Daibutsu, Kamakura

Daibutsu, Kamakura
Daibutsu in Kamakura, June 2010. There were thousands of school kids visiting that day. It was still great fun.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Sword of the Beast

Legendary swordplay filmmaker Hideo Gosha's Sword of the Beast chronicles the flight of the low-level swordsman Gennosuke, who kills one the chief counselor of the clan as part of a reform plot. His former comrades then turn on him, and this betrayal so shakes his sense of honor that he decides to live in the wild, like an animal. There he joins up with a motley group who are illegally mining the shogun's gold, and, with the aid of another swordsman, gets a chance not just at survival but to recover his name and honor.

There is a lot of story to tell in this relatively short 1965 black-and-white film, only 85 minutes, but it is the classic jidai-geki. It takes place in the turbulent 1850s as the Shogunate nears its end and corruption in the clans is rampant. This is a cynical samurai film about how the clans have become more corrupt and how the lower samurai are used and exploited.

Gennosuke, a low ranking samurai, who thought he was doing his duty to accelerate reform in his clan, was actually being used and manipulated. He escapes to the mountains to give up the samurai life and live like a beast and there he meets a prospector searching for gold. It is here that he encounters another samurai, Yamane, who is prospecting for gold to support his clan. It is also where the daughter of the man that Gennosuke murdered and her samurai fiance track him for revenge. This is where the story has many twists and turns as Yamane also is unwittingly being used and manipulated by his clan. Gennosuke attempts to convince Yamane of the danger of placing too much blind loyalty in his clan.

The movie moves fast and includes views of Gennosuke's past through flashbacks which help explain the story. The ending is very abrupt which left me thinking there was more to be told. The film is full of beautiful photography of the outdoors where most of the film takes place and includes plenty of good sword action so it is a worthy film to see.


  1. The scenery of the Japanese movies is always enjoyable to watch.

  2. I agree. They can be equated to the cowboy westerns from the 50s and 60s that were shot in some amazing locations as well such as the Grand Tetons or the mountains of Eastern California.

    I love the natural scenery of Japanese samurai movies as well as the old traditional villages such as that in Seven Samurai. The Last Samurai was also filmed in some beautiful locations.

  3. I've heard that you can can take tours of New Zealand that include either the samurai village in LS or Frodo's village from TLOTRs.

    I haven't seen this one yet, I have had it on my Netflix cue for a while. Should get to it any time now. Glad to hear its a keeper.

    Just watched Premonition a second time in keeping with Halloween... The Japanese sure do know how to make a good horror movie!

  4. Premonition - I haven't seen that one. I'll have to check it out.