Thursday, September 23, 2010

KILL! (1968) - Kihachi Okamoto

Kill! is a samurai flick based on the same source material as Kurosawa's Sanjuro (the novel Peaceful Days), though you would probably never guess it without aid of IMDB. For starters, Okamoto attacks the material with a broad comic sword rather than Kurosawa's cleaner (though still humorous) narrative blade, making for a samurai satire rife with wide angle lenses, close-ups of lopped off body parts, toothy old men and tossed cat jokes. It's as if Evil Dead era Sam Raimi suddenly donned a kimono and took a stab at the genre.

Other than Tatsuya Nakadai's wandering world-weary ronin character falling into a dispute within a samurai clan, the plot diverges significantly from Sanjuro. In Kill!, he doesn't even get the sole spotlight, but shares it with a wide-eyed farmer character (ogling above) with dreams of becoming an honorable samurai. Nakadai gladly gets the farmer embroiled in this clan war, though on the opposite side, eventually disabusing him of the idea that most peacetime samurai are anything other than sword-wielding knuckleheads.

Nakadai is fine in the role but not quite as fun as Mifune. And the who's-killing-who-and-for-what aspect of the plot left me boggled and, eventually, numb, though that was probably part of Okamoto's satirical point. If pressed, I'd watch Sanjuro again over this, though Kill! earns its exclamation point for energy, style and its sheer willingness to slice the samurai mythology to shreds. Also, the spaghetti western-infused theme song at the beginning is a real hum-dinger.

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