STUDIO: Animeigo
MSRP: $22.49
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
Nothing worth mentioning

The Pitch
Blind people are evil.

The Humans
Shintaro Katsu

The Nutshell
Suginoichi (Katsu) has been blind since birth, but he hasn’t let that stop him from getting what he wants. Using his position as a masseur, Suginoichi cons, cheats, blackmails, and murders his way through life – laughing all the way to the top.

Now there’s a fucking hat.

The Lowdown
Also known as Secrets of a Court Masseur (and Agent Shiranui and Shiranui kengyô), The Blind Menace’s main distinction these days is being the inspiration for Shintaro Katsu’s similar but significantly more successful character, Zatoichi, the blind swordsman *, who Katsu played in a whopping 26 films over several decades – just imagine if Sean Connery had stayed with Bond (and they’d made several more Bond films too). And watching The Blind Menace, it is easy to see why people wanted to keep Katsu in the dark (so to speak). Katsu is nothing short of fantastic in the film. In fact, everything about the film is quite fantastic.

The DVD box contains this advisory disclaimer: “Warning: contains violence, despicability.” I’ve never seen a despicability warning before, but if ever there was a film to display it, The Blind Menace is fitting. Suginoichi is quite simply one of the most unsympathetic and reprehensible antiheroes I’ve ever seen. He is without a single redeeming quality. I mean, even Eric Cartman has a couple vulnerabilities.

The film opens with Suginoichi as a child, where first we see him “accidentally” drop snot into a bucket of sake so that a group of workers no long want it, allowing Suginoichi to take the sake and give it to his mother. Then, emboldened by this act of deception, Suginoichi pulls his first true con, tricking a mob of onlookers into thinking that an innocent man stole money from him (a poor helpless blind child), forcing the man to fork over some unstolen money to young Suginoichi to appease the mob. Then we jump forward in time to Suginoichi as a young man, working as a masseur, and follow his on-going life of crime, which soon begins to boggle the mind, in terms of how despicable he truly is.

What is interesting about the film, tonally, is that unlike many films featuring an antihero who does awful things – like American Psycho or Match Point – there is no “ticking clock,” no real sense of escalating dread or danger for our protagonist. While there are a few characters here and there who present a problem for Suginoichi, he’s never worried and always deftly outsmarts them within a scene or two. This is a movie about watching a man with his mojo turned up to 11, workin’ his groove with total success. It’s like Get Shorty, if Chili Palmer had raped a girl in Act I, and then called her an idiot when he is informed that said rape caused her to commit suicide the following day. The only real tension is waiting for someone to finally give this dickhole his just desserts… and wondering if anyone actually will, or if the film will end with him laughing. 

Ah, the ol’ boob massage move. A classic.

I would love to see this movie on the big screen with a packed audience. The roller coaster of outrage and “oh, no he didn’t!” exclamations would be amazing. One of the film’s choice moments comes when the gang of criminals that Suginoichi has been working with decide that even they find him despicable. The dude is just relentless in his depravity.

I’d also love to see the film on the begin screen because it looks phenomenal. It is a great and stimulating film and well worth your time to check out. Though, I should note, for those who equate black and white Japanese films solely with samurai tales – this is a drama (with plenty of dark humor), not an action film. There is one samurai present, but there is no fighting.

The Package
No special features, aside from a trailer and cast bios. The 2:35:1 picture looks quite nice though.

8 out of 10
5 out of 10

* Blind Fury (1989), starring Rutger Hauer, was a remake of Zatoichi Challenged, the 17th Zatoichi film.