Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell is the final in a batch of six Japanese martial arts films based on the long-running Lone Wolf and Cub manga series about Ogami Ittō, a wandering assassin accompanied by his young son, Daigoro. As most of his family is already dead at Ogami’s hands, Retsudo (the head of the evil Yagyu and archenemy of Itto) makes a last ditch effort to destroy Itto by sending: Hyouei, an illegitimate son who practices the black arts, and Kaori, a female expert in the lethal art of knives. In the only truly supernatural aspect of the series, Hyouei wages psychological warfare on Ogami and Daigoro, by killing any innocent person the pair come into contact with. The Lone Wolf and Cub are forced into a truly solitary existence in order to save the innocent victims from harm.
Ogami dispatches with the daughter rather quickly, but things are a little more complicated when dealing with the supernatural. Needless to say, Ogami comes through, but not before the stoic Ogami becomes unnerved and expresses fear for the first time. The big battle takes place on a snowy mountain, where the baby cart becomes a sled. Ittō defeats the entire army, shooting, stabbing, slashing, dismembering, and beheading the entire bunch using Musashi’s two sword technique. But the one-eyed Retsudo again gets away, vowing to kill Ittō another time and while exhilarating, it lacks the closure followers so eagerly needed.
It should be noted that Ogami Ittō has 150 on screen kills in this film, the most of any individual character in a movie.
While boasting one of the most memorable battles ever filmed, the final installment in the Lone Wolf and Cub series came as somewhat of a disappointment as I was anticipating a final confrontation between Ogami and Lord Retsudo Yagyu. Alas, this battle never occurs. According to legend, the reason for this omission is that the entire six-film series was filmed between 1972 and 1973, while the manga was still a work in progress. There could be no conflict between the film and the manga so the makers of Lone Wolf & Cub had to work with that they had. Though the manga version does have a final showdown between Ogami and Lord Yagyu, it was not published until 1976. Because this had not been published yet, White Heaven in Hell lacks the closure that everyone was looking for.
Looking back on the series it is truly one of a kind. But the reason this review is much shorter than the other Lone Wolf and Cub editorials, is because there is a lot less to talk about. The film seems rushed, written in a hurry with no clear plot in mind. Of course, the body count is high, but the first five films offer much more in terms of story and character development. However, the makers were under pressure and probably did the best they could under the circumstances. Anyways, I was one of what I am sure are many fans that was wondering if the film or the film series was really over. There needed to be a confrontation between the two to settle the score otherwise Itto would keep wandering and Retsudo would simply keep trying to kill him.
Be that as it may, we made it through was is almost universally accepted by Asian film watchers as one of the finest series of that genre.
Next up . . . it will be an American Comedy.