10 January 2009 | Bunuel1976
SWORDS OF DEATH (Tomu Uchida, 1971) **1/2
Jarring, intermittent use of freeze frames accompanied by voice-over narration and some poorly-synched sound effects might well be tell-tale signs that this film was still incomplete when its director passed away in mid-1970. Similar to my previous encounter with Uchida's cinema the superior A BLOODY SPEAR ON MOUNT FUJI (1955) this film has a very deliberately paced (and, in this case, muddled) first half as it tells of the exploits of legendary warrior Musashi Miyamoto (played 16 years earlier by the great Toshiro Mifune in a celebrated trilogy of films for director Hiroshi Inakagi and the protagonist of several previous Uchida pictures) and settles on his confrontation with a rival the owner of a secret weapon he craves and his equally adept wife (whose brother he had killed years before). This incident takes up virtually all of the film's second half whereupon Musashi emerges triumphant by defeating the man's entire band of followers and setting husband against wife by kidnapping their little son.