|Index||5 reviews in total|
SAMURAI PIRATE (Japan/1963) was released in the U.S. in 1965 in an
English-dubbed version titled THE LOST WORLD OF SINBAD. It's an Arabian
Nights-type tale that focuses on an adventurer (Sukezaemon, aka
"Luzon," but dubbed "Sinbad" in the American release, and played by
Toshiro Mifune) who, after being washed up on the shore of a Middle
Eastern island(!) kingdom, intervenes in local politics and gets mixed
up with court intrigue, a princess-in-distress, an ancient wizard, and
a band of rebels. It's a handsomely mounted costume fantasy adventure,
with a sterling cast of top Japanese performers and fan favorites
(including Toshiro Mifune and Kumi Mizuno), but it suffers from a
lightweight story, uneven special effects, and a distinct lack of
The by-the-numbers plot features a villainous Premier who wants to take over the kingdom from the Princess' dying father, the King, but has to first contrive a way to marry the Princess. To do that, he has to use his cohort, the Black Pirate, to waylay the ship of the Princess' intended bridegroom, the Prince of Thailand. "Sinbad" intervenes every step of the way, with the help of Sennin, the old wizard, who is especially useful in battling the magic of the old witch, Granny, who's working for the Premier. (Sennin can turn into a fly at will, while Granny can turn people to stone.) Sinbad's motive is the retrieval of a chest of jewels stolen from him by the Black Pirate and passed on to the Premier who has given some of the jewelry as a gift to the Princess. The action culminates in a bit of derring-do in which Sinbad attaches himself to a sturdy kite and flies over the castle walls to initiate an attack by the rebels on the night of the Premier's intended wedding to the Princess.
The plot moves at a moderately steady pace, but there is little urgency or suspense. Sinbad is somewhat aloof and never seems to feel he's in much danger, even when he's imprisoned and made to do slave labor. Other than the chest of jewels, he doesn't seem to have much of a stake in the action. There are three different beautiful women who are his allies at one point or another in the film, yet he never bothers to romance any of them.
Up until the final battle, there is simply not enough action. There are some fights and confrontations, but they're not terribly well-staged and they happen very quickly. Toshiro Mifune gets to wield a sword with great vigor in the final battle and performs some judo maneuvers much earlier, but, overall, he seems somewhat restrained here.
The lavish interior sets and the elaborate miniatures of the castle exteriors and the magnificent ships are all very impressively created. The special effects are best in the scenes involving the magic employed by the wizard and witch, particularly in the transformation scenes, but suffer whenever process work (rear screen projection) is required, such as the shots of Sinbad strapped to the kite and bearing down on the castle. Overall, for a fantasy film it just doesn't have the exuberance and sweeping imagination of American-made fantasy films of the same era, such as JACK THE GIANT KILLER (1962), CAPTAIN SINDBAD (1963) or even the ultra-low-budget THE MAGIC SWORD (1962).
The real treat here for fans of Japanese cinema is the all-star cast. Toshiro Mifune heads the list, of course, but he is joined by such other stalwart Japanese character actors as Makoto Sato (MESSAGE FROM SPACE), as the Black Pirate; Satoshi Nakamura (THE MANSTER) as the head of the archers; Jun Tazaki (KING OF THE MONGOLS) as a spirited guardsman who is alternately an ally and opponent of Sinbad; Tadao Nakamaru as the Premier; and perennial villain Eisei Amamoto ("Dr. Who" in KING KONG ESCAPES) as the witch. Of this group of actors, Ichiro Arishima comes off best as the horny old wizard, Sennin, a character who is clearly the model for--or derived from the same source as--Master Roshi of animated "Dragon Ball Z" fame.
Best of all are three beautiful actresses who are fan favorites from the era: Kumi Mizuno (MONSTER ZERO, FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD) as the rebel leader; Mie Hama as the Princess (and looking very lovely in a dazzling array of costumes); and Akiko Wakabayashi as the Princess' loyal maid. Hama and Wakabayashi occasionally appeared in Japanese films together (KING KONG VS. GODZILLA) and are best known to western audiences for co-starring with Sean Connery in the fifth James Bond movie, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967).
