As was the case with Satan's Sword 2, the third entry begins where the second one left off. A short montage gives a short summary of the story (it came 1 year after the first two, so I guess audiences had to be oriented as to what it is they're watching), and then we're thrust headlong in yet another tale of revenge and death. Ryunosuke Tsuke is still hunted by his sworn enemy Hyoma Utsugi, whose brother he killed in the first episode. Whenever he tries to settle down and live peacefully (and such opportunities do arise), a combination of bad luck and bad kharma force him to continue on the path of self-destruction. It doesn't seem to make a difference whether or not he does the right thing or not. There's no stopping Ryunosuke's cursed fate. Just as he settles down with a young woman and her son and she genuinely shows affection for him, he has to save a young man who is accused unfairly of theft, and finds himself captured and forced to work for a corrupt official. There goes his first chance of peace. In another instance, after he flees with another woman who again seems to care for him, he murders a young girl for no reason, again upsetting the balance. In the end Ryunosuke, plagued by visions of those he killed, will face off with Hyoma in a spectacular ending.
There appears to be a slight mix up here. IMDb states Kenji Misumi as the director but the copy I have gives another name. Anyways, whoever helmed Satan's Sword 3 was smart enough to leave the ending elusive. Indeed, there's no need for a definitive closure to the saga because we know that in the end it doesn't matter whether or not Rynosuke survives. He's already in hell. And it doesn't matter whether or not Hyoma gets his revenge, because Ryunosuke's inner demons have taken care of that.
If you've seen the previous two entries, you should know what to expect. The set pieces, costumes and cinematography are all spot on and even superior in this third entry. The final show down in the middle of a raging storm and flood is perhaps the best part of the series and gives that extra oomph to the ending. The swordfighting leaves something to be desired (still no sign of arterial sprayings), but Misumi (if he did direct the movie) was still new in the chambara game at this point and Raizo Ichikawa is no Toshiro Mifune. It's still adequate though. What drives the story is Ryunosuke's nihilistic character and Ichikawa has made him his own by now.
Even though the whole series as a whole doesn't approach the epic success of something like Lone Wolf and Cub and is nowhere near as famous as Zatoichi, they're still well worth discovering by chambara enthusiasts. Good, solid entertainment with flashes of brilliance.
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