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Bushido (1963)

Bushidô zankoku monogatari (original title)
After a salary-man's fiancée attempts suicide, he remembers his gruesome family history, which sees his ancestors sacrificing themselves for the sake of their cruel lords, and realizes that he's about to repeat their mistakes.

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Cast

Credited cast:
Kinnosuke Nakamura ... Jirozaemon / Iikura / Sajiemon / Kyutaro / Shuzo / Shingo / Osamu / Susumu
... Shibiku-Shosuke Hori
... Lady Hagi
... Lord Tambanokami Munemasa Hori
Shinjirô Ebara ... Shibiku-Shosuke Yasutaka Hori (as Shinjirô Ehara)
Takeshi Katô
Yoshiko Mita ... Kyoko Hitomi
... Maki, Shuzo's wife
Isao Kimura ... Hirotaro Iguchi (as Ko Kimura)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Kusuo Abe
Harue Akagi
Ushio Akashi ... Chief retainer
Yoshirô Aoki ... Vassal
Michiko Araki ... Shigeno, Kyutaro's mother
Emiko Azuma ... Hori Tamba's wife
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After a salary-man's fiancée attempts suicide, he remembers his gruesome family history, which sees his ancestors sacrificing themselves for the sake of their cruel lords, and realizes that he's about to repeat their mistakes.

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Winner Grand Prize Berlin Film Festival 1963 See more »

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Action | Drama

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28 April 1963 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Bushido  »

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2.35 : 1
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User Reviews

Cruel Tales of Bushido (1963)
30 March 2015 | by See all my reviews

Well, I think I've found a movie which beats those Italian exploitation films in the number of alternative titles; get this, the movie is usually known as Cruel Tale(s) of Bushido, but also went under the titles Bushido Samurai Saga, Cruel Stories of Samurai Ways, The Oath of Obedience, Bushido: The Cruel Code of the Samurai, Stories of Samurai Cruelty, or simply Bushido.

It was directed by Tadashi Imai, who specialized in directing social indictment films. This one in particular and Revenge (1965) were part of the zankoku jidaigeki (cruel jidaigeki) subgenre of films, a subgenre which crossed film noir with samurai films, portraying a dark world of doomed souls, of corruption, cruelty and raw emotions. Probably the most famous zankoku jidaigeki film is Masaki Kobayashi's Harakiri (1962). Tadashi Imai was also forced to do propaganda films during wartime, under threats of being sent to the front. Later he became an outspoken critic of the military, active in Communist politics.

Cruel Tales of Bushido, based on Norio Nanjo's novel, is a story about a contemporary salaryman whose wife-to-be attempts suicide and he reflects on his bloodline's tragic past. After we find out that each of the ancestors sacrificed themselves pointlessly in some way to their lord, he comes to the realization that nothing has changed in Japanese society, and that now he's a slave to his company just as how his ancestors were slaves to feudal lords. It's not exactly subtle, actually it's completely confrontational and harsh, but it's always interesting to follow.

This movie features some actors you may know from other Japanese films, like Kyoko Kishida from Woman in the Dunes, but the two prominent ones are Kinnosuke Nakamura and Masayuki Mori, who, Blackadder style, appear in each generation as the exploited family member and the cruel lord, respectively. Nakamura is especially excellent because all of the characters he plays have a completely different presence and you forget it's the same actor. The stories range from Edo period to 60s Japan, focusing on everyone from samurai to kamikaze pilots, and are usually connected with the ninjo-giri dilemma (the clash of duty and humanity).

The B&W photography is incredibly dark, as is to be expected from films of this genre. There are barely any light sources and the characters are lined up perfectly geometrically, so that every corner of the frame is always occupied by at least one actor, with Masayuki Mori always at the center of the frame.

The movie is very brutal and uncompromising, but it has sort of an uplifting final scene. All in all, it's one of the most underrated samurai films I know of. I'm really looking forward to seeing more films from the zankoku jidaigeki subgenre.


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