18 August 2008 | chaos-rampant
"The sword is for killing, nothing more nothing less"
If a most important milestone in the history of chambara exists, that is probably Kurosawa's release of Yojimbo and its sardonic fatalist central character played by Toshiro Mifune. It is Yojimbo that practically divides the earlier traditional samurai films of Mizoguchi or Inagaki from stuff like Nemuri Kyoshiro that sprung in the early 60's. The first two releases that followed in Yojimbo/Sanjuro's wake were the Sleepy Eyes of Death series and the TV series of Three Outlaw Samurai which were later adapted for a feature film that started Hideo Gosha's career.
The second installment in one of the most popular chambara series along with Zatoichi is directed by Kenji Misumi, a contractor for Daiei studios at the time, who would later go on to achieve orgasmic levels of comic-book violence with Lone Wolf and Cub. Playing the titular character is Raizo Ichikawa who collaborated with Misumi in his Daibosatsu Toge trilogy from 1961, Satan's Sword.
Nemuri Kyoshiro is a shady figure, as much an outcast of society as his genre antecedent (Sanjuro) but with a different and darker mentality. In Sword of Adventure he tries to protect a financial adviser working for the Shogunate, whose strict policies have incurred the wrath of one of the Shogun's daughters and rich merchants. An assortment of murderers, bribed, paid or blackmailed for the cause, assemble and take their shots at Nemuri. This is a genre film with a serialized character so there is little doubt to the outcome of the duels. Those are nicely stylized and executed and the cinematography and camera-work are all an improvement on Satan's Sword, as is Raizo Ichikawa's performance. I'm not a big fan of his work, his look and mannerisms somehow effeminate and not as scruffy and savage looking as those of Mifune or Wakayama, but he brings a sardonic joy to his character that works within the context of the movie.