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 »
In the Edo period, a nameless ronin accepts an assignment to go to a mountain pass and wait. Near the pass he stops at an inn where a collection of characters gather, including a gang set ... See full summary »
Kanichiro Yoshimura is a Samurai and Family man who can no longer support his wife and children on the the low pay he receives from his small town clan, he is forced by the love for his ... See full summary »
Shinpachi, a poor samurai with no prospects, gets in an argument with Magodayu, a high-ranking officer, resulting in an illegal duel and Magodayu's death. To save face for both familes, ... See full summary »
Ishikawa Goemon (Ichikawa Raizo), a talented young ninja, becomes ensnared in a twisted scheme to assassinate Oda Nobunaga, an evil warlord bent on ruling feudal Japan with an iron fist. ... See full summary »
The story follows the life of Ryunosuke Tsukue (played by Raizo Ichikawa), an amoral samurai and a master swordsman with an unorthodox style. Ryunosuke is first seen when he kills an elderly Buddhist pilgrim for no reason and with no apparent feeling. Later, he deliberately kills an opponent in a fencing competition that was intended to be non-lethal. This latter act forces him to leave his home town, but not before he fights his way through an ambush, killing perhaps a dozen samurai in the process. To make a living, Ryunosuke joins the Shinsengumi, a sort of semi-official police force made up of ronin that supports the Tokugawa shogunate through murder and assassinations. Through all his interactions, whether killing a man or at home with his mistress and their baby son, Ryunosuke rarely shows any emotion. His expression is fixed in a glassy stare that suggests a quiet insanity. Ryunosuke slowly descends into complete insanity in the final 15 minutes and the movie ends on a cliff-hanger note with a duel that isn't materialised.
OK first things first, this is a Kenji Misumi picture, so it can't be all that bad. But in the same time it's obvious that Misumi here is still learning the ropes, his directing pretty much by-the-numbers, even though flashes of the brilliance he would show in consequent years are still evident. He was a contract director for Daei at the time, before the studio's bankruptcy. He would go on to craft perhaps the best series in the cinema's history, Lone Wolf and Cub. Here we see his early steps in the genre, totally bloodless in case you're wondering. I believe the first movie to introduce the arterial spray we all love is Kurosawa's Sanjuro that came out two years later.
Now if you came all the way here to read this review, you should already be familiar with Kihachi Okamoto's masterpiece, Sword of Doom, from 1966. Okamoto's Daibosatsu Toge (as is the Japanese title) is a remake very faithful to the original. Going against every remake rule, it is also superior in every aspect. Raizo Ichikawa is not a patch on Tatsuya Nakadai, one of the most imposing actors I have ever seen. Everything from the b/w cinematography to the acting to the swordfights to the plot is three or four scales above in Sword of Doom. Misumi's earlier version comes very short by comparison. However if you HAVE seen Sword of Doom and you're a chambara fan, you could do a lot worse than check out Misumi's Satan's Sword.. Okamoto's remake follows Misumi's picture to the hilt, most scenes are almost identical in how they play out. Imagine Gus Van Sant's shot by shot remake of Psycho and you're close.
OK now that we've got that out of the way, let's see what this one has going for it. Raizo Ichikawa leaves a lot to be desired (especially because one cannot help but picture Nakadai in the same role), but the movie is fairly entertaining, the swordfights are quite good (although there's no blood I repeat) and Misumi's exterior photography is good. The most important reason to get Misumi's Satan's Sword trilogy though is to see the story of Ryunosuke Tsuke evolving in the next two sequels. Okamoto's Sword of Doom was supposed to have sequels which never materialised, so if you were miffed by its abrupt ending, here's your only chance to see the conclusion of Tsukue's tragic story.
Overall not an essential chambara entry by any means, but Sword of Doom and fans of the genre will be pleasantly entertained.
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