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The Sword of Doom (1966)

Dai-bosatsu tôge (original title)
Not Rated | | Action, Drama | 1 July 1966 (USA)
Through his unconscionable actions against others, a sociopath samurai builds a trail of vendettas that follow him closely.



(screenplay), (novel)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Yûzô Kayama ...
Yôko Naitô ...
Tadao Nakamaru ...
Kei Satô ...
Kô Nishimura ...
Shichibei, Omatsu's 'uncle'
Ichirô Nakatani ...
Kunie Tanaka ...
Takamaru Sasaki ...
Ishinsai Nakamura
Ryôsuke Kagawa ...
Dansho Tsukue
Omatsu's grandfather
Hideyo Amamoto ...
Shuzen Kamio
Akio Miyabe ...
Yasuzô Ogawa ...


Ryunosuke is a sociopathic samurai without compassion or scruples. When he is scheduled for an exhibition match at his fencing school, the wife of his opponent begs Ryunosuke to throw the match, offering her own virtue in trade. Ryunosuke accepts her offer, but kills her husband in the match. Over time, Ryunosuke is pursued by the brother of the man he killed. The brother trains with the master fencer Shimada. In the meantime, however, Ryunosuke earns the enmity of the band of assassins he runs with, and it becomes a question of who shall face him in final conflict. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Action | Drama


Not Rated | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

1 July 1966 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Sword of Doom  »

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Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


The abrupt ending of the film is due to the fact that it was originally intended to be the first part in a trilogy of films based on a lengthy Japanese novel. Nakazato Kaizan's 41 volume historical novel focused on the Edo period in Japanese history when the shogunate collapsed and a new government arose that revolved around the Emperor. It was the longest novel in Japan - encompassing 1533 chapters and over 5 and a half million Japanese characters - until the publication of Sohachi Yamaoka's serialized novel "Tokugawa Ieyasu", which is reportedly the longest novel in any language. See more »


Toranosuke Shimada: [to Hyoma, preparing for his duel with Ryunosuke] You can't sleep because you're intent on winning. Don't think about winning or surviving. Be prepared to die. Risk everything, and you might have a chance. Go lie down with a calm mind.
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Darkness In The Flesh
2 December 2015 | by (Sword Of The Protector) – See all my reviews

Spoilers Ahead:

There are all kind of allusions that Ryunosuke is a Demon in human form. Yet, the movie hints that he is under Divine control. Notice, the old man prays to be killed to the Buddha. Instantaneously, he appears and kills him mercilessly. What differentiates Japanese classics, like this one, is how their mysticism is intermixed with the narrative. R is not just a deadly swordsman; the beginning is the director's way of showing you he is something much more than a man. The look on his face after he slaughters, the look of Demonic enjoyment of his power; this is what the father meant by the Evil has spread from the sword to the man. When people from the West watch this, myself included, it is important for us to appreciate how, in Japanese culture, a Kami, or Spirit, can take possession of a human being. This movie is a great example of this belief. Sadly, Ohama, by begging for mercy for her husband, pretending he is her brother, in classic mystical fate initiates a chain of events that ends up wiping out her husband, her baby and herself. I love two scenes in this movie above all the rest. It is a classic all the way through; Nakadai is such a good actor. His facial expressions: the sinister smile, the short brusque speech filled with contempt and his technique of moving backwards, then gliding like a giant spider waiting to sink its fangs into you.

My favorite is the ambush in the snow. R wants to attack Mifune and the scene is almost all without dialog. The tiny raising of the sword a couple inches out of its hilt, the anticipatory preparation by Mifune: this scene again gives the viewer the feeling that great Evil is pushing on R but he is afraid after seeing Mifune's skill and power. This is repeated in the final scene where as they come to slaughter him, his weak part, his flesh calls out that he will perform the nefarious killing the clan wanted. Once he starts killing, it takes possession of his body. The look of enjoyment and blood lust upon his face will stay with you forever. If someone asked me what the movie means to me: the sword possessed an Evil Kami that moved into Ryunosuke's body. The earlier killing is paired with the granddaughter coming full circle with R; the granddaughter about to be his next victim. Only the ghosts of the dead save her. Mifune gives a very constrained, understated performance. He steals every scene he is in with his quiet, deadly manner.

The photography is the hidden star of this classic. The famous cover shot with R standing over all he slaughtered with the fog giving the shot a Stygian eerie feeling. The inner workings of Daimyos' households, the infighting, plotting and violent usurpation are all here and lend the movie even more verisimilitude. Those of us who believe in a spiritual side of existence love Japanese cinema for it is incorporated into these stores. Mifune inverts the argument: Evil Person= Evil Sword. Yet, the director seems to argue otherwise. The father's opinion that the evil Kami in the sword went into Ryunosuke and changed him is the one I share. There is a hint that he was once not this terrifying of a monster. It is a very well written, intense movie. It is lightened by the sub story of the uncle looking after Omatsu but on the whole, a very dark, sinister movie. The last shot of R covered in wounds dripping blood barely able to stand with the growing fire in the background. To a Western person, he looks like a smiling Demon straight out of Hell.

In my opinion, the beginning with his appearance to answer the grandfather's prayer for death to free his beloved granddaughter is strong evidence that Ryunosuke is much more than just a man. In Eastern Culture, he is a personified Evil Kami. To us, here, he is Darkness in the flesh. His power flows from going beyond the flesh; he is something more. The hesitation, at the snowy ambush, shows his fear fighting this Evil spirit that wants to kill Mifune. Dark as night, I love this movie. From my point of view, all warriors look into the Abyss. If you look too long, you become the Abyss. The sliver of Light does not always win; sadly, sometimes the Night consumes and destroys all.

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