Once again, we catch up with Itto Ogami and his son Daigoro, as they trundle their way across Japan, killing some folks and not killing others while wandering through a lot of extremely scenic countryside. For some reason, the music is a sort of ghastly 70s blarting, which distracts considerably from the action it’s supposed to underscore.
As the credits roll, accompanied by the nasty blarting music, we’re treated to Ogami and son bathing in a stream and catching fish, clad in matching father-and-son undergarments.
When they get underway again, it’s to run up against Kanbei, a samurai-turned-foot-soldier. Kanbei is part of a group heading for the employ of a lord, and while Kanbei looks to be quiet and modest, a true samurai, this can not be said of his fellow soldiers. They are intent on finding some women to rape, and an opportunity presents itself soon enough. Interestingly enough, Kanbei, that fine samurai, doesn’t intervene until it’s all over and the three rapists are being attacked by the ladies’ manservant (who’s only just regained consciousness). His intervention is not what we’d expect, however, and the two ladies and their manservant soon discover that there may be a fate worse than “a fate worse than death”. That is, death. Ogami and son rattle and roll into the conclusion of this little affair, with Kanbei standing over the corpse of the fellow he’s just killed as scapegoat.
The two samurai exchange polite greetings, and Kanbei challenges Ogami to a duel. I found this little interchange quite fascinating, despite being almost totally motionless. I was interested to learn that the samurai code of honour is not as simple as it appears: instead of a general goodwill to all, or a reluctance to shed the blood of nobles, we have a complex set of rules and codes that force a samurai to think all the time, to constantly evaluate his actions to determine what is right.
Anyway, back to the road. Ogami once again finds external events intruding into his perambulations about the scenic Japanese countryside, and accepts a commission from the yakuza. There’s a very fine scene about here in which Ogami is called into the governor’s presence and offered a commission to assassinate someone else. Ogami refuses, and turns to leave, prompting the bodyguards on either side of the door to draw their weapons. Ogami also draws his sword, and stands motionless, holding his sword pointing backwards. This scene, although again almost motionless, is fairly tense and far more effective than lots of shouting and shooting would be. It’s also far more realistic: think of anything ranging from a bar brawl to an international standoff, and what you’ll get is a lot of toe-to-toe eyeballing, with all participants reluctant to escalate matters.
In this one, then, in addition to Ogami and his sword, we get girls, guns, yakuza, soldiers, officials, and scary ninjas. Ogami manages to dispatch all the wrong ones and not dispatch the right ones without risking his son’s life or equanimity: indeed, the child seems to be taking to the life rather well. Apropos of nothing, I was surprised at the quality of the colour in this film: for something made in 1972, I’d have expected something either in shades of taupe or in lurid oranges, but the colour seemed surprisingly clear and clean. Pity the sound didn’t match.
Overall, not as good as Sword of Vengeance, but still a fine sword-fest for those who appreciate such things.