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Tsubaki Sanjuro

Sanjuro

Japan 1962
produced by
Ryuzo Kikushima (associate), Tomoyuki Tanaka (associate) for Kurosawa Films/Toho
directed by Akira Kurosawa
starring Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Keiju Kobayashi, Yuzo Kayama, Reiko Dan, Akihiko Hirata, Takashi Shimura, Kamatari Fujiwara, Takako Irie, Masao Shimizu, Yunosuki Ito, Akira Kubo, Kenzo Matsui, Hiroshi Tachikawa, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Kunie Tanaka, Tatsuyoshi Ehara, Tatsuhiko Hari
screenplay by Akira Kurosawa, Ryuzo Kikushima, Hideo Oguni, based on the novel Peaceful Days by Shugoro Yamamoto, music by Masaru Sato

Yojimbo

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Rather by coincidence, Sanjuro (Toshiro Mifune) finds himself in a trap set by warlord Kikui (Masao Shimizu) for a gang of nine samurai led by Iori Izaka (Yuzo Kayama), who are out to fight corruption - but are way too naive to go about it properly. Fortunately for them, Sanjuro is as street-smart and as quick witht he sword as he is slobbish, and he not only sees through Kikui's trap, he also has the skills to fight a way through Kikui's soldiers for him and his samurai ...

Later, Iori Izaka learns that his uncle, the Chamberlain (Yunosuke Ito), an honourable man immune to corruption, has been abducted by Kikui to god knows where and his wife (Takako Irie) and daughter (Reiko Dan) have been detained at their home. Iori Izaka and his men want to jump into action immmediately and save the chamberlain, but Sanjuuro holds them back - and essentially keeps them from killing themselves - by teaching them a few lessons concerning tactics from a practical point of view - even if his plans don't always exactly follow the samurai code ... so instead of having them run into the enemies swords blindly and with no proper plan, he makes up a cunning plan to first free the chamberlain's wife and daughter and then put up camp right next to the villa of Kurofuji (Takashi Shimura), a close ally of Kikui, in order to spy on Kikui. And after Sanjuro and his samurai see that Kikui has indeed set up camp at Kurofuji's place, Sanjuro even puts himself in his employ, just to spy him out - a plan that is ruined though when several of Iori Izaka's men begin to doubt that Sanjuro is on their side and go after him - only to be captured by Kikui's soldiers ... and Sanjuro has to give up his wonderful masquerade to free them ... but at least he now knows that the chamberlain is indeed kept at Kurofuji's place.

Later, Sanjuro comes up with another cunning plan: He will make up a story about Iori Izaka's men hiding away in a nearby temple, and by vastly exaggerating their numbers he makes sure that Kikui sends almost all of his soldiers into battle, only leaving a skeleton crew to guard the chamberlain, who are easily overcome by Iori Izaka's men. Again, this plan almost fails when Sanjuro was given false information about the temple, but when Kikui and his men find out, it's already too late, the chamberlain has been freed, and since he has in his hands conclusive evidence against Kikui, Kikui sees no other way out than to kill himself ...

Before he can even be properly thanked, Sanjuro leaves, only to be stopped on the way by Muroto (Tatsuya Nakadai), Kikui's head warrior, a man of honour even if his master was corrupt - and to restore his honour, he wants to fight Sanjuro in a duel - which Sanjuro has no desire to do, but since Muroto insists, Sanjuro cuts him down in one blow ...

 

Despite Sanjuro being the (first) official sequel to Yojimbo, the two films have little to do with each other (apart from, obviously, the lead character). While Yojimbo was very gritty in tone, Sanjuro is almost a comedy, pitting not only good guys versus bad guys, but also the conservative samurai code of the nine samurai against the street-smart trickery and guerilla-style actions of Sanjuro. This might not result in one of Akira Kurosawa's best, most intelligent films as such, but it's a very entertaining and amusing piece of samurai cinema that's very easy to like.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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directed by
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written by
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