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on March 19, 2006
BY ALL MEANS, RENT THIS FILM! But, for the truly discriminating viewer of jidaigeki*, might I suggest that viewers hold out for a better DVD version to purchase -- one with superior English translation compared to this DVD by Media-Blasters/Tokyo Shock. Otherwise, the movie itself well merits five stars.

"Goyokin" is a subtle, utterly compelling work. Superb direction (action sequences and mise-en-scène composition), acting (including the great Tatsuya Nakadai), writing, and cinematography do ample justice to this deceptively straightforward, yet culturally and thematically complex, drama.

Devotees of this remarkable yet undeservedly obscure film have waited decades for a quality print, and for years a DVD version. What a disappointment, then, this version -- the only saving grace of which IS the print, which thankfully retains the film's impressive cinematography.

Julia Rose's translation, though technically serviceable, is at times wincingly glib for such a mature, understated work as "Goyokin." (Accountability should also rest with the DVD's translation manager Anna Yamamoto.)

The translation often fails to grasp the suggestive nuances and complexities of the Japanese people, their language, history, and culture. This film demands not only a command of all these elements, but a mastery of English as well, in order to convey traditional Japanese refinement to an English-speaking audience. That is to say, a depth of sophistication worthy of the film's artistry.

Fine and noteworthy motion pictures merit long life in a loyal and dedicated audience, who deserve to see them exactly as their creators envisioned in the final cut. In this case, I hope fans of "Goyokin" will one day be rewarded with an alternative DVD version, one with a finesse of translation equal to the level of this exceptional classic.

Despite this criticism -- and as other fans have already commented here -- I'm sincerely grateful that this treasure of a movie can now be seen by a wider viewing public. I'd like to think Ms. Rose gave it her best shot, but Gosha's "Goyokin" deserves better.

* Period films that typically, but not exclusively, focus on the Edo period of Japanese history, from 1603 to 1868.
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on January 26, 2006
"Goyokin" is probably one of the least-known of the samurai films from Japan. That's a pity, because it is also, arguably, one of the best ever made of that genre. Released in 1969, the film had a limited release in the US, and then languished in storage due to legal matters.

The story focuses on Wakizaka Magobei (Nakadai Tatsuya), a samurai who returns to face the clan that he'd left meany years before. A subterfuge, performed to steal the official gold of the title; a massacre, done to eliminate any convenient witnesses or informants. All create the psychological tension that forms the drama surrounding Nakadai. The director, Gosha pits clan loyalty against morality, or doing what is right. In this respect, Gosha is similar to Masaki Kobayashi, who explored similar themes in "Harakiri," (also starring Nakadai) as well as his "Human Condition" trilogy.

Several other folk have mentioned that this film reminds them of the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone. That observation isn't so far-fetched. This film was copied and made into a forgettable Hollywood western: "The Master Gunfighter," with Tom Laughlin, of "Billy Jack" fame. Think of it as Cowboys with Swords.

An intelligent script, superb direction, outstanding cinematography ("Goyokin" was the first film in Japan to be filmed in Panavision) and the excellent acting of Nakadai. The climactic duel in the snow, with Nakadai and Nakamura Kinnosuke as the clan head (his brother-in-law), is visually stunning.

Hopefully, the re-release of this film will allow a wider audience to appreciate it.
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on January 3, 2006
Goyokin "Official Gold" I have watched this film several times and rate it as one of the best in it's genre. Tatsuya Nakadai is superb as Magobei Wakizaka the guilt ridden samurai who attempts to stop a massacre taking place. The film directed by Hideo Gosha reminds me very much of a spaghetti western..leers, strange camera angles, facial close ups, long silent pauses with stares into nothingness...however it holds your attention and maintains the suspense and the photography is beautiful. It also has some of the best lines, for a movie of this type for example, at the water tower, the killers catch up with Magobei..."Don't ask why you have to die" Nakadai is just superb at this moment, I dont want to give to much away as it will spoil the film for those that have not seen it. A truly superb film.
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VINE VOICEon May 10, 2008
"Standing By and Turning a Blind Eye to Evil is akin to committing the Sin Itself.."
GOYOKIN (1969) is the second film by Hideo Gosha, the director also responsible for the Criterion released "Sword of the Beast" and "Three Outlaw Samurai". I'm rather surprised as to why Criterion hasn't picked this film up, but nonetheless, Media Blasters did manage to release this film in re-mastered form. Toshiro Mifune was supposedly picked to play the character of Samon, but dropped out at the last minute due to sickness. "Goyokin", while a lesser known film compared to "Hara-Kiri" and "Sword of Doom" is an excellent chambara film which also stars Tatsuya Nakadai as the main character. It is still an awesome tale of conflicting emotions about loyalty or the interpretations of, the guilt and atonement of the past's sins and feudal political greed.

Synopsis partly derived from the dvd back cover:
The film is a tale of a haunted samurai named Magobei Wakizaka (Tatsuya Nakadai), who returns home to the site of the past massacre to seek atonement and redemption for his soul. The clan he abandoned intends to instigