This review discusses the story and contains a few spoilers.
The paths of two honorable samurai cross early and often in this tale of love and revenge. The two samurai also happen to be the most skilled swordsmen around but refuse to fight each other over petty rivalries, and thus are forced to be ronin. Both are haunted by their pasts, though one does find love, at the other`s expense. Their rivals attempt to stir jealousy between the two, yet they still will not fight. The actions of the rivals only bring more revenge from the story`s two heroes.
Hakuo-ki (titled Samurai Vendetta in the original English translation) has a particularly hilarious scene in which villagers flee from the impending doom of `Lord Dog` - I won`t spoil it. I feel the director, credited as Mori Issei, used a bit too much color in some places. A few scenes (including a not-so-great fight) are obviously shot on sound stages with the tackiest postcard sunset colors in the background. This dreamlike use of color gives the scenes a ephemeral quality and distract from one of the aims of the director, showing the sad necessity of violence for a ronin.
The film is occasionally overdramatic to a fault, but is watchable, if not in two settings due to the length and complexity.
This author saw the film at the Kyoto branch of the Japan Foundation in Feb 2003. The film was shown in its original wide-screen version and belongs to the Japan Foundation film archives.
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