Now then, as many of you out there know, we’re MAJOR fans of the Japanese Zatoichi film series, which depicts the adventures of a legendary blind swordsman played by the late Shintaro Katsu. All of the 26 films in the series are now available on DVD in the States (from Home Vision, AnimEigo and Media Blasters)… save one: Zatoichi’s Pilgrimage, the missing 14th tale in the series. Exactly WHY this film is unavailable on DVD here, and who owns the release rights to the title, has been a mystery we’ve been investigating for close to three years now. But we’ve finally uncovered the answer to those questions… and they might surprise you.
As it turns out, Miramax purchased the U.S. rights to the film a number of years ago. Apparently, director Quentin Tarantino was interested in doing a remake of the film. Of course, not long after this, Japanese director Takeshi Kitano (also known as Beat Takeshi) created his own updated version of the series, Zatoichi, which was also released to theaters and DVD in the U.S. through Miramax. Because of this, the future of Tarantino’s version is uncertain. Unfortunately, also uncertain as a result of all this has been the fate of a U.S. DVD release of the original Zatoichi’s Pilgrimage. We would like to strongly urge Buena Vista and Miramax to release the film on DVD, and we encourage all of you who are fans of these films to let the studio know you want Pilgrimage on disc ASAP. Sadly, pretty much everything DVD related at Miramax is on hold at the moment due to the Disney-Miramax split. In the meantime, we’ve updated our Zatoichi series review page with this new information.