Add a Review

  • Scripted by longtime veteran director Daisuke Itô based on a story by Shibata and directed by regular Daiei collaborator Kenji Misumi, this eighth entry in the popular serialized chambara series Sleepy Eyes of Death is considerably less dark and nihilistic compared to previous entries but it boasts one of the most mindbogglingly convoluted plots churned out in Japanese genre cinema. Nemuri Kyoshiro discovers a conspiracy centering around a band of disgruntled samurai wanting to avenge the death of their sensei, a political reformer that pushed for better provisions for the lower classes until he was assassinated by Shogunate agents. Their plot, to set fire to the oil refineries of two rich merchants and unleash a raging inferno that will hopefully burn down the Edo Castle.

    Kenji Misumi's presence guarantees a capable direction. Whereas some of the lesser directors that worked for the Sleepy Eyes series might've been lost with the complex plotting, Misumi pulls it off admirably. The continually shifting narration POV of the opening that is at last revealed to belong to a hairdresser relating the events to Nemuri as he reclines on the floor of an inn is a dizzying display of narrative inventiveness. The final swordfight on the rooftops while fires rage in the background is suitably energetic and Nemuri staring to an orange moon through billows of smoke is a typical Sleepy Eyes stylistic mark. All in all another unsurprising, a bit hard to follow, but enjoyable chambara b-movie with a simplified social message (Nemuri coming to the aid of the poor) and decent swordfighting.
  • Sword of Villainy, number eight in the series, boasts a more complex story than the norm. While this is a potential strength, I found the film to be not one of the best in the series.

    Sword of Villainy opens on a note of mystery. Someone is telling Kyoshiro Nemuri about an incident that happened at an oil supplier's home. The man, his wife, and their older daughter were tied up, but nothing was reported as stolen. The assailant, however, played with the family's younger daughter and did take something unreported from the storeroom. At first Nemuri is not too concerned by all of this. Only when three different sets of people confuse him with a supposedly dead leader of a people's rebellion does Nemuri get drawn into the action.

    There is no villainess in this entry. The mysterious woman character is one of the few honest people in the film. Nemuri treats her accordingly, but Nemuri has nothing but contempt for most of the movers in the film's plot. One side values money, their greed coming at the expense of the well being of those less fortunate. Another side demands vengeance even at the price of the lives of many innocent bystanders. Corruption runs rampant in this entry. Even the bodyguards of the oil supplier are corrupt. They turn on their boss when they smell a bigger payday from those blackmailing the oil supplier.

    Sword of Villainy has more characters than usual, some mystery, and a couple exciting action scenes (the rooftop duel between Nemuri and head avenger Aizen is one of the best in the series). Yet, I find it a lesser entry in the series. The film seems slower paced than some of the other entries. The ending leaves a few issues unresolved. Finally, although Aizen (Shigeru Amachi) is one of the most memorable villains in the series (and one of the best sword fighters), the plot point of the villain using Nemuri' Full Moon Cut technique against him was already done in the last entry, The Mask of the Princess.

    I have seen the first eight films in this series in a relative short time frame, so maybe I am suffering from Sleepy Eyes of Death fatigue. Sword of Villainy is a decent entry, yet I found my attention wavering for much of the film (although I became increasingly interested as the film moved to a climax). Is that because of a less than enthralling film or a tired viewer?