SWORD OF DOOM
DAIBOSATSU TOGE
1966, Janus Films, 120 min, Japan, Dir: Kihachi Okamoto

Director Kihachi Okamoto made a slew of great films, including KILL!, DESPERADO OUTPOST, AGE OF ASSASSINS, SAMURAI ASSASSIN and THE HUMAN BULLET – to name only a few! – but his ultimate masterwork is this uncompromising samurai film. It is a riveting, desolate picture, anchored by a mesmerizing portrayal from Tatsuya Nakadai as paranoid killer Ryunosuke Tsukue, an outcast from his family and a hunted man recruited by the notorious Shinsengumi band of assassins. There have been many movie renditions of Kaizan Nakazato’s popular novel The Great Boddhisatva Pass since it first appeared 70-plus years ago, but Okamoto’s version in ashen black-and-white ’Scope best captures the nihilistic netherworld of the sociopathic swordsman. Masaru Sato’s music is at the pinnacle of a multitude of great Japanese movie scores from the 1960s. The supporting cast, including Toshiro Mifune, Michiyo Aratama and Yuzo Kayama, are all excellent. Screenwriter Shinobu Hashimoto (who co-wrote many of Akira Kurosawa’s masterpieces) provides an expert distillation, going back


SAMURAI REBELLION
JÔI-UCHI: HAIRYÔ TSUMA SHIMATSU
1967, Janus Films, 121 min, Japan, Dir: Masaki Kobayashi

Toshiro Mifune stars as Isaburo Sasahara, an aging swordsman living a quiet life until his clan lord orders that his son marry the lord's mistress, who has recently displeased the ruler. Reluctantly, father and son take the woman in, and, to the family’s surprise, the young couple fall in love. But the lord soon reverses his decision and demands the mistress’s return. Against all expectations, Isaburo and his son refuse, risking the destruction of their entire family.


THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN
SHAO LIN SAN SHI LIU FANG
1978, Celestial Pictures, 115 min, Hong Kong, Dir: Liu Chia-Liang

Starring the indomitable Gordon Liu, THE 36th CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN quickly became a defining statement in the film industry in Asia while establishing a new standard in martial arts cinema. When the Manchu government brutally crushes a local uprising, a student (Liu) escapes the carnage and finds refuge in the Shaolin temple. Determined to seek revenge, he begins training in the temple's 35 chambers, soon becoming a kung fu master.


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