Wednesday, March 03, 2010
In this classic tale of revenge, lone samurai Magobei Wakizaka (Tatsuya Nakadai) squares off against the murderous clan he turned his back on to save innocent lives. Tasked with protecting a massacre's sole survivor, Magobei must go mano a mano with the band's nefarious leader (Tetsuro Tamba) -- who happens to be his brother-in-law. This Japanese martial arts flick holds the distinction of being the first of its kind to be filmed in Panavision.
This is a great, great film. It was released in 1969 and stars maybe my favorite Japanese samurai film actor in Tatsuya Nakadai. The story goes that a financially troubled clan during the Tokugawa Shogunate schemes to steal the shogun’s gold from one of his ships passing by their remote domain. In order to cover up the loss of the gold, the clan chief orders the murder of all the locals in a small village who witnessed the theft of the gold. Magobei, who is horrified by the evil act of his clan, flees to Edo (Tokyo) to become a ronin (masterless samurai). A few years later Magobei must fight off several assassins. It was then that he learned they were sent by his clan to silence him. He also learns that his clan is plotting another theft of the shogun’s gold and that they planned to massacre more innocent peasants in order to frame them for the theft. It is then that Magobei realizes he must stop the clan’s evil leader.
Nakadai is an incredible actor. I love his demeanor and how he speaks and he has by far the best sword fight scenes of any samurai movie (the best ever being from the movie Hara-Kiri or Seppuku). And as expected, the fight scenes in this movie are awesome, especially the final duel. The visual scenes in this film were incredible. Much of it filmed in the beautiful snowy landscape alongside a rugged coastline. This is where the awesome final battle takes place. The final battle is backed up by two taiko drummers with the most awesome beat. I replayed that scene several times just to listen to the incredible drumming. This is one of my favorite Nakadai movies, behind probably the best samurai movie of all time Hara-Kiri (Seppuku) which is right behind my favorite Seven Samurai.