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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.