to stretch its legs and go on a full adventure, loaded with hidden killers, gorgeous David Lean-style compositions and more fire engine red gore that you could possibly want.
The tale is two-pronged with the first part of the film dealing with Sayaka and her clan’s attempts to literally cut our heroes down to size, while the second deals with the trio of imposing maulers that the father and son team have to contend with if they’re going to stick it to the Shadow Yagyū and they merge organically and smoothly to make one epic tale. Shorn of the awesome ADD pace of the 80’s Corman re-cut, Baby Cart At The River Styx has a chance to breathe among a body count that’s a mere blade’s width from hitting triple figures which give some of the quieter, introspective moments much more weight.


Sayaka’s journey in particular is far more poignant, going from cold, ruthless killer to being unable to fulfil her task after experiencing Ogami’s typically blank-faced, brutally pragmatic form of mercy as he strips her naked of her wet clothes only to use both her and his bodies to warm Diagoro after escaping a burning ship. Similarly, the moments where Diagoro embarks on some level-one puzzle-solving in order to aid his unconscious father is also something that is profoundly touching and could have just as easily came from the works of Kurosawa or Leone.
However, the slower, sweeter, artier moments are nice and all – but they can’t hold a candle to the bombastic, stoically ludicrous violence that the series excels in as the second Lone Wolf And Cub installment goes all out for visceral thrills. Heads are cleaved clean in two, skulls are split and in one of the series’ most audacious death scene, one character has their neck sliced in such an exact way, air escapes from it with the sound of a winter wind as the victim expresses envy that he never managed to kill a man with such a method in lengthy detail. And so the carnage continues with oddly surreal beauty – the claw wielding Monk Of Death uses his weapon to expose assassins hidden in a sand dune by impaling their heads and dragging them forcibly out into the open; Sayaka’s killers prove their mettle by literally whittling a hapless ninja down to just being a head and torso with the prowess of their swords and even Diagoro gets in on the action as his cart sprouts blades from its wheels and promptly relieves a couple of attackers of their feet as this, and many more instances of extreme, comic book gore make Baby Cart At The River Styx such a stunning watch.


Somehow more entertaining and influential than it’s predecessor (if John Carpenter didn’t outright steal the look of the Monks Of Death for the Three Storms in Big Trouble In Little China I’ll eat my giant straw hat), Lone Wolf And Cub: Baby Cart At The River Styx is top-notch, pulp exploitation at it’s very best that continues to shock, excite and thrill with every pulpy swing of its visually stunning blade.


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