Hideo Gosha made a remarkably assured directing debut with this ultra-stylish, ultra-entertaining samurai pic about a peasants’ revolt against their local magistrate, and the trio of freelance samurai warriors who take separate paths before joining the fight. Shot in richly textured WideScreen monochrome, it’s put together with a control that paradoxically lets Gosha keep his compositions loose enough for surprises. And he’s already mastered the sliding doors & boxy frames that make traditional Japanese architecture so great for staging action & suspense. The story has wandering samurai Tetsurô Tanba finding a beautiful female kidnap victim and her misguided takers by chance. She’s to be held until her father, the local magistrate, gives in to their demands for food & tax relief in their starving village. But when the magistrate reneges on a deal, the samurai (and eventually a couple of independent-minded hired samurai warriors living at court) takes on the whole magistrate’s army. Gosha shows plenty of action chops, but also natural story-sense in keeping his narrative lines straight with the three fighters all nicely characterized as Good Samurai, Bad Samurai & Ugly Samurai. The final battle suffers from the usual illogical problems of forty-to-one odds, but you’ll be too exhilarated to mind.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: That’s quite a prominent nose on Tetsurô Tanba's handsome face. Might he be part French action film star?