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That’s right, period films, but about yakuza. I wasn’t sure if there was a particular term for it, so yeah, I guess I’ll stick with that.

Kunisada Chuji / 国定忠治 / Chuji the Gambler (1960)

Like Kozure Okami, minus the babycart machinegun?

Kunisada Chuji / 国定忠治 / Chuji the Gambler (1960)
Director: Taniguchi Senkichi
Cast: Mifune Toshirô , Katô Daisuke, Aratama Michiyo, Natsuki Yosuke, Fujita Susumu, Tôno Eijirô, Tanba Tetsurô

Summary:
Chuji the gambler comes home to find the village, and his family, deep in suffering because of corrupt official Jubei. Unable to take any more abuse, the villagers, along with Chuji, revolt against the magistrate to take back their village and get revenge for their suffering.

The Good Stuff:
– Mifune being Mifune, but there are times when he’s just too Mifune for the character
– The script is by Shindô Kaneto, and the score by Satô Masaru, so you know it’s not your average movie

The Best Stuff:
– Refuses to glorify the yakuza/gambler lifestyle and gives a very balanced portrayal of Chuji, often a do-no-wrong folkhero
– Many of the scenes are at night, adding to the film’s darker tone

Matatabi sannin yakuza / 股旅三人やくざ / Three Yakuza (1965)

Face size proportionate to fame? Maybe not but they sure neglected Matsukata

Matatabi sannin yakuza / 股旅三人やくざ / Three Yakuza (1965)
Director: Sawashima Tadashi
Cast: Nakadai Tatsuya, Matsukata Hiroki, Shimura Takashi, Nakamura Kinnosuke, Tanaka Kunie, Fuji Sumiko

Summary:
1 – Nakadai is Sentaro, a yakuza wanted for murder, who finds himself under the protection and employment of a local yakuza boss. He is tasked with protecting a young prostitute from being rescued by her lover. Sentaro’s kind heart and conscience, however, cause him to feel conflicted.
2 – Genta (Matsukata) and Bunzo (Shimura) meet outside a gambling den. Genta helps Bunzo escape after getting caught cheating at the tables. They eventually find themselves in a small house occupied by Omiyo (Fuji), where the past is revealed.
3 – Nakamura is Kaze-no-Kyutaro, a seemingly world-weary, badass yakuza, who is hired by a small village to protect them from an evil government official taxing the town into the ground. This yakuza, however, isn’t the kind of person he says he is.

The Good Stuff:
– Yakuza action!
– Nakamura is hilarious in this one, one of his least “cool” characters

The Best Stuff:
– Three yakuza stories, three great leading men
– Three different characters that could have had an entire movie made for them
– Probably Sawashima Tadashi’s best film?

Hitori okami / 一人狼 / Lone Wolf Isazo (1968)

Put a mask on Raizo and he almost looks like Batman 0_0

Hitori okami / 一人狼 / Lone Wolf Isazo (1968)
Director: Ikehiro Kazuo
Cast: Ichikawa Raizô, Ogawa Mayumi, Iwasaki Kaneko, Nagato Isamu

Summary:
Isazo is a famous yakuza man traveling around as usual (he even gets an intro song). One day he meets a boy whose mother is revealed to be Isazo’s old lover. His once carefree and guiltless life suddenly changes as he finally decides to right some wrongs and follow the Yakuza code.

The Good Stuff:
– Interesting yakuza > samurai message
– Isazo is a pretty down-to-earth Yakuza, surprisingly!

The Best Stuff:
– Hard to imagine anyone but Raizô playing this role
– Great heroic climax

Kogarashi Monjiro / 木枯し悶次郎 / The Withered Tree (1972)

That bottom-most picture... yeah I can't make sense of it either

Kogarashi Monjiro / 木枯し悶次郎 / The Withered Tree (1972)
Director: Nakajima Sadao
Cast: Sugawara Bunta, Ibuki Goro, Watase Tsunehiko, Yamamoto Rinichi, Koike Asao, Enani Kyoko, Sasazawa Saho

Summary:
Kogarashi Monjiro is framed for a crime he did not commit, and is sent into exile on a deserted island along with other criminals. He spends his days pining for revenge, until one day, a chance to escape arrives. He takes it, along with a few of his fellow criminals, and returns to the mainland. There is only one thing on his mind: revenge.

The Good Stuff:
– Kinda reminds me of Mikogami no Jokichi, but Sugawara Bunta is way more badass than Harada Yoshio
– The exiled part of the story could have been more interesting

The Best Stuff:
– I like Sugawara’s sword style–simple, believable, and effective
– Sugawara Bunta as a yakuza is awesome, and you should already be aware of this by now

Mushuku mono / 無宿者 / Drifting Crow (1964)

Disclaimer: Movie does not feature a nude beach (lower right)

Mushuku mono / 無宿者 / Drifting Crow (1964)
Director: Misumi Kenji
Cast: Ichikawa Raizô, Ishiyama Kenjiro, Abe Tôru, Taki Eiko, Tsubouchi Mikiko, Sawamura Sonosuke, Mizuhara Koichi, Taki Keiichi, Fujimaki Jun

Summary:
Ipponmatsu goes on a journey to find his father’s killer. On the way he meets Kuroki, a samurai on a similar journey to find his father who disappeared 5 years ago after escorting a caravan that was robbed of 4,000 ryo. Ipponmatsu suspects Kuroki’s father of being his own father’s killer, but now they must work together to reveal the plot behind boss Sanshu-ya, the mysterious Shima-ya, and the even more mysterious person behind them.

The Good Stuff:
– Good murder mystery and plot twist
– Misumi Kenji knows how to shoot action sequences (if you don’t know this already!), so you know this will be a treat

The Best Stuff:
– The relationship between Ipponmatsu and Kuroki is fairly complex and nuanced
– Fights in the village are awesome

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Same concept, slightly different genre!

Jushichinin no ninja / 十七人の忍者 / Seventeen Ninja (1963)

Obiously, the other 11 aren't important enough for the cover

Jushichinin no ninja / 十七人の忍者 / Seventeen Ninja (1963)
Director: Hasegawa Yasuto
Cast: Kotaro Satomi, Otomo Ryutaro, Konoe Jushiro, Azuma Chiyonosuke, Matsukata Hiroki

Summary:
A band of ninja led by Jingoza (Otomo), must steal a scroll detailing Tokugawa Tadanaga’s plot to take the throne. However, they must deal with ninja master Saiga Magokuro (Konoe), who must protect the scroll, and Tadanaga, at all costs.

The Good Stuff:
– 17 + 1 ninja. The more ninjas the better?
– A bunch of cool ninja moves and gadgets, though not as many as the Shinobi no mono series
– Azuma plays a Tokugawa once again. I wonder why.

The Best Stuff:
– Otomo, Kotaro, Konoe. That’s a pretty cool lineup.
– Revisionist history / hypothetical possible history movies are always interesting

Ninjutsu gozen-jiai / 忍術御前試合 / Torawakamaru (1957)

They just really don't like spiders I guess

Ninjutsu gozen-jiai / 忍術御前試合 / Torawakamaru (1957)
Director: Sawashima Tadashi
Cast: Arima Koji, Fushimi Sentaro, Hori Masao, Ôkôchi Denjirô, Tsukigata Ryonosuke

Summary:
Ninja clans fight with each other. Yes, that’s about it. By the way, this is a kiddie film.

The Good Stuff:
– Magic? I guess some people like that

The Best Stuff:
– Some nice swordfights and creative ideas, that will later be realized in the sort of the same but not quite the same (actually I’ve no idea why I’m making this comparison other than the presence of a giant frog and snakedragonthing) movie, Kairyu daikessen
– You don’t need a brain or an attention span to enjoy this film yay!

Ninja hicho fukuro no shiro / オリジナルネーム / Castle of Owls (1963)

Oddly, there are more ninjas on this cover than on Jushichinin no ninja's.

Ninja hicho fukuro no shiro / 忍者秘著梟の城 / Castle of Owls (1963)
Director: Kudo Eiichi
Cast: Otomo Ryutaro, Ohki Minoru, Kawarazaki Choichiro, Takichiho Hizaru, Mishima Masao

Summary:
The Iga ninjas are a dying breed as Toyotomi’s rule allows Japan to experience some peace. Juzo, an Iga ninja who had vowed revenge for the death of his family, is hired by a rich weapons merchant to assassinate Toyotomi, restarting his quest for blood. In his way are rival ninja, and his once best friend who has decided to become a government vassal.

The Good Stuff:
– Lots of ninja action, with jumps, tumbling and lots of thrown sharpthingies

The Best Stuff:
– Kudo is known for having very well shot movies, and this is no exception
– Great use of depth of field in forests
– Distanced shots of fights
– That low angle with the candles in the temple–you’ll see

Ninja gari / 忍者狩り / Ninja Hunt (1964)

Konoe Jushiro: Born to play the villain. Except he doesn't in this one.

