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Samurai Banners (1969)
"Fûrin kazan" (original title)

 -  Action | Adventure | Drama  -  24 June 1969 (USA)
7.3
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 399 users  
Reviews: 6 user | 7 critic

Feudal Japan, 1543 to 1562. Kansuke Yamamoto is a samurai who dreams of a country united, peaceful from sea to sea. He enters the service of Takeda, the lord of Kai domain. He convinces ... See full summary »

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Title: Samurai Banners (1969)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Yoshiko Sakuma ...
Princess Yufu
Kinnosuke Nakamura ...
Yûjirô Ishihara ...
Katsuo Nakamura ...
Nobusato Itagaki
Kanzaburô Nakamura ...
Katsuyori Takeda (as Kankurô Nakamura)
Kan'emon Nakamura ...
Nobukato Itagaki
Masakazu Tamura ...
Nobushige Takeda
Mayumi Ôzora ...
Princess Okoto
Ken Ogata
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Feudal Japan, 1543 to 1562. Kansuke Yamamoto is a samurai who dreams of a country united, peaceful from sea to sea. He enters the service of Takeda, the lord of Kai domain. He convinces Takeda to kill the lord of neighboring Suwa and take his wife as a concubine. He then convinces the widow, Princess Yu, to accept this arrangement and to bear Takeda a son. He pledges them his life. He then spends years using treachery, poetic sensibility, military and political strategy to expand Takeda's realm, advance the claim of Yu's son as the heir, and prepare for an ultimate battle with the forces of Echigo. Has Kansuke overreached? Are his dreams, blinded by love, too big? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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24 June 1969 (USA)  »

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Samurai Banners  »

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(Eastmancolor)

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2.35 : 1
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User Reviews

 
A sprawling epic that lacks the spectacle to go with the duration...
21 June 2008 | by (Greece) – See all my reviews

For the whopping 2 hours and 45 minutes it lasts, Samurai Banners really has little to recommend it. Long movies are fine if that's how much it takes to communicate what you have to say, but there's a good 45 minutes here that could have been clipped and it would still be the same movie.

Furin Kazan (as is the original title) was the name of the war banners used by one of the greatest warlords of 16th century Japan, Takeda Shingen, lord of the Takeda clan. The name is derived from Sun Tzu's famous book "Art of War", meaning "Swift as the Wind, Silent as a Forest, Fierce as Fire and Immovable as a Mountain". The movie recalls the early years of Takeda leading up to the defining battle of Kawannakajima. If the name is familiar, that's because it's the same character depicted by Tatsuya Nakadai in Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha (there in his later years). Indeed, coming near the end of a prolific career, in many ways this is Hiroshi Inagaki's Kagemusha.

Where SB falters is that it spends far too much time in namesdropping and planning battles than it does in actually showing them. Lots of build-up but little as far as spectacle goes. A mixture of politics, war strategy, romance and drama, this jidai-geki desperately calls for something to spice things up. The battle scenes are few and far between and really not very well choreographed. The final battle scene is particularly anti-climactic, more so after the massive built-up that leads to it. There's nice use of colours in banners and some beautiful exterior shots but much like Kagemusha, it feels like a dress rehearsal for a better movie. The extras seem to be going through the motions instead of giving it their all. Unlike Kagemusha though, this one doesn't have the deep character drama to go with it.

Fortunately for us and perhaps the only thing that holds things together, is the typically fantastic Toshiro Mifune giving another solid performance. Playing Takeda Shingen's right hand, an ambitious man with dreams of a big, unified Japan under Takeda's banner, he's consistently great. Of course he doesn't do anything he hasn't done better under Kurosawa's direction, but he's always a pleasure to watch.


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