Film: Three Outlaw Samurai

Original Title: Sanbiki no samuraiYear: 1964Director: Hideo Gosha

This is a truly excellent film that I watched night before last.

The story is simple: a wandering samurai takes up the cause of a group of peasants. The star is Tetsuro Tamba, who strikes me as a the Japanese equivalent of Jean Paul Belmondo. The co-stars are Mikijo Hira and Isamu Nagato. Mikijo Hira, best known for his role in Sword of the Beast, is excellent as the completely bored retainer who walks around yawning with his sword over his shoulder while others panic. He is extremely cool in this film. Isamu Nagato plays a sort of samurai hobo, who is proficient in the use of the spear.

The fighting scenes are both frequent and top notch, with a strong sense of realism. When people die, we see them die. And quite a few people do-die.

The camera work is always competent and often remarkable: during a fight scene in a mill, it tilts from right to left, left to right, seeming to simulate the chaos of the situation. In another scene, it is focused on a very small white flower, while in the background a dying peasant claws his way forward. The last scene is very similar to many spaghetti westerns, with dust blowing in front of the camera; we hear a crow cawing in the background.

The score is by Toshiaki Tsushima. Sparse and perfect.

A wonderful, gritty film.

Gosha apparently adapted this from a TV series which I’ll have to track down.

Here is a preview, in which you can see Gosha himself cruising in in a pair of sunglasses, for anyone interested.

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