February 17 to March 3, 1860, inside Edo castle. A group of assassins wait by Sakurada Gate to kill the lord of the House of Ii, a powerful man in the Tokugawa government, which has ruled ... See full summary »
The mother of a feudal lord's only heir is kidnapped away from her husband by the lord. The husband and his samurai father must decide whether to accept the unjust decision, or risk death to get her back.
In the Edo period, a nameless ronin accepts an assignment to go to a mountain pass and wait. Near the pass he stops at an inn where a collection of characters gather, including a gang set ... See full summary »
Zatoichi tries to unrest the mob rule over a small village all while the gang leader's bodyguard is actually the Yojimbo, secretly taking the gang down from the inside. Will the two heroes realize in time that they are on the same side?
a good start to a handsomely done, 'old-school' epic trilogy
I watched the first part of the Musashi Miyamoto trilogy, dubbed simply Samurai 1 on the video, thinking that it might be a lot more stylish &/or violent than I was led to believe. It is the first part, but of the second part it is but only up to a point. This is a 1950s style epic tale through and through, and the violence is done in a kind of sweepingly done style, where it goes by fairly quick, no blood at all, though all the while there's the sense of loss that goes with seeing, for example, the big battle sequence early on. This is a trilogy that I saw long ago, but this one, along with some scenes from 2 and 3, sticks out in my mind to this day. There's a lot of touching care taken in what was Hiroshi Inagaki's power as a filmmaker. Like a Hollywood director actually more than a typical Japanese director, one might say, his take on the legendary samurai Miyamoto is one of reverence but wisdom, of production values of the highest standard (of the studio standard of Toho at the time), with brilliant color photography putting the colors in striking displays throughout at a time when Japan was first getting into it.
If it's less than really great, like a Kurosawa film, it's maybe because Inagaki is a little too comfortable at times with what's 'safe' in the story, particularly with the romance between Takezo/Musashi (Toshiro Mifune) and Otsu (Kaoru Yachigusa). This actually becomes a little more unbelievable at times in parts 2 and 3, but for the sake of its magisterial, dedicated studio roots, it's not that bad, most notably the final scene at the bridge. Some of the plot on the first viewing may not be completely clear, at least through parts of the middle section involving the betrayals and Takezo's friend Matahachi's relationship with Oko. There are one or two really noteworthy supporting performances, like from Mitsuko Mito as Oko. But it's really Mifune's show here, and he plays Takezo in this film like a more naive but still as ambitious and unruly version of his character in Seven Samurai. He's not altogether, but he has it in him to be more, which of course then leads out into the rest of the trilogy. It's one of his better performances outside of his work with Kurosawa, and it gets better as the films go on.
Of course, it's best to start here with Inagaki's passionate, rousing work, and even if it isn't the best of the three it still has its high points. It's a very good example of an 'old-school', big-budget Toho picture with their brand of excitement and romance. If you're thinking it will be as graphic or darkly comic as Kurosawa's films though, it's not really here (though only in little sparks, as is more Inagaki's straghtforward style).
5 of 6 people found this review helpful.
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