The Third Shadow1963
Quick Draw Okatsu1969
- 31966“ This was Gosha’s third samurai film and he was to become one of the premier directors of this genre over the next decade. The time of the noble samurai hero was somewhat passé by the mid-60’s and here Gosha creates a classic anti-hero – embittered, isolated, untrusting, but still with a sense of justice buried somewhere beneath his encrusted anger at the world. He has reason. As a member of a high-ranking clan, Tange (Nakamura Kinnosuke) is summoned by his lord to perform a duty. The lord is in the middle of whipping a confession out of a woman – she has admitted to being a spy and has named her accomplice in the clan. The accomplice is the fiancé to Hagino, a good female friend of Tange’s and he is ordered to kill this man in a duel and spare the honor of his friend. He takes the man out and issues him a challenge to a duel, but the fellow tricks Tange by asking him to assist him in committing seppuku where upon he stabs Tange in the eye. Suddenly a group of men appear over the hilltop and march down and cut off Tange’s arm and throw him into a ditch for dead.
The Yagyu clan is "honored" by the Shogun by being requested to pay for the rebuilding of a sacred temple, but this is a ploy by one of his ministers, Gunraku, to bankrupt and ruin them because he knows they don’t have the funds to pay for such a thing. Lord Yagyu (Tetsuro Tamba) learns that the urn has the secret to a huge amount of money and sends his brother Genzaburo to collect it at their summer home. Gunraku hears of this and sends his own men to intercept the urn and take it from them. A sneak thief hears this plan and tells his sister, Ofuji (Keiko Awaji), a lower class geisha and they decide to try and steal it as well.These forces all come together at the river bank in a bloody mêlée of killing and "who has the urn" as it jumps from one hand to another before if finally lands in the hands of a young orphan boy who speeds away with men in close pursuit. The boy runs into a small hut and his pursuers are right behind him, but suddenly they come flying out followed by a gnarled one-eyed-one armed man roaring at them to stop. Genzaburo demands the urn but Sazen refuses to hand it over and escapes with a boat provided by Ofuji and her brotherSazen is now a very different man than the one who went to kill his friend’s fiancé – disfigured, shunned by all as a monster and deserted by his clan, he is out only for himself with loyalty to no one and he openly mocks the samurai code of honor. In order to get the urn away from Sazen, Ofuji and her brother attempt various ploys such as getting him drunk or seducing him but this is interrupted by a slew of ninja’s who have tracked them down to kill them. Instead they meet the blade of Sazen as he cuts through them one after another. From this point on the film becomes largely an action triangle with both sides trying to get the urn from Sazen while he is most interested in getting to know Ofuji better.In the end of course he does the right thing and fights his way through hoards of ninja’s to recover the urn and return it to its rightful owner. This is an excellent fast moving action film without an ounce of fat in it and what one would have thought would be the beginning of a series instead became the end of Tange Sazen films for years to come „
Shinsengumi Chronicals: I Want to Die a Samurai1963
- 51964“ Imai's Adauchi (AKA Revenge) is surely one of the best samurai films to come out of Toei, a prolific company that didn't seem to mind if it's product devolved into mediocrity, and maybe one of the best period. Toei has done much less to impress me than the other major studios of the 50s and 60s, yet they did give many amazing directors shots at high gloss period pieces, including the somewhat maligned Imai Tadashi, which accounts for some very interesting work. The direction in this film is beautiful, and I have a feeling that if the presentation was correct, it might garner a "10" (I believe the film was presented on the video I viewed at around 1:90 AR in black and white, while it was intended, according to JMDB to be color cinemascope, or 2:35, a huge difference.) The flow and rhythm of the film is striking for a samurai picture. Imai holds on moments for what seems like forever (it's amazing how long ten seconds can feel when everything is motionless), and it creates a startling effect. It's unfortunate that the film's only weak link is it's Toei stable of actors: Tanba is hollow and useless bluster in a supporting role and Nakamura Kinnosuke pathetically attempts some sort of realistic acting as the unfortunate Ezaki Shinpei, a samurai and second son, who's pride and class resentment begin a series of events that lead to death. The plot is predictable to a point, but certainly has some surprises.
One of the fascinating things about the film was it's political and anti-feudal aspect. It showed everyone in power to be conceited and hypocritical, abusing the Bushido code for their own purposes, and ignoring it when they see fit. It's worth it to note that Imai's previous film period, Cruel Story of Bushido, also lambastes the feudal ethos. The main character, Ezoki Shinpei, feels compelled to give up everything he wants to maintain his honor. His alternating bluster and sacrifice come out of confusion and desperation, only leading to ruin for himself, his family, and the adversary's family as well. This belongs amongst the ranks of Kobayashi's Seppuku, Tanaka's The Betrayal, and Yamamoto's Tengu-to as films that rate Bushido and the samurai way as completely useless at best, but closer to evil incarnate.
