Tange Tenzen and Nakayama Yasubei are honorable samurai living in an era of corrupt officials and treacherous clans. But after finding themselves in opposing clans and ensnared in a love ... See full summary »
In 17th century Kyoto, Osan is married to Ishun, a wealthy miserly scroll-maker. When Osan is falsely accused of having an affair with the best worker, Mohei, the pair flee the city and ... See full summary »
Loyal samurai Samanosuke is attacked, mutilated, and left for dead while carrying out a mission for his clan. He recovers but has lost an eye and an arm. Taking a new identity as Tange ... See full summary »
Following the death of the second Tokugawa shogun, it is revealed that he was poisoned by retainers of his son Iemitsu in hopes of gaining him the shogunate despite the stammer and ... See full summary »
While performing in a touring kabuki troupe, leading female impersonator Yukinojo comes across the three men who drove his parents to suicide twenty years earlier, and plans his revenge, ... See full summary »
Based on the "2.26 Incident", an attempted coup d'état in Japan 1936, launched by radical ultra-nationalist parts of the military. Several leading politicians were killed and the center of ... See full summary »
Perhaps Kobayashi's most sordid film, Black River is an exposé of the rampant corruption on and around U.S. military bases following World War II. Kobayashi spirals out from the story of a ... See full summary »
Japan, July 1853. Scores of people lined the beaches at Uraga Harbor near the Shogunate Capitol of Edo. They came to get a glimpse of the American Fleet of Commodore Perry's infamous Black ... See full summary »
This early Kenji Misumi picture recounts the story of a band of samurai loyal to the Shogunate, the Shinsengumi, saving Kyoto from a conspiracy of Imperialists. Although certain facts are communicated early in the film, I think reading up on the history of the Shinshengumi helps A LOT with taking in the movie. If anything, you can put the events that transpire in the greater context of 19th century Japanese history. It's a most troubled time for the Tokugawa Shogunate as it's forced to deal both with external pressure to open up commerce and modernize and with internal pressure from Imperialists, loyal to the Emperor who will be later restored in the Meiji Restoration. Wikipedia is your friend here.
Part political intrigue, part historical drama, part action, Shinsengumi Chronicles judging by the look of it (and budget by extension) is more an ordinary genre picture by Daei Studios (whose regular employee was Misumi back in the day) than a lavish period piece. It can be slow during the first half, partially because certain plot points are telegraphed in that very explicit Japanese fashion and mostly because it spends too much time with people talking in not very inspired interior cardboard sets. Stick with it though 'cos this one goes out with a bang.
Misumi shows his flair as an action director in the closing battle sequence that oozes raw energy from every bloody pore. Observant astrologists of the time would have predicted that when the time was right and the planets in the correct alignment, Misumi would be in a position to deliver a masterpiece: which he did in 1972, in the form of the glorious Lone Wolf and Cub. Speaking of which, a young Tomisaburo Wakayama teams up with Raizo Ichikawa (whom Misumi worked with in the Satan's Sword trilogy) as the central duo. Wakayama plays Kondo, the farmer-turned-samurai that leads the Shinsengumi and as one would expect he just steals every scene. Ichikawa is certainly not bad, he wasn't a famous chambara actor for no reason after all (working mostly on b pictures though), but I'm generally not a big fan. Wakayama is not as grim as his Ogami Itto, but he's still a top notch physical actor with an imposing presence so when the action hits the screen, it's all guns blazing.
The story of the Shinsengumi was revisted in 1969 by Tadashi Sawashima in a film starring Toshiro Mifune. This early incarnation might not quite make best-of-all-time lists but it's still a fine picture that chambara afficionados will dig.
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