Every year my family asks me what I want for Christmas. I usually list a few books or CDs I have not yet gotten around to buying for myself, but we usually end up trading gift cards (except for my niece’s gifts — we take some time and make some effort for her). But this year I knew exactly what I wanted as soon as I saw the Criterion Collection was putting out a box set of Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman on November 26:
Zatoichi is a blind masseur who travels from town to town during Edo period Japan. He is a bit of a bumbler. But woe to anyone who might try to take advantage of a blind dice player. Or threatens him or those dear to him, at which point he draws the sword from his cane and the bad guys realize they are facing the legendary Zatoichi. The movies are great fun.
The box set includes all 25 films in the original run from 1962-1973 of (it does not include the 1989 coda). Now I already have DVDs of all 26 of these films, including a grey market copy of #14, Zatoichi’s Pilgrimage, the US rights of which were tied up when it was remade/updated as Blind Fury. But this amazing set collects them all in one box, adding a documentary, a lot of additional printed material, etc.:
I was really psyched to go through the whole series again.
Lee Hazlewood is probably best known for his work with Nancy Sinatra, and his Sonny Bono-mustache, but he was a very successful producer and even record label owner long before their boots began walking together. In the late ’50s, Hazlewood co-founded Jamie Records with Lester Sill and Dick Clark. There he helped create Duane Eddy’s distinctive twang. He also released a series of great quirky solo albums throughout the ’60s (he returned with more in the ’90s). And late in the decade, he ran his own label, Lee Hazlewood Industries.
Two of the four CDs in the new set collect the four out of print albums Hazlewood himself released on LHI Records. One of those, Forty, has never been issued on CD. Two more CDs collect highlights and a few unreleased tracks from other artists on LHI, including Sanford Clark, Ann Margret, Honey Ltd. and The International Submarine Band, featuring Gram Parsons, which many believe was the very first country rock band. The US debut of the documentary Cowboy in Sweden is also included on DVD. There are several other beautiful extras, like a 172 page hardback book.
And then there is the Deluxe edition, which adds another three DVDs containing the complete LHI catalog, 17 albums and 138 single tracks (in both WAV and MP3 formats) . . . except for the International Submarine Band. And that absence just seems fair considering LHI’s exclusive contract forced Parsons’s vocals to be pulled from the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo. The original tracks were finally made available on the album’s Legacy Edition. The International Submarine Band’s album, Safe at Home, is available from Sundazed.
Which brings me back to my question: Which do I ask Santa for, the blind man or the mustached man?