I mentioned above that Imai is often maligned. I first heard of Imai through Anderson and Richie's The Japanese Film, where he was almost as lambasted as Yamamoto Satsuo for being a left wing propagandist (sure his Kome, AKA Rice, comes to mind, as it's basically a remake of Uchida's social realist film Earth, from 1939). But times have changed. There's no longer a cold war, and the old prejudices that seemed so important against far left ideologies now seem quaint. Frankly, the more I see of either director the less I can account for propaganda, and the more I see extremely pleasant qualities of fine film-making. I look forward to seeing as much of this director's work as I can find.
Author: Harrizon from GSO, USA „
The Blazing Sword1966
Festival Of Swordsmen1961
- 81959“ The paths of two honorable samurai cross early and often in this tale of love and revenge. The two samurai also happen to be the most skilled swordsmen around but refuse to fight each other over petty rivalries, and thus are forced to be ronin. Both are haunted by their pasts, though one does find love, at the other`s expense. Their rivals attempt to stir jealousy between the two, yet they still will not fight. The actions of the rivals only bring more revenge from the story`s two heroes.
Hakuo-ki (titled Samurai Vendetta in the original English translation) has a particularly hilarious scene in which villagers flee from the impending doom of `Lord Dog` - I won`t spoil it. I feel the director, credited as Mori Issei, used a bit too much color in some places. A few scenes (including a not-so-great fight) are obviously shot on sound stages with the tackiest postcard sunset colors in the background. This dreamlike use of color gives the scenes a ephemeral quality and distract from one of the aims of the director, showing the sad necessity of violence for a ronin.
The film is occasionally overdramatic to a fault, but is watchable, if not in two settings due to the length and complexity.
This author saw the film at the Kyoto branch of the Japan Foundation in Feb 2003. The film was shown in its original wide-screen version and belongs to the Japan Foundation film archives.
Author: Chris Mcmorran from Osaka Japan „
The Devils Temple1969
Lone Wolf Isazo1968
The Blind Woman's Curse1970
Castle of Owls1963
Road of Chivalry1960
Kogarashi Monjiro: Withered Tree1972
Warrior of the Wind (Kaze No Bushi)1964
The Demon of Mount Oe1960
- 181957“ I have very little information on this early Kenji Misumi film. If anyone has seen this film and would like to write a brief synopsis, please email me. firstname.lastname@example.org. I will put the review here and credit you. „
A Bloody Spear on Mt. Fuji1955
- 201969“ Broken Sword (Hiken yaburi, Daiei, 1969) is close remake of Samurai Vendetta from ten years before. A few colorful asides are dropped from Daisuke Ito's script. There are minor revisions in dialogue. The cast & cinematography & music for the soundtrack are better in the earlier version, though both versions are good.
The camera set-ups are occasionally quite different so as not to be a slavish imitation, & in very few cases the handling of a scene is improved.
But mainly it is the same scene by scene. Yasubei's historical duel at Takada-no-baba opens both films, & only in this one is it clear that the emergency sash provided by Yahei Horibe was Yahei's young daughter's over-obi.
Actors, however, can provide their own interpretations, & the attitude in this version tends to greater gloominess.
Chiharu (Tonomi Iwai), the young woman over whom Yasubei is heartbroken when she marries Tange Tenzen, is the one character played with greater depth than in the former version.
For the main male leads, however, Raizo Ichikawa & Shintaro Katsu from Samurai Vendetta are just so much more exciting than Broken Sword's Kojiro Hongo as Yasubei & Hiroki Matsukata as Tange Tenzen the distantant relation of Lord Kira.By far the best scene in both versions is the climactic duel, Tange Tenzen alone against many in the snowy courtyard. He is by this time one-armed, shot in the leg, & unable to stand. He rolls & worms about in the snow clumsily, trashing pathetically but with heroic effect, as he kills so many of his foes.
The earlier version couldn't be outdone, but it could be nearly equalled. Very brutally staged & choreographed, that last duel goes on & on & on with pain & horror in every crippled stroke.
Author: Paghat the Ratgirl „
Samurai From Nowhere1964
- 231964“ The literal translation of the Japanese title is "The Great Killing" and, as you might guess, it delivers in spades. Director Eiichi Kudo (THIRTEEN ASSASSINS) helmed this stark samurai allegory of the radical student movement in early sixties Japan and captures this feeling perfectly without sledgehammer proselytizing. A reform activist (Kotaro Satomi) is pulled into a violent fray when an acquaintance hunted by government troops hides in his house. Samurai police burst in, kill the man and attempt to arrest Satomi. Rescued by fellow activists who create a diversion, Satomi is sheltered by a good natured, hard-drinking, apolitical ronin (Mikijiro Hira, of SWORD OF THE BEAST and THREE OUTLAW SAMURAI). A wealthy opposition samurai organizes Satomi, a female ninja, a sex-obsessed priest and a samurai family man, in an effort to assassinate the province's abusive ruler. However, the cruel, arrogant lord (Kantaro Suga) has an expert swordsman as his bodyguard (Ryutaro Otomo). Consequently, the desperate crew's unraveling plan devolves into a spectacular bloodbath of repression that will serve as a wake-up call for previously carefree samurai Hira.. „
The Thirteen Assassins1963
Daredevil in the Castle1961
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