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Machibuse

Ambush at Blood Pass
The Ambush: Incident at Blood Pass

Japan 1970
produced by
Toshiro Mifune, Yoshio Nichikawa (executive) for Mifune Productions, Toho
directed by Hiroshi Inagaki
starring Toshiro Mifune, Yujiro Ishihara, Ruriko Asaoka, Shintaro Katsu, Kinnosuke Nakamura, Chusha Ichikawa, Ichiro Arishima, Mika Kitagawa, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Jotaro Togami, Chieko Nakakita, Ryunosuke Yamazaki, Seishiro Hisano, Yasuo Araki, Seishiro Kuno, Hiroshi Tanaka, Hirohito Kimura, Yutaka Sada, Shinsuke Achiba, Yuzuro Sawanobori, Shunichi Okita, Kazuo Suzuki, Koji Kaminishi, Yasuji Uraki
written by Kyu Fujiki, Ichiro Miyagawa, Hideo Oguni, Hajime Takaiwa, music by Masaru Sato

Yojimbo

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Ronin and bodyguard Yo (Toshiro Mifune) accepts a job to travel to Sanshuu Pass and... well, and wait for something to happen. On the way to the pass, Yo saves a woman, Okuni (Ruriko Asaoka) from her violent husband, and later he leaves her at an inn near the pass, even though (or because) she has fallen in love with him. Nothing much happens at the pass, so after a day of waiting, Yo returns to the inn that's full of suspicious people like the gambler Yataro (Yushiro Ishihara), the doctor Gentetsu (Shintaro Katsu), who lives in the barn, the way too positive innkeeper Oyuki (Mika Kitagawa) and her way too careful grandpa. Add to this a self-absorbed and torture happy but badly injured police officer, Ibuki (Kinnosuke Nakamura) and his prisoner, Tatsu (Ryunozuke Yamazaki), who is sure to be freed by his yakuza friends before long and you have an explosive mix ... yet before Tatsu's friends can spring him free, both Yo and Yataro - even though he is in love with innkeeper Oyuki - make a getaway ... or at least they pretend to do so.

Later that evening, Tatsu's gang arrives at the inn, frees him and takes everyone in the inn hostage - and wouldn't you know it, Gentotsu now turns out to be the gang's boss. It turns out that they want to hold up a platoon that is to deliver the gold of the Shogunate through Sanshuu Pass and thus effectively overthrow the Shogunate ... and it also turns out that Yo has actually been hired to help them - which means he has to turn against everybody in the inn, even people like Okuni he has come to like - until that is Yo receives new orders that tell him to kill Gentotsu.

Somehow, Yo manages though to neither turn against his friends after all nor kill Gentotsu - whom he now knows has been betrayed -, and he even tries to stop Gentotsu from trying to rob the gold, because that is a rather obvious trap ... however, it's much too late for that, when Gentotsu learns he has been betrayed, he is only all the more enraged and decides to go through with the attack no matter what - and ultimately is killed, along with his gang.

Yo meanwhile, who has essentially been playing both sides, is let go thanks to Ibuki, who shows that he is a righteous man after all, however, as expected there is no happy end for Yo and Okuni, whom he leaves without even saying good-bye.

In the last scene, Yo is seen slaughtering the Crow - the man behind the whole deal and the betrayal - and his men to put a few wrongs right.

 

Entertaining and quite interesting samurai film in which - especially when compared to the same year's Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo - plays a more sombre version of his Yojimbo character who is nevertheless quite as cunning as ever and still as capable as ever to play two sides against each other (as established in Yojimbo, the first of the series). Despite its interesting storyline and the unusual setting (a lonely inn surrounded by snow), Ambush at Blood Pass is far from perfect: Several narrative threads (like the subplot about gambler Yataro) are abandoned all too suddenly, other subplots are introduced without having anything to do with the main storyline, and the ending in which Yo slays the Crow is nothing if not cheesy.

Still, overall the film is quite enjoyable, even if it bares no comparison to Akira Kurosawa's handling of the character.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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