Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (1972)

lone wolf and cub sword of vengeance poster 1972 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Crazy violence, good back story

Rather slim main story

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Lone Wolf and Cub:  Sword of Vengeance

Studio:  Katsu Production/Toho Company/Toho Film (Eiga) Co. Ltd.

Genre(s):  Action/Adventure/Martial Arts

Release Date(s):  January 15, 1972 (Japan)/August 23, 1973 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Unrated

lone wolf and cub sword of vengeance waterfall fight

Is this all you got?

Ogami Ittō (Tomisaburo Wakayama) is a man who has been wronged.  With his wife slaughter and Ogami set-up by Yagyū Retsudo (Yunosuke Ito) of the Shadow Yagyū Clan, the former official executioner finds himself on the road with his child Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa) living life as a “demon”…damned for their actions.  Putting his services up or sale, Ittō finds himself hired to prevent the assassination of a lord but it means being captured first!

Directed by Kenji Misumi, Lone Wolf and Cub:  Sword of Vengeance (子連れ狼 子を貸し腕貸しつかまつる or Kozure Ōkami: Kowokashi udekashi tsukamatsuru aka Wolf with Child in Tow:  Child and Expertise for Rent) is a samurai or chambara action adventure film.  The movie is an adaptation of Kazuo Koike’s classic manga series which ran from September 1970 to April 1976.  The film is the first in a series of films that have become cult classics.  The movie also had footage used in the 1980 Americanized version Shogun Assassin.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered complete collection (Criterion #841).

lone wolf and cub sword of vengeance daigoro choice ball sword akihiro tomikawa

Better not pick that ball, Daigoro…

To begin with, Lone Wolf & Cub is just a weird manga series.  You have an honorable man who forces his infant child to choose between a damned life or death and you have an outfitted baby cart loaded with weapons.  With the rise of this style of movie in the early ’70s, it was ripe for adaptation and the movie succeeds!

The backstory is the real meat of this movie.  You see how Ittō and Daigoro came to be on the road and you learn that they are the target of the Shadow Clan.  It is rather twisted and bloody and revealed through flashbacks (including some children singing a bizarre song about pooping on a mountain…seriously).  The real story is rather incidental and not very involved.  Ittō seems to make it look rather easy and the final throw-down is pretty good when you get to see why Ittō is so attached to his baby cart.

lone wolf and cub sword of vengeance knife in throat

There will be blood

Both Tomisaburo Wakayama and Akihiro Tomikawa do a good job as the leads.  The book Ittō is somber and downright emotionless at points.  Wakayama gets that through his role, but it doesn’t come off as completely cold.  Though Akihiro Tomikawa is a small child he does have the happiness and darkness shown in him which is more of a credit to Kenji Misumi who was able to capture those moments to add to the film.

The movie looks great.  It is everything you’d want from a ’70s samurai film.  It has over-the-top violence, beheadings, and dismemberment.  With movies like Lone Wolf & Cub, you can see a lot of influence in modern films (obviously including Kill Bill which was an ode to movies like this).  Kazuo Koike’s baby cart trick is also genius and very modern even today.

lone wolf and cub sword of vengeance ending baby cart ogami itto tomisaburo wakayama

Lots of bodies? My job here is done then…

Though the movie is a cult classic, I have never understood why it isn’t a bigger cult classic.  It is loaded with blood, guts, and action and is a perfectly crazy martial arts movie (you can even find versions with crazy dubbing).  I enjoy this series and wish more people would see them (which means consistently keeping them in print…something that doesn’t happen).  Fortunately, Criterion with their nice slick presentation has allowed more people to see these films…and the bloody path to hell continues!  Lone Wolf and Cub:  Sword of Vengeance was followed by Lone Wolf and Cub:  Baby Cart at the River Styx in June of 1972.

Related Links:

Lone Wolf and Cub:  Baby Cart at the River Styx (1972)

Lone Wolf and Cub:  Baby Cart to Hades (1972)

Lone Wolf and Cub:  Baby Cart in Peril (1972)

Lone Wolf and Cub:  Baby Cart in the Land of Demons (1973)

Lone Wolf and Cub:  White Heaven in Hell (1974)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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