Raizo Ichikawa stars as “Lone Tree” or Ipponmatsu in Mushuku mono (On the Road Forever; aka, Lone Wanderer, or, Drifting Crow, Daiei, 1964) with supporting performances by Eiko Taki, Jun Fujimaki, Toru Abe, Koichi Mizuhara & Shosaku Sugiyama.
In this beautifully photographed color scope film, Lone Tree is a wandering gambler a la Chuji Kunisada (the Japanese Robin Hood). He strolls into a village in search of his father’s killer of five years before.
A gambling boss (Jun Fujimaki) became suddenly wealthy at the time of Lone Tree’s father’s death & Lone Tree investigates, discovering a power behind the scenes (Toru Abe), & an even shadowier figure behind him (Kenjiro Ishiyama)
This group of criminals are slavers sending peasants to Sado Island to die in the gold mines, & Lone Tree wrecks havoc on the underhanded goings-on.
For once the hero of a film doesn’t do everything singlehandledly. We get to see peasants rising & fighting in their own behalf. Other than this, this theme is developed in a workmanlike manner, & the potentially serious social issues are skirted in favor of a strictly action-oriented plot.
Lone Tree’s philosophy of duelling is it does not take skill to kill people, it takes explosiveness. When toward the film’s climax he is confronted by the vicious yojimbo Washiro (Keichi Taki), the samurai takes a well-trained stance, but Lone Tree runs at him like a demon out of hell. Explosiveness wins out over calculated swordsmanship.
Some of the choreography is reminiscent of the Zatoichi series, as well it would be with Kenji Misumi directing; & physically, Raizo is looking his best. As such films go, apart from the grand opportunity to see Raizo in motion, On the Road Forever is only typical as a story, but so smoothly directed, filmed, edited, choreographed, & acted, that it is a very exciting film even with few surprises. —weirdwildrealm.com
Born on March 2, 1921, Kenji got his start in the early 1950s, serving as an assistant director to Teinosuke KINUGASA, which included work on the Oscar-winning Gate of Hell. (The film also won the Grand Prix at Cannes.)
Beginning with his first film, Asa Taro Garasu in 1956, Kenji made almost 50 films in just under twenty years. During his tenure at Daiei in the 1960s, he was one of the studio’s three biggest directors, along with Tokuzo TANAKA (Sleepy Eyes #1, #10) and Kazuo IKEHIRO (Sleepy Eyes #4, #9, #12), however, his visual style eclipsed many of his contemporaries and earned him the nickname “Little Mizoguchi.” His work in the Zatoichi series, as well his 14 films with Raizo ICHIKAWA (which included three Sleepy Eyes of Death films and the Ken trilogy), established Kenji as a Master Jidaigeki (Period Samurai Films) Director in Japan.
After the collapse of Daiei, Kenji moved to television for a short period. In 1972, he returned to films and was given the task of… read more