I should point out that the English dubbing on LOST WORLD OF SINBAD is below average. Paul Frees does Toshiro Mifune's voice as if he's got a noose tightened around his neck and the others aren't much better. The attempts to do "Japanese" accents are particularly grating.
I watched this on a Japanese-only DVD (no subs.), with a bootleg VHS of the English dub providing the soundtrack. I'd much prefer a subtitled DVD.
This is one of my all-time favorite movies from Toho studios. This
movie is about a courageous sailor named Luzon (Sinbad in the American
version) who tries to save a kingdom and a king's reputation from a
corrupted premier, with the help of some aggressive but hilarious
rebels. This movie is chock full of fun and adventure elements like
sword-wielding battles, a gigantic castle, royalty, pirates, exotic
dancers, heroes, action and magic. It's fun to watch and follow, fit
for adults and children. Included in the mix is a woman-loving wizard,
who is a resourceful ally to Sinbad, and the treacherous stone-turning
witch! This movie stars Japanese veteran actor Toshiro Mifune and
beautiful Japanese belles Mie Hama, Kumi Mizuno and Akiko Wakabayashi,
overseen by veteran Toho screenwriters Takeshi Kimura and Shinichi
Sekizawa, and includes a catchy music score by composer Masaru Sato.
With a combination of drama, tragedy, humor, special effects, music,
magic and adventure, this film is sure a treat for all adventure/sci-fi
loving fans. I always have a good time watching this film.
It would be great if this could come out it a "loaded" DVD, like some
of the Russian fantasy films, with the original track and the Western
Dub. Anyway, I saw it a few years back, it was a lot of fun. There is
still a LOT of great Japanese movies unavailable in the West; let's
hope the DVD era just keeps them coming. Anything Mufine did is of at
least historic interest. It's great to see more of the two female leads
"You Only Live Twice." I wonder if Kurosowa went to see this. Wakabyashi
had been up for the lead in "The Hidden Fortress."
This film while translated to appeal to younger English viewers has the 10
basic classic battle lessons as the treat between the oh I see your panties
humor from the supporting cast member who plays a lustful wizard/priest...
The sword versus long staff battle is a tremendous one.
I hope you enjoy this film.
Every once and a while you stumble upon a film that gets your heart
racing, a film that you must track down immediately. So, you say that
Toho made a Sinbad film in the 60s, when films like that flourished?
Leading man Toshiro Mifune (Yojimbo, Seven Samurai, etc.) plays the
Sinbad-like pirate? The gorgeous Mie Hama (You Only Live Twice,
Ironfinger, Toho's King Kong films) plays a princess, Kumi Mizuno (tons
of Godzilla and Kaiju) plays a bandit leader? So many other familiar
faces, even Takashi Shimura and Masanari Nihei (the lovable dope from
Ultraman) make small appearances, amongst many other Toho players as
well? Wow, that sounds amazing! Well... it's not, because simply,
nothing really happens. If you're aware of Toho films and Japanese
films of the era, you can always expect gorgeous sets and highly
detailed costumes--yes, that's all here. But that's about all you get.
Mifune's titular Sinbad is at sea for a total of about five minutes,
spending most of the film arguing and wandering around as palace guards
and the antagonist's henchmen give him grief, yet seem to let him pass
and do what he wants most of the time.
After about the hour and fifteen minute mark things finally start to get interesting: a bit of sword fighting (the first in the entire movie; the rest is solely Mifune dodging,) arrows being shot, and a Gorgon-like witch character (sorta) battling it out with a mystical hermit. And as quick as the action beings, it dies off, leaving the viewer with a completely unfulfilling experience, and maybe a bit upset that these intricate sets and amazing actors weren't utilized to their true potential.
I hate to put myself up on a pedestal, but this film is nothing short of a failure, even from a die-hard fan. Despite such a cast, it's tedious and boring, lacks adventure and monsters and action, and is truly not worth even the most devoted Toho or Japanese film aficionado's time. I know, I find it hard to believe myself.
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