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Yagyu Ichizoku no Inbo

Shogun's Samurai

Japan 1978
produced by
Toei
directed by Kinji Fukasaku
starring Kinnosuke Nakamura, Sonny Chiba, Hiroki Matsukata, Teruhiko Saigo, Reiko Ohara, Yoshio Harada, Etsuko Shihomi, Kentaro Kudo, Jiro Yabuki (= Jiro Chiba), Hideo Murota, Mayumi Asano, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ichiro Nakatani, Tetsuro Tanba, Etsushi Takahashi, Isao Natsuyagi, Mikio Narita, Sanae Nakahara, Nobuo Kaneko, Shinsuke Ashida, Isuzu Yamada, Toshiro Mifune, Seizo Fukumoto
written by Kinji Fukasaku, Hiro Matsuda, Tatsuo Nogami, music by Toshiaki Tsushima

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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After the death of the Shogun, his sons, the rightful heir Iemitsu (Hiroki Matsukata) and Tadanaga (Teruhiko Saido), who was actually favoured by his father, fight over succession. Thing is, the Shogun was actually poisoned by Lord Yagyu (Kinnosuke Nakamura), Iemitsu's scheming and powerful fencing teacher, to ensure the succession, but without Iemitsu's prior knowledge.

Concerning inheriting the post of shogun from his father, Tadanaga soon gets support from all kinds of places, which is when Yagyu persuades his estranged son Jubei (Sonny Chiba) to ensure the support of the Negoro clan, a clan that has been evicted from its own land and will now be a strong ally if only they are promised to get their land back.

After much to and fro, Yagyu has the Negoro-clan assassinate one of the Emperor's commanders, and then puts the blame for it on Tadanaga - which basically breaks the back of Tadanaga's campaign, and he gives himself up, is exiled and later kills himself at the request of Imetsu, who becomes Shogun after all.

Eventually, though, evidence turns up that the Negoro clan was involved in the assassination of the Emperor's commander at Yagyu's request, and thus, Yagyu has the whole clan annihilated. When Jubei finds this out, he is devastated, because for him the Negoro clan was a substitute for his own family, and thus he kills what his (real) father loves the most: Iemitsu.

When Jubei delivers the severed head of Iemitsu to his father, Lord Yagyu goes mad ...

 


Merely judging from my synopsis, Shogun's Samurai sounds like great drama ... yet unfortunately it isn't, because besides this main narrative thread, the film features countless pointless subplots, like a few lovestories between minor characters, Lord Yagyu's fight against a rivalo fencing teacher, stories about Lord Yagyu's other children and so on and so forth. Probably, these subplots are there to suggest an epic approach - but unfortunately, they only distract from the main narrative and make the whole thing annoyingly confusing, to say the least. As far as direction is concerned, Kinji Fukasaku turns in a decent, competent but also craftsman-like job. This is nothing but a well-done old-fashioned samurai movie, a film that sadly lacks the freshness, the breathlessness of the Yakuza films Fukasaku made prior to this. While his Yakuza-movies seemed one-of-a-kind, this film could have been made pretty much by anybody.

All that said, Shogun's Samurai is certainly not the worst movie ever, it's a decent genre effort - but sadly nothing more!

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
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WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
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written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
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out now on DVD