Sunday, September 19, 2010

SAMURAI REBELLION (1967) - Masaki Kobayashi


It takes a while to get to the "rebellion" part of Samurai Rebellion, but when it finally comes and the blood doth flow it's all that much sweeter for having made you wait.

Toshiro Mifune goes against type and plays an aging hen-pecked husband and subservient swordsman, a kind of "company man" in a clan of samurai whose lord is the biggest of Bushido ball-breakers. First, the lord demands Mifune's son marry one of the lord's own ex-wives who's recently been dishonored by daring to stand up to him. Mifune bites his tongue and accepts the request, putting duty first, though he fears his son may inherit the same brand of loveless arranged marriage he has suffered for years. Soon, Mifune retires, growing out his sakayaki and letting his son take over family affairs...until they receive another demand from the ailing lord. This time, the lord wants his ex-wife back, even though Mifune's son has had a child with her.

After much back and forth message sending and polite refusals of the lord's request, the lord's men simply take her away. Newly retired Mifune can only stand so much. It becomes apparent that father and son will have to dishonor the family name, take their swords out of storage and do a little slice and dice on the lord's men. Finally, some rebellion up in this hizzy!

At times, Samurai Rebellion feels like a Jane Austen novel rather than a chop 'em up samurai flick what with all the focus on arranged marriages, family politics, etc. It can be a little hard to sit through for those looking for ACTION, but the repeated indignities done to Mifune and his family fuel the fire that comes at the end. Mifune may be a retired samurai, but he's also mad as hell and ain't gonna take it anymore. It's one of his best performances.

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