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  • Before "Samurai Assassin", "Sword of Doom" or "Kill!", director Okamoto helms this light hearted actioner that has just about every element from other chambara movies. Well photographed and meticulously planned, it's an impressive genre film.

    The film opens with action as the Iga ninja chase and attack a lone young man who turns out to be another Iga ninja but has quit the clan in search of a moral life. The young man defeats the ninja including the feared leader. Observing the fight is a wandering ronin who befriends the young man noting that while the man is a good fighter, he's ignorant of the ways of the world. Almost immediately they are greeted by an odd stranger who claims he will soon become the ruler of Japan. The stranger convinces them to join a passing armed delivery service headed by a young woman who's a short sword expert. And so it starts, complete with political intrigue, a stolen shipment of rifles, a ruthless pirate gang commanded by a beautiful princess and the return of the Iga ninja who have vowed to kill the young man.

    The film is very brisk and Okamoto's direction is stylish and experimental, especially in the editing. Shot in clear black and white and with a jazzy, quirky score by Masaru Sato, the film is a lot of fun despite the rather standard storyline.

    The fight scenes are extremely well shot with careful camera placement and sharp editing taking place of actual movement from the actors. Believe me, I'd rather see actors who can actually do the moves but here is an example of how to shoot a fight when the actors may not be the best. It works really well.

    Recommended.
  • (I saw this movie (subtitled) many years ago during a samurai film festival, so please excuse any tricks played by fond memory. I've tried to avoid spoilers, too, but caveat that as well.)

    I remember a great action picture, which reminded me especially of the old classic action westerns of the 1940's.

    The movie opens with the escape of a young samurai after the local daimyo's lands have fallen to treachery. He soon joins a caravan of salt porters, who are secretly smuggling firearms back into the province in anticipation of the daimyo's return. The guns are crucial--they will give the daimyo the edge he needs to retake his lands.

    Every possible samurai movie cliché is here. From the beautiful daughter of the caravan owner (who can steal a scene by standing in the background and sheathing her sword!), to ninja, pirates, secret traitors, the samurai's comic sidekick, daring rescues, mysterious smoke signals, rousing cavalry charges, and plot elements it would be unfair to reveal, capped by a one-on-one samurai showdown. This movie literally has it all.

    It isn't deep, but it is great fun. I very much want to see it again. I don't usually buy movie DVDs, but the day I learn this one is available, it's mine (a status it shares with the 1960 animation Magic Boy). I could see it on a shelf with Yojimbo, The Santa Fe Trail, The Fighting Kentuckian, Dodge City, Rio Grande, and My Darling Clementine.