After killing a counselor of his clan, a fugitive samurai befriends a couple poaching the shogun's gold in the mountains.After killing a counselor of his clan, a fugitive samurai befriends a couple poaching the shogun's gold in the mountains.After killing a counselor of his clan, a fugitive samurai befriends a couple poaching the shogun's gold in the mountains.
Treachery abounds in feudal Japan
Gennosuke (Mikijiro Hira), a low-ranking samurai on the run from his own clan after killing a councillor teams up with a peasant to prospect gold on a mountain owned by the Shogunate where they face other poachers, bandits, and the samurai sent to avenge the dead councillor. The film reflects both the revisionist trend that was popular in the 1960s chambara films (as well as in their American counterpart, the 'western') and historical shifts in Japanese feudal society in the mid-1800s as Western influences spread. Gennosuke renounces the traditional strict codes of his class by participating in the murder of a samurai superior and then going on the run after finding out that he was simply a stooge in a local power struggle - to be used, betrayed, and abandoned. The asymmetry of hierarchical societies is a central theme, with absolute obedience expected from vassals while lords are free to be as capricious as they wish, owing neither loyalty nor honesty to those serving them. Typical of Hedeo Gosha's early films, 'Sword of Beast' paints a fairly bleak picture of human nature but ends on a relatively upbeat note (amidst the carnage) as the characters realise that loyalty and respect is earned, not inherited. The Criterion Collection version recently shown on TCM showcases the film's excellent cinematography and is nicely subtitled in English. Recommended.
- Nov 12, 2021
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