A destitute ronin allies himself with an established clan, but its ruthless leader tries to turn him into a mindless killer.



(based on the novel by), (screenplay)


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Credited cast:
Shintarô Katsu ...
Izo Okada
Hanpeita Takechi
Yukio Mishima ...
Shinbei Tanaka
Mitsuko Baishô ...
Takumi Shinjo ...
Noboru Nakaya ...
Kintoki Anegakoji
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Jin'ichirô Andô
Takeshi Date ...
Rônin patrol leader
Tatsuo Fujimori
Ren Fukuyama
Kin'ichi Hagimoto
Ken Hatano
Jirô Higashioo
Sôtarô Ibuki


Izo Okada, a ronin (masterless samurai), desperately seeks a way out of his financial straits. He allies himself with the Tosa clan under the ruthless leader, Takechi, and imagines that he has come up in the world. But Takechi makes Izo a killer and a puppet, filled with self-loathing and a need to stop Takechi. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Action | Drama | History





Release Date:

February 1970 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Tenchu!  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Yukio Mishima's character commits seppuku and one year later, Mishima himself will commit the same way of ritual suicide. See more »


Version of Izo (2004) See more »

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User Reviews

Probably one of the best chanbara movies
28 December 2014 | by (Croatia) – See all my reviews

Tenchu! ("divine punishment", the word loyalists used to yell while killing their enemies), also known as Hitokiri ("manslayer", the term given to four elite samurai of the fading years of the Tokugawa clan, two of which appear in this movie) is one of the most popular chanbara flicks by cult filmmaker Hideo Gosha, who somehow managed to complete this movie in the same year as his samurai epic Goyokin. Tenchu! features some actual historical figures from the 1860s, such as Hanpeita Takechi (portrayed as a villain and played by well-established chanbara actor Tatsuya Nakadai), Shinbei Tanaka (played by right-wing nationalist writer Yukio Mishima in his last screen appearance; he died a year later the same way his Tenchu! character did, oddly enough), Ryoma Sakamoto (played by Yujiro Ishihara) and Izo Okada (played by Shintaro Katsu from the Zatoichi and The Lone Wolf and Cub series), who serves as a protagonist. The movie sort of got a sequel in 2004; Izo, directed by Takashi Miike.

Tenchu! was based on a novel by Ryotaro Shiba and adapted to screen by Shinobu Hashimoto, who scripted other great samurai films such as Harakiri. Once again he did a real good job in leading the story and writing memorable characters. Even though the story somewhat requires pre-existing knowledge of the country's political state of the 1860s, the uninitiated viewers shouldn't see this as a problem because the focus is actually on the anti-hero protagonist Izo, who faces many dilemmas mostly concerning one of Gosha's favorite topics, the decisions between obligation and natural impulse. Katsu's performance as Izo is very memorable and he carries the entire plot on his back without any problems. The story is incredibly immersive and the runtime isn't even felt.

Of course, this being a Hideo Gosha movie, the shot compositions are unbelievable. The geometrical positioning of buildings and foreground objects combined with the actors' exquisitely precise movement evokes the zen artistic principles found in some other Japanese art I've seen. Gosha's color palette, consisting mostly of shades of blue and brown getting occasionally sprayed by blood, combined with Masaru Sato's excellent soundtrack and slick sword fights where Izo often finishes his opponents Mortal Kombat-style, make for a fun, tense and visually astonishing samurai film.

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