"Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell" ("Kozure ďkami: Jigoku e ikuzo! Daigoro") is the sixth and final film adapted from the "Lone Wolf and Cub" manga written by Kazuo Koike and illustrated by Goseki Kojima. Koike wrote the screenplays for the first four films, but Tstuomu Nakamura did the script for the last two, which might explain why the climax of the finale seems to be more appropriate for a James Bond film rather than a samurai assassin film. There were several interesting issues of "Lone Wolf and Cub" that dealt with winter settings, but Nakamura does not really avail himself of them for this script. As always, it is interesting to see how familiar stories are brought together in the film, which was directed by Yoshiyuki Kuroda.
This time there are four distinct acts to the action. First, Retsudo Yagyu (Minoru Ohki) is sending his daughter and last child, Lady Kaori (Junko Hitomi), who has perfected the falling dagger technique, after Lone Wolf and Cub (#79 "Sayaka"). Meanwhile, Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama) has brought Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa) for a final visit to the grave of his mother (#58 "A Poem for the Grave") before they make their way for Edo. On the road they will encounter Lady Kaori. Second, assassins who have buried alive are reborn as divine spirits (#77 "Incense for the Living") and sent after Lone Wolf and Cub. Their strategy is to kill everybody whom father and son have contact with on the road to Meifumado (#76 "Five Wheels of the Yagyu"), which means a lot of innocents are getting killed until Ogami Itto goes off into the wildnerness to force the Yagyu's hand. Third, Retsudo attempts to persuade his illegitimate son, Hyoei (Isao Kimura) to kill Ogami Itto. When he refuses, Retsudo tries to get Hyoei's sister, Lady Azusa (Mayumi Yamaguchi) to persuade him to act. Hyoei agrees, seeing it as an opportunity to take over the Yagyu clan. However, Ogami Itto must first deal with the cancellation of an assassination because of the threat of the Yagyu (#80 "Clouds of Silk"). Then he faces Hyoei and forces him to issue a challenge for a duel (#67 "The Hojiro Yaguy") and Retsudo is forced to deal with Hoyei's final effort to usurp his position.
The final act is where this film goes off the rails. Although the setting is similar to when father and son first made their way through the snow covered mountains (#64, "The Moon in the East, the Sun in the West") the story gets well beyond watch the baby cart being used as a sled. We are talking samurai on skis, ninjas on skis, and samurai on sleds. At least Ogami Itto does not get on skis, but he does some serious sledding. It is just that all of the shots of samurai swinging swords while jumping over the camera on skies get to be a bit much, and when a horde of them (including Retsudo), ski (or sled) right by their prey we were definitely into shark jumping territory. The bad news is that this is not a fitting end to the cinematic saga of Lone Wolf and Cub, but the good news is that are a dozen more volumes of the original manga as published by Dark Horse Comics that will get you to the true end of the story (although clearly they did not know this sixth film would be the final one in the series).
I know all of these movies were edited and dubbed into "Shogun Assassin" in 1980, but I must insist that you take the high road and avoid that butchery in favor of the original sextet of films. In order these are: (1) "Kozure ďkami: Kowokashi udekashi tsukamatsuru" ("Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance," 1972); (2) "Kozure ďkami: Sanzu no kawa no ubaguruma" ("Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx," 1972); (3) "Kozure ďkami: Shinikazeni mukau ubaguruma" ("Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades," 1972); (4) "Kozure ďkami: Oya no kokoro ko no kokoro" ("Lone Wolf and Cub: In Peril," 1972); (5) "Kozure ďkami: Meifumando" ("Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Land of Demons," 1973); and (6) "Kozure ďkami: Jigoku e ikuzo! Daigoro" ("Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell," 1974). The above list does not include literal translations of each Japanese title but rather the name given their most recent U.S. releases (I believe the original U.S. releases in the 1970s just numbered these as "Swords of Vengeance" I-VI). The literal translation of this sixth film in the series would be "Lone Wolf and Cub: Go to Hell, Daigoro," so you can see why that leaves a bit to be desired.