Ninja gari / 忍者狩り / Ninja Hunt (1964)
Director: Yamauchi Tetsuya
Cast: Konoe Jushiro, Yamashiro Shingo, Sato Kei, Tamura Takahiro

Summary:
The Gamo clan hire Wadakura, Shinzo, Hachi and Yajiro to protect their clan from the Koga ninja and their Shogunate masters. As the Gamo clan daimyo nears death, the Shogunate sends a letter to allow a legitimate heir to succeed him. The shogunate, however, also sends their ninjas to destroy the proclamation to allow them to abolish the clan. The four ninja hunters, who once belonged to clans that suffered similar fates, will stop at nothing to get revenge on the Koga and their leader, Yami-no-Kurando.

The Good Stuff:
– Konoe is so evil even as the protagonist
– Interesting and realistic (that is, not overly cool) final battle

The Best Stuff:
– Quite a bit of blood and brutality
– Cheezy synthy soundtrack surprisingly works!
– Lots of plots and counterplots

Yoja no maden / 妖蛇の魔殿 / Ninja's Weapon (1956)

Kataoka Chiezo as a 22 year old when he was 53. Seriously.

Yoja no maden / 妖蛇の魔殿 / Ninja’s Weapon (1956)
Director: Matsuda Sadatsugu
Cast: Kataoka Chiezo, Tsukigata Ryonosuke, Yamagata Isao, Hasegawa Yumiko

Summary:
Ogata Taromaru’s family is slain by the corrupt and evil Sarashina Danjo. For 10 years he trains to become a ninja, and finally sets out to extract his revenge on those that have harmed his family. On the way, he meets a youth named Tsukikage Hamanosuke, who also bears a grudge against Danjo. On their travel together they also meet Orochimaru, a mysterious ninja who seems interested in their affairs. They head for Kyoto, where Danjo now resides, to get revenge.

The Good Stuff:
– Matsuda Sadatsugu is a reliable name for chambara and action movies
– Straight up action film unencumbered by a complicated plot
– Fights are more samurai than ninja

The Best Stuff:
– A somewhat (I stress somewhat) youthful Kataoka Chiezo playing a 22 year old is HILARIOUS
– Possibly one of Yamagata Isao’s most hilarious death faces (he dies a lot you know)

And I’m back with a new installment of this uninformative, yet space filling series!

Kisaragi musô ken / きさらぎ無双剣 / Kisaragi Sword (1962)

Jidaigeki trading cards? Sounds like a great idea!

Kisaragi musô ken / きさらぎ無双剣 / Kisaragi Sword (1962)
Director: Sasaki Yasushi
Cast: Ichikawa Utaemon, Kotaro Satomi, Matsukata Hiroki, Wakayama Tomisaburo, Konoe Jushiro, Azuma Chiyonosuke, Yamagata Isao, Arima Koji, Hori Masao

Summary:
Rindo Tsukinosuke is a secret agent of mysterious origin. Sakon Takada is a booze loving Hatamoto. Itsuzume-kozo is a sneaky yakuza-ninja-hybrid who has just gotten out of jail. Hayatomasa Tachibana is a nice-guy samurai fencing master. These four dudes work together to crack a plot to overthrow the shogun.

The Good Stuff:
– An eventful story, unique enough not to be redundant

The Best Stuff:
– Holy crap that’s one crazy lineup!
– Mister Utaemon being all Ichikawa Utaemon on everyone
– A great controlled final fight scene with the top 5 stars in it

Shokin kasegi / 賞金稼ぎ / Killer's Mission (1969)

Wakayama Tomisaburo, the chubby mustachiod sword swinging wonder

Shokin kasegi / 賞金稼ぎ / Killer’s Mission (1969)
Director: Ozawa Shigehiro
Cast: Wakayama Tomisaburo, Kataoka Chiezo, Tsuruta Koji, Amatsu Bin

Summary:
Ichiro (Wakayama) is a Tokugawa spy sent to Satsuma to foil the clan’s plot to start a war and overthrow the Shogunate. The Satsuma are trying to smuggle in new guns that would give them an advantage in battle, but Ichiro, probably the James Bond of his day, is up to the task.

The Good Stuff:
– Wakayama parodies Zatoichi (played by his brother, Katsu Shintaro) in a couple of scenes
– A little bit of history in this one, although.. uhh.. not much unless you feel like researching

The Best Stuff:
– Wakayama in his chubby days with a noticeable and distinctive mustache!
– Lots of people getting chopped to bits

Adauchi / 仇討 / Revenge (1964)

He's not gonna get away running like that

Adauchi / 仇討 / Revenge (1964)
Director: Imai Tadashi
Cast: Nakamura Kinnosuke, Tamba Tetsurô, Mishima Masao, Shindô Eitarô

Summary:
Ezaki Shinpei is a lowly samurai retainer involved in the maintenance of the clan’s gear. One day, Magodayu, a government inspector, insults the cleanliness of the clan’s spears, and Ezaki rebukes him, earning his ire. Magodayu challenges him to a duel, and Ezaki duly dispatches of the inspector. Unfortunately, Ezaki’s low status betrays him.

The Good Stuff:
– Lots of leftist criticism about the government and tradition if you’re into that sort of thing
– Nakamura tries to be all Nakadai-ish

The Best Stuff:
– The focus on brotherhood and inheritance is a unique angle
– Great wiiiiiide picture

Tengu-to / 天狗党 / Blood End (1969)

Eventually you'll start to feel like Tamba Tetsuro is behind every chambara plot, EVER

Tengu-to / 天狗党 / Blood End (1969)
Director: Yamamoto Satsuo
Cast: Nakadai Tatsuya, Wakao Ayako, Kato Go, Nakamura Kanemon,

Summary:
Small-time farmer Sentaro learns how to use a sword and joins the Mito tengu group. It doesn’t take long, however, for Sentaro to become disillusioned with the Mito tengu and their increasingly political nature. Politics sucks, and the ideologies that back them are even worse, he soon discovers.

The Good Stuff:
– Imperialist/revolutionary ideological dichotomy explored more than in other films

The Best Stuff:
– Probably one of the most politically focused jidaigeki I’ve seen
– Political soliloquys?! Yeah really. And a lot of them. Only great if you like that stuff, I guess!

Obozu tengu / お坊主天狗 / Demon Priest (1962)

In this film: samurai. Not in this film: demons, priests, nor demon priests. Good job with the title boys

Obozu tengu / お坊主天狗 / Demon Priest (1962)
Director: Yasushi Sasaki
Cast: Kataoka Chiezo, Okawa Hashizo, Otomo Ryutaro, Misora Hibari, Yamagata Isao, Mishima Masao, Shindô Eitarô

Summary:
Okay, honestly I don’t remember what happened in this movie. All I remember is Kichisaburo (Kataoka) wants revenge against Honda (Mishima), Kosome (Misora) wants revenge on Tokaiya (Shindô), and Shinzaburo (Okawa) is an eccentric sword expert. The title honestly doesn’t make sense, too.

The Good Stuff:
– Misora Hibari as a girl for a change
– Lots of revengings to go around

The Best Stuff:
– Okawa Hashizo as an eccentric sword expert is hilarious for some reason
– Kataoka Chiezo is always, always a character you cheer for

Another installment of this feature. 5 movies that aren’t that popular or well known, but still very enjoyable. Have fun?

Okita Sôji (1974)

I refuse to call him Soshi, which sounds like a cross between a slushy and sushi.

Okita Sôji (1974)
Director: Deme Masanobu
Cast: Kusaraki Masao, Takahashi Yukihiro, Komatsu Hosei, Takahashi Koji, Oki Masanobu, etc

Summary:
Who doesn’t know Okita Soji? This story basically follows Soji from his humble beginnings as a country samurai all the way up to the Shinsengumi’s rise and fall. In only 90 minutes. So it’s sort of a visual history review for Okita Soji 101.

The Good Stuff:
– One of the funnier and more laid back version of the Shinsengumi story
– A decent summary of Okita Soji’s life, if you’re interested

The Best Stuff:
– For some reason, Kusakari looks like the most authentic Okita Soji I’ve seen.

Tange Sazen and the Pot Worth a Million Ryo / Ken fu! Hyakumanryo no tsubo (1982)

Nakadai's patented sleazy look, which he maybe should have used more often

Tange Sazen and the Pot Worth a Million Ryo / Ken fu! Hyakumanryo no tsubo (1982)
Director: Gosha Hideo
Cast: Nakadai Tatsuya, Natsuyagi Isao, Nishimura Ko, Matsuo Kayo, Masako Natsume, Sakurai Minoru, Ikkaku Kazano, Watabe Tsutomu

Summary:
Sazen is a retainer for the Yagyu clan. One day, his boss tells him he must get rid of a known spy, who turns out to be his best friend and rival for a girl’s love. He accepts the mission, but he hesitates though, and duly gets his arm chopped off. After dispatching of the traitor, the Yagyu appear to get rid of the only witness, Sazen himself. He is able to escape, losing an eye in the process, and disappears. Years later, the Yagyu are ordered by court officials hoping to seize their land to do repairs for a large temple which would effectively bankrupt them. Luckily, they have the Million Ryo pot. They set out to retrieve it, only to be discovered by rival ninjas. This leads to a battle in the forest where, lo and behold, they bump into a one armed, one eyed samurai living in the middle of the forest in a tent named Tange Sazen. He is able to get hold of the Pot, and, well, lots of fights, intrigue, and theft ensue.

The Good Stuff:
– Nakadai’s make up is hilarious
– Lots of fights!
– One of the darker portrayals of Tange Sazen, and Nakadai is soooo sleazy it’s hilarious

The Best Stuff:
– Nakadai’s stance, movement and sword style (it’s interesting to see how his sword styles always adapt to his character)
– Nakadai vs Natsuyagi (a favorite chambara regular of mine)

Amakusa shiro tokisada / The Rebel (1962)

The people in the back are carrying sticks and pitchforks. Not a spoiler (if you know your history): they obviously lose.

Amakusa shiro tokisada / The Rebel (1962)
Director: Oshima Nagisa
Cast: Okawa Hashizo, Otomo Ryutaro, Oka Satomu, Mikuni Rentaro, Chiaki Minoru, , Sato Kei, etc.

Summary:
1637, the Tokugawa bans Christianity and other outside religions as part of their “fuck off foreigners” policy. To ensure that no one dares accept this foreign influence, the shogunate and its underlings go all out to force Japanese Christians to give up their faith (or die, which seems to always be the solution). Shiro Tokisada (from Amakusa, duh) is a Christian leader in the Shimabara area, where a local lord is taxing farmers and peasants heavily, and openly persecutes the Christians. Some of the peasants are fed up with the local government, and look to Shiro for leadership. Conflicts of conscience, political maneuvering, infighting and espionage make the whole deal complicated, until finally, revolution.

The Good Stuff:
– A nice history lesson (I guess) about the Shimabara rebellion
– Not many sword fights, but there is a big battle
– An intelligent and down to earth portrayal of the man some considered a god
– It’s pretty arty, you know, coz it’s Oshima

The Best Stuff:
– The complicated conclusion
– Very well paced and with a plot that does justice to the real story

Ken ki / Sword Devil (1965)

Not shown: The large dog, aka Hanpei's dad???

Ken ki / Sword Devil (1965)
Director: Misumi Kenji
Cast: Ichikawa Raizo, Sugata Michiko, Sato Kei, Date Saburo, etc.

Summary:
Raizo stars as Hanpei, the child of one of the clans’ mistresses, and whose father is suspected to be a large dog. Seriously. Because of his mysterious and less than ideal origin, he is treated as an outcast and freak by everyone around him, except Osaki who finds his sincerity and humility refreshing. If there’s one thing Hanpei is good at though, it’s flowers (seriously, planting flowers), and he’s hired by the clan to make the castle look pretty, especially with the internal strife caused by their lord’s growing insanity. One day, he meets an expert Iaido swordsman, who teaches him his craft, and is soon hired by Kanbei to weed out traitors and assassins plotting against their clan.

The Good Stuff:
– Decent one-vs-many fight
– Raizo in his most uncool, loser-y and strange role
– A hilarious premise for the character?

The Best Stuff:
– Raizo really does look and act like a “dog child”
– Flash (DC Comics), but with a sword??

Moeyo ken / Blazing Sword (1966)

Either this is his Flying Attack or he's mad at the ceiling

Moeyo ken / Blazing Sword (1966)
Director: Ichimura Hirokazu
Cast: Kurizuka Asahi, Wazaki Shunya, Uchida Ryohei

Summary:
Another Shinsengumi movie. This time, we follow Hijikata. If you’re already at the level of watching these less known jidaigeki and chambara, I’m sure you’re already pretty aware of Hijikata’s life? No? Ok I suggest you do some research because I’m too lazy to give a history lesson. This is supposed to be one of the most accurate movies about the Shinsengumi. History lessons galore in this installment it seems.

The Good Stuff:
– One of the more human version of Hijikata, though not a goofball like Kitano’s in Gohatto
– For some reason, I really love Uchida Ryohei (one of my absolute favorite chambara regulars)

The Best Stuff:
– The brutality, which obviously is more realistic than other, shinier, more dramatic Shinsengumi movies.
– Hijikata likes slashing at legs, for some reason

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

genres

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