SAMURAI REBELLION (1967) – The Dungeon Review!
This is the final week of Toho March and I have five films from the studio still to review! I am not remotely capable of getting five reviews done in one week so I decided to review my two favorites of the five. There were a few of the newer Godzilla films I had never seen so I watched Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) and Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monster All Out Attack (2001) (bloody hell that is a long title!!). I enjoyed both of these films quite a bit but I figured I covered enough monster movies. Deciding between Sengoku Yaro (1963) and When A Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960) was tough. Both films were amazing, but I could only choose one so I went with When A Woman Ascends the Stairs which will be my final review for the feature. Samurai Rebellion was the one film I knew I had to review. This was my favourite of the lot I reviewed during Toho March. Samurai Rebellion is like Romeo and Juliet, but with Samurais! An enthralling drama, an engaging love story and Toshirô Mifune kills a shitload of dudes! The film was produced by Mifune’s own production company (Mifune Productions Co) along with Toho. There was an awkward interview with director Masaki Kobayahi in the DVD special features. The director tells a story of how he was able to magnify Mifune’s voice. According to the director, Mifune was a well-known mumbler and was difficult to hear. He also suggested that Mifune was distracted by his financial involvement in the film. I got the feeling from this interview that Kobayashi didn’t think very highly of Mifune. In any case, I have seen several of Mifune’s performances and I would rank this among his best. Mifune is an absolute force to be reckoned with in Samurai Rebellion! Despite whatever issues he had with the actor, Kobayashi created something beautiful, tragic, violent and unforgettable.
Aging swordsman Isaburo Sasahara has been in a loveless arranged marriage with a miserable woman. He hopes for better for his two grown sons. Preparing for his retirement he passes on his responsibilities to his son Yogoro. Isaburo’s clan lord throws a curve ball when he requests Yogoro marry his mistress who despite baring him a son, has displeased him. Isaburo resists on his son’s behalf but Yogoro agrees to accept the woman. The stunning Ichi turns out to be a lovely, kind woman and the two fall deeply in love and have a child together. Isaburo is inspired and renewed by their love but once more his clan lord threatens his family’s happiness. When the male child of the lord’s current mistress dies suddenly, he sends for Ichi to come take her place as mother of his heir. The long-henpecked Isaburo has finally found his line in the sand and refuses his clan lord much to the chagrin of his wife and her family. With his son Yogoro at his side, they await the inevitable response of their clan.
Samurai Rebellion’s great story is complimented by one perfectly set up shot after another. There are countless symmetrical shots where people are placed as though they were set pieces. I included a shot of the stoic wedding ceremony and the clan members gathered in the courtyard of Isaburo’s home; there are many shots I did not include of family and clan gatherings that also illustrate the symmetrical. I know little about the technical aspects of film making but Samurai Rebellion seemed perfect. Every single aspect of Samurai Rebellion is masterfully executed. The fight sequences are fantastic and some of the slickest I’ve seen in this genre. The love story is touching without making me want to vomit. The performances from the entire cast are stellar. As already mentioned, Toshirô Mifune, who plays Isaburo Sasahara is absolutely superb. Isaburo is admittedly henpecked, but he is a good man who loves his children. When he has finally had enough and rebels against his clan we root for him whole-heartedly. Also notable, is the lovely Yôko Tsukasa who plays Ichi. While Ichi’s manner is quiet and gentle she is firm in her resolve. It is Ichi that is really the story’s centerpiece. Without Ichi’s forced entry into the Sasahara family and her genuine love for Yogoro there would be no Samurai Rebellion.
While Samurai Rebellion may be set during the 1700s, in a time when Feudal Lords ruled, its story is a timeless one. Isaburo rebels in the name of love, respect for his fellow man and making one’s government representatives accountable for their actions. Isaburo is a man who never questioned authority or even his strong-willed, joyless wife. He is genuinely disgusted in his lord’s abuse of power and literally calls for his head! There is a rich complexity and yet a simplicity to Samurai Rebellion’s story. Like every aspect of this film, it is perfectly balanced.
Fans of the Samurai genre will likely enjoy Samurai Rebellion as much as I did. The rich history and culture of the Japanese is always fascinating. Add a beautiful love story, a dash of politics, some killer fight sequences, and serve with stylish flare in glorious black and white! Absolutely delicious! I don’t know if I was feeling particularly sentimental the night I watched Samurai Rebellion but I absolutely loved it, and I’m giving it my highest of recommendations; a perfect rating.
Dungeon Rating: 5/5
Directed By: Masaki Kobayashi
Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Yôko Tsukasa, Gô Katô, Tatsuyoshi Ehara, Etsuko Ichihara, Isao Yamagata, Tatsuya Nakadai, Shigeru Kôyama, Michiko Otsuka, Tatsuo Matsumura, Masao Mishima, Jun Hamamura