Like many of the classics from this era, these movies tell a story with serious themes and character insight, usually ending up in an action packed finale consisting of terrific sword slashery.
This movie is set in the Edo age of Japan and revolves around the loyalties of clan and family. It starts of with Isaburo Sasahara (played by Toshio Mifune), a samurai with unmatched sword skills and also unmatched loyalty as he has spent his whole life following orders and being loyal to his clan – even marrying a total bitch of a woman under the command of his lord.
But things change when Isaburo’s son Togoro is being pushed into marriage, and with the regret of his obviously quite pathetic marriage Isaburo declines, for the sake of his sons happiness. After much of a fight Togoro eventually steps in an accepts. To his surprise, Yogoro meets Ichi and she is quite the catch, her and Yogoro really hit it off and eventually have a littel girl named Tomi.
But when the Lord’s first born dies from illness, the next heir inline for the clan is Ichi’s son, so naturally the lord wants Ichi back. Ordered to give her back, Yogoro and his father decide that this is to much and refuse (as well as Ichi herself). This leads to a lot of struggle between the two men and their clan superiors, not to mention the rest of the family.
Before long things escalate and swords must be drawn in cool Japanese cinematic style!
Family vs Clan Loyalty
Clan loyalty is apparently to be held above ones self and his family, and old fashioned way of thinking that these days seems pretty stupid – probably because it is.
This movie shows stupid clan hierarchy and how thoughtlessly they can exploit their members – even the most loyal ones. Isaburo unflinchingly serves his entire life to his clan without questions and it seems to me it’s for the good of his family as much as it is for the clan. But giving himself unquestionably becomes a bit old when his most precious family members are simply pushed around to serve the will of a selfish lord.
This film shows a man standing up for himself despite being surrounded by powerful enemies, proving that family matters most to him and the story sucks you right in as you really just want him to run over and chop the lord up into little bits. Of course, he can’t really do that in reality so you’re left questioning what’s going to happen as things are undoubtedly going to escalate.
The quality of the story telling is extremely high, and although it’s an old black and white film, the quality of the shooting is fantastic – not so much in terms of picture quality but the framing and general ‘look’ of the film. Before you even consider the martial arts action, this film really is a classic in every other way building up perfectly for the finale.
The Martial Arts and Action
Pretty much all of the action is saved until the film’s finale – a battle between Yogoro, Isaburo and the clans men sent to arrest him. Things then finish off with a fight between Isaburo and one of his close friends and a highly skilled swordsman.
As with most of these old Japanese films the sword work is nice, showing off the samurai sword fighting style quite well, whilst offering some cool action with enemies getting sliced up at the hands of the deadly Isaburo. There’s a lot of fights showing one vs many, and each trade is performed very well. A Samurai classic both in terms of story and swordplay.
On DVD –
Region 1 (US & Canada)
Samurai Rebellion (The Criterion Collection)
Region Free (Any Country)
Samurai Rebellion [DVD]
Region 4 (Australia, New Zealand, etc)