This week I found myself drawn to watch some more Samurai Films. (Not counting the Kurosawa films I always watch) Specifically, I thought I’d try some of the darker ones. The ones that overtly criticize the code of bushido and wear their cynicism on their sleeves as a badge of honor. On a side note, these both have the same lead actor, the great Tatsuya Nakadai ( while I was certainly aware that he had a great career, to my shame, I was only aware of him as the psychotic gunfighter in Yojimbo)

Wednesday Double Feature - Dark Samurai with Tetsuya Nakadai -  Sword of DoomThe first film on my list, Kihachi Okamoto‘s Sword of Doom, tells the story of disgraced swords man, Ryunsuke Tsukue (played by Nakadai) who is exiled from his fencing school after killing his opponent in a match.

From there he starts to make a living as a hired sword taking the jobs that let him kill the most, and hunting (in this case the term is painfully literal) opponents to fight and kill.

You know that when a film begins with our protagonist cutting down a pilgrim we know that things are not going to be pleasant. This was a dark and depressing film that goes into great detail about Tsukue’s gradual mental breakdown. Until finally in the climax, he’s too busy fighting figments of his imagination to even notice the people who have actually been sent to kill him!

Wednesday Double Feature - Dark Samurai with Tetsuya Nakadai - HarakiriIn the next film Masaki Kobayashi‘s Harakiri, peace time is not good for the samurai class. So much so in such time’s, there was a scam going around where a starving ronin would ask to commit seppuku in the family grounds and be buried. The idea was that they expected to be talked out of it and given some money out of pity.

Except in the Iyi family who decide to call one Ronin’s bluff and force him to go through with it. Made all the more terrible because he had sold his swords to pay for medicine and only had blunt bamboo props.

It’s later when another ronin, Hanshiro, (played by Nakadai) who turns out to be the ronin’s father-in-law comes to repeat this ceremony and get his revenge in at the same time.

I really loved this film. It was a great performance from Nadaki and the camera work on the final climax is amazing.