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Daisatsujin orochi / The Betrayal

Daisatsujin orochi / The Betrayal (1966)

Raizo looks pissed, which is never good news for bad guys

Director: Tanaka Tokuzo
Writers: Hoshikawa Seiji
Date: 1966

Genre: Jidaigeki, Chambara
Description: Samurai life sucks, corrupt officials, traitors and backstabbers, a hard life

Cast: Ichikawa Raizo, Yuchigusa Kaoru, Fujimura Shiho, Nakaya Ichiro, Naito Taketoshi

Crew of note: Music by Ifukube Akira

Runtime: 88 mins.
Color: Black and White
Trivia: This is a remake of Futagawa Buntaro’s “Orochi” originally starring Bando Tsumasaburo back in 1925.

summary
A samurai enters the Minazuki clan’s school of Issaka Yaichiro to challenge the master to a fight, but he is currently away. Kobuse Takuma (Raizo) receives him, and the samurai, from the Iwashiro Clan, calls him into a duel. Kobuse refuses, and the samurai leaves. On his way home, however, he is followed by two members of the Minazuki clan and is slayed from behind.* His clan discovers his murder, and calls for the perpetrator to be arrested and punished, whoever he may be. A Minazuki clan official, Kobuse’s soon to be father-in-law, proposes a solution/cover-up: Kobuse should take the blame and disappear for a year while he tries to iron things out. Obviously, this doesn’t work out.

review
Dude, being a samurai sucks balls. I think there have been enough movies to prove this point. For some reason, movies about how samurai life was terrible seem to be of higher quality, of greater interest, indeed, are usually better than movies about cool and badass samurai. I’m looking at you Ogami Itto (you’re still cool though).

Daisatsujin orochi is a remake of one of the original movies with that premise, the similarly named Orochi** from 1925. The stories are pretty similar (though not exactly the same especially the ending), but seeing both is by no means redundant. In fact, seeing the two versions is probably more enjoyable than seeing just one.

So see it. Daisatsujin orochi isn’t a very famous film, and that’s unfortunate. It has a good story, great acting, beautiful black and white cinematography (using a lot of somewhat unconventional shots, maybe you’ll notice), and music by Ifukube (which means it’ll be great, you know). A good movie, until about an hour or so. I’m just too lazy to explain. Then BAM! Raizo draws his sword and the inevitable final showdown begins. And, it’s pretty amazing.

The climax of the film is one of the most detailed, well planned and well executed ones I have ever seen. The integration of a variety of props (a water well and bucket, ladders, wooden boards, carts, ropes, different kinds of weapons), the use of superb still shots (the one where Raizo moves under a wooden railing, watch for it), Raizo’s swordfighting worthy of Bantsuma’s legendary status, etc are all pretty awesome. Long drawn-out fights usually tend to become redundant after a while, especially when the hero seems to never tire, but here, after wave upon wave of assailants, Raizo deteriorates, starting on his feet and eventually rolling around in the dirt. He becomes thirsty, his hair disheveled, his hand tense and uncooperative, his body exhausted and his face in agony. It’s not only a fight, it is a transformation, an epiphany for Kobuse.

Warrior vs Snake painting

My computer refuses to make screencaps or I'm just very very lazy

conclusion
A majority of chambara fans (especially those who love samurai for their “exoticism”) probably just watch for the slicing-and-dicing, and really don’t care about the nuances of culture and history. This is a film that can be appreciated by that lot, and also by those who have a more serious, more academic interest in samurai life on film. How this isn’t as famous as some other chambara from the 60s is beyond me, because this is clearly one of the best. Maybe even Raizo’s best performance.

things to take note of
Amazing climax
Similarities with Orochi (1925)
The realism and detail of the climax, and Raizo’s acting
The importance of pride (Denshichiro’s resolution)
Some amazing shots in there too
Ifukube’s subtle but brilliant score

best moment
The climactic super-fight obviously

why you should watch this
A great remake of a classic chambara
I lost count of how many people Raizo ends up killing
These “samurai life sucks dude” movies are always interesting

rating: 8.7

scorecard
Plot: B
Cast: B+
Cinematography: A
Music: B+
Entertainment: A

similar movies, maybe:
Orochi (1925), obviously.
Other “samurai life sucks dude” movies such as Harakiri, Joi-uchi: Hairyo tsuma shimatsu, etc.

* It is deemed cowardly to attack a samurai from behind or without his knowledge. This is pretty much the reason why in most one-vs-many battles the assailants behind the lone samurai are simply standing around. Without properly engaging and acknowledging each other in combat, it’s considered plain murder and not a duel or a legitimate fight. So, you know, they aren’t standing around coz they’re idiots. They’re actually following bushido.

** Since I’m unlikely to write a whole review for Orochi (it’s included in a feature about classic chambara though), I’ll squeeze in a little trivia here. The title sort of doesn’t make sense (orochi means snake or serpent) without an explanation. Originally, the title of the film was supposed to be something like “Outlaw” or “Rebel”, but Japanese censors refused to allow an anti-government, anti-establishment outlaw to be considered a hero. Futagawa decided to give the film its name to describe how Bantsuma moves (slithering and sliding) like a snake, and how even in death a serpent still looks pretty menacing. This is according to renowned film historian Sato Tadao, so I’m not pulling this outta my ass. Also, I’m the one who added this trivia on imdb.

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Jidaigeki is a huge genre. It’s the Japanese genre film, and from the beginning of their cinema all the way up to the 70s, made up a significant portion of movie releases in the country. Everyone knows about Shichinin no samurai and Seppuku, and a lot of people already know about Goyokin and Inagaki Hiroshi’s epics. But there are still tons of treasures to be found, and well, I consider it my personal mission to try and see every jidaigeki and chambara still extant and available. Crazy, yes. Fun, definitely.

Here are five for your enjoyment:

Sengoku gunto-den / Saga of the Vagabonds (1959)

Possibly the worst samurai movie poster I have ever seen

Sengoku gunto-den / Saga of the Vagabonds (1959)
Director: Sugie Toshio
Cast: Mifune Toshiro, Tsuruta Koji, Tsukasa Yoko, Uehara Misa, Chiaki Minoru, Hirata Akihiko, Shimura Takashi

Summary:
Mifune plays Rokuro, a famous thief/outlaw out to make a buck. He meets Jibu (Chiaki), a local bandit leader and his men when they hear about a shipment of gold being escorted by Lord Taro to an influential warlord. They join forces to make with the gold, but Rokuro outwits Jibu and steals the gold himself. Taro, disgraced by the loss of his cargo, sets out to recover it, but his scheming brother (and his adviser) blackmails him and casts him as the perpetrator. Serendipitously, Rokuro and Taro meet in a bar one day, and Rokuro, inspired by Taro’s good and honorable nature, vows to help him return the gold that he had stolen and right the wrongs caused by his theft.

The Good Stuff:
– Chiaki Minoru as a horny and always outwitted bandit leader
– Robin-Hood-esque hero in Taro and Rokuro
– Kurosawa Akira co-wrote the script
– Mifune being very Mifune

The Best Stuff:
– Somewhat long for a jidaigeki at two hours, but with a long and eventful plot, lots of important characters and a pretty good conflict, is always exciting and fun.

O-Edo shichininshu / Seven from Edo (1958)

A Tokugawa era high school yearbook?

O-Edo shichininshu / Seven from Edo (1958)
Director: Sadatsugu Matsuda
Cast: Ichikawa Utaemon, Azuma Chiyonosuke, Okawa Hashizo, Fushimi Sentaro, Otomo Ryutaro, Satomi Kotaro, cameo by Shimura Takashi

Summary:
Utaemon stars as Katsukawa, a low ranking samurai famous for his righteousness and penchant for butting into other people’s business. When he discovers that one of his superiors, Lord Tatewaki, is trying to unscrupulously gain more territory, he calls on his loyal comrades to to help him reveal the plot and stop it.

The Good Stuff:
– Every website with a summary uses the exact same summary for some reason. Actually this is kinda irrelevant?
– The eponymous seven are all unique and distinguishable characters

The Best Stuff:
– Utaemon being all hero-y as usual!

Yoi-dore musoken / Drunken Sword (1962)

Actually, Rodney Dangerfield sounds like a pretty badass name (see comment below)

Yoi-dore musoken / Drunken Sword (1962)
Director: Sawashima Tadashi
Cast: Ichikawa Utaemon, Satomi Kotaro, Konoe Jushiro, Azuma Chiyonosuke, Sakuramachi Hiroko, Okochi Denjiro

Summary:
Tetsunosuke (Ichikawa) is a doctor-samurai who also owns a fencing school (weird?). Actually, he’s also somewhat of a crackpot doctor, who charges almost nothing for consultations and home remedies. This starts to piss off the other local doctors, who conspire with rotten yakuza who have also had run-ins with Tetsunosuke in hopes of getting rid of him. Obviously, this being an Ichikawa Utaemon film, he’s just too smart and too good to be beat.

The Good Stuff:
– There’s actually a lesson in here too, which we learn along with his assistant
– Doctors plotting with yakuza against another doctor. I don’t think this has ever happened before?

The Best Stuff:
– Utaemon in latter years, especially in comedic roles, reminds me of a samurai version of Rodney Dangerfield. This makes absolutely no sense at all.
– Lots of action, and with no one to help him, Utaemon usually has to take on multiple enemies

Kaii Utsunomiya tsuritenjo / The Ceiling at Utsunomiya (1956)

Dear Cover Model,
Looking creepy =/= good spy technique

Kaii Utsunomiya tsuritenjo / The Ceiling at Utsunomiya (1956)
Director: Nakagawa Nobuo
Cast: Ogasawara Hiroshi, Tamba Tetsuro, Tsukushi Akemi, Egawa Ureo, Mishima Masao, Numata Yoichi, Sugiyama Hirotaro

Summary:
Tokugawa Iemitsu is in power, but certain daimyo on the side of Tadanaga want him dead so that his younger brother can ascend to Shogun. Iemitsu is currently on his way to Toshogu Shrine in Nikko (a beautiful place that everyone should go to), and of course, a foul plot is afoot. In order to reach Nikko, Iemitsu must pass through utsunomiya, and Chamberlain Kawamura and his daimyo are plotting to assassinate the shogun. Here they are constructing a lavish castle, and conscript local artisans and carpenters to do the job. It looks like everything’s going according to plan, but Ryutaro, a shogunate spy sent to check on affairs in Utsunomiya, gets wind of the plot (after getting tangled up in his own affairs). Now he must figure out what the plan really is, how the Utsunomiya will do it, and how he can stop it.

The Good Stuff:
– Lots of interesting an unconventional (for chambara anyway) plot twists
– The first time Nakagawa introduces something ghostly, I think?
– A hilarious palanquin chase
– Interesting history lesson

The Best Stuff:
– Amazing! messy final battle inside the castle

Hakuoki / Samurai Vendetta (1959)

Based on this cover, the girl should be at most 4'2. She's not; did the postermaker think having a tiny love interest is more exciting?

Hakuoki / Samurai Vendetta (1959)
Director: Mori Kazuo
Cast: Ichikawa Raizo, Katsu Shintaro, Maki Chitose, Kagawa Ryosuke, etc.

Summary:
Yasubei (Katsu) bumps into an official of the Asano clan while stumbling on his way to a fight between his fencing school and its rival. Tange (Ichikawa) witnesses the fight (it turns out some of his clansmen are involved), but decides not to intervene, impressed with Yasubei’s skill and character. In order to settle the matter, the two schools decide to each expell their best student, Yasubei because of his involvement, and Tange because of his passivity. They continue to meet in strange circumstances–for a young woman, during an avenging, etc.–and become friends, but eventually, they join the opposing factions involved in the 47 Ronin tale, Yasubei with Asano and Tange with Kira. Love triangles, rumors, avengings, and swordfights ensue.

The Good Stuff:
– Script was written by Ito Daisuke
– Katsushin and Raizo together again
– Semi-accurate historical account of Nakayama Yasubei, member of the famous 47 Ronin

The Best Stuff:
– Raizo with one arm and a bum leg takes on a bunch of avenging samurai
– Great story and character interaction between Katsu and Raizo

Ooe-yama Shuten-dôji / Demon of Mt. Oe

Ooe-yama Shuten-dôji / Demon of Mt. Oe (1960)

As usual these old covers make absolutely no sense to me

Director: Tanaka Tokuzo
Writers: Kawaguchi Matsutaro, Yahiro Fuji
Date: 1960

Genre: Jidaigeki, Kaiju eiga
Description: Demon mountain, Minamoto no Yorimitsu and the gang, protecting the people, fight against bandits, funny monster

Cast: Ichikawa Raizo, Hasegawa Kazuo, Katsu Shintaro, Hongo Kojiro, Nakamura Ganjiro, Nakamura Yutaka, Yamamoto Fujiko, Hidari Sachiko, Hayashi Narutoshi, Shimada Ryuzu

Crew of note:

Runtime: 115 mins.
Color: Color
Trivia:

summary
Minamoto no Yorimitsu (or Raiko for short) and his fantastic four must stop Shuten-dôji and his crazy bandits and sorcerers (including a Tsuchigumo, or spider demon) from their evil plan of overthrowing the Mikado (the emperor and his empire) and stealing all their chicks.

review

Rundown of characters!
=The Good Guys=
Minamoto no Yorimitsu – Played By Raizo; famous military general of the Fujiwara, subject of many stories and legends; badass
Watanabe no Tsuna – Played by Shintaro; one of the Four Guardian Kings; uses a sword and bow; likes flirting with demons
Sakata no Kintoki – Played by Hongo Kojiro; one of the Four Guardian Kings; uses a battle axe; mountain man extraordinaire
Urabe no Suetake and Usui Sadamitsu – The two other Guardian Kings who aren’t featured as much in the film–sorry dudes

=The Bad Guys=
Shuten-dôji – Played by Hasegawa Kazuo; formerly known as Bizen; leader of the Mt. Oe bandits; hates the Mikado; wears a funky wig
Ibaraki-dôji – Lady vixen sorceress who turns into a really ugly demon-woman. Major turn-off.
Tsuchigomo – A creepy sorcerer who throws string to tie people up; turns into a giant spider when pissed off
A dude that turns into a giant bull, forgot his name; has bad breath
Lots of bandits with bad hair?

For more info (and spoilers): This website has a pretty detailed story or just use wikipedia?

Movies based on famous plays/novels and history always create a special spectacle especially when they involve legendary characters. Few are more famous than Minamoto no Yorimitsu and his Four Guardian Kings. For the most part, the film follows the legend very well, from Ibaraki-dôji’s encounter with Tsuna, down to the final plan Minamoto no Yorimitsu hatches in order to defeat the bandits. However, Tanaka chooses to sympathize with Shuten-dôji and gives him ample screen time (well they should considering how much they probably paid Hasegawa). They develop his character and his reason for becoming the leader of the bandits, and from the opening scene we can see Tanaka’s condemnation of the abusive Mikado. Sure, Raiko and the gang are the heroes of the film, and they’re on the Mikado’s side, but the Mikado is portrayed as, perhaps, the greater evil here. This humanization of the the villain leads to a more interesting conflict, and certainly a more interesting final showdown (which of course is always inevitable).

The main spectacle here, of course, is the idea of putting two cool things together and making them kill each other: samurai and monsters + bandits. A large battle in the mountains with hundreds of extras, elaborate sets, flaming giant rocks, a giant spider, a giant bull, bandits with terrible hair, cool battle armor, a glowing sword, and cheezy 60’s special effects are just some of the things you’ll see in this extravaganza. They certainly went all-out in trying to recreate the legend, and for the most part the movie succeeds. It does not encumber itself with life lessons and overt political nonsense and never tries to be anything more than a retelling of this memorable tale.

conclusion
If you like samurai, history/literature lessons, and 60’s monster movies, this has it all. With a superb cast of superstars and an interesting interpretation of the famous legend, Demon of Mt. Oe is both educational and fun. Always a good combination if you ask me.

things to take note of
The funny yokai/monsters
The all-star cast

best moment
Raizo vs. Kazuo
Hongo Kojiro heaves his battle axe
Samurai vs Giant Spider

why you should watch this
An all star cast of jidaigeki STARS (not just regulars)
Learning about Japanese culture/folklore is always fun when supplied by movies

rating: 8.1

scorecard
Plot: B
Cast: B
Cinematography: B
Music: C+
Entertainment: B+

similar movies, maybe:
Honestly haven’t watched many Kaiju-jidaigeki

genres

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