Director Hitoshi Matsumoto (best noted for his bizarrely funny debut, BIG MAN JAPAN) has a filmmaking approach strongly influenced by Japanese television; if film relates to his output, it's primarily through TV skits and parody. It's to our benefit that we can enjoy a film like SCABBARD SAMURAI - the story of a buffoon with coke-bottle glasses on the lam from the clan. He's forced to endure a strange punishment: he will win clemency from a local lord - if he can make his forlorn son smile.
The set-up is far-fetched, spiced up with stock characters from familiar Japanese genre films. The remainder of the film, and the scabbard samurai's life, is spent trying to come up with increasingly elaborate gags, which capture the imagination of the populace. The gags are funny in a desperate, straight faced sort of way - not unlike a Japanese Buster Keaton - making for classic physical comedy.
Matsumoto doesn't act in SCABBARD SAMURAI; instead, he relies on visual narrative and an appealing cast of supporting actors to tell its story. Some might prefer BIG MAN JAPAN with its insane special effects, but SCABBARD SAMURAI captures Matsumoto's comic talents in a plot that's engrossing and genuinely amusing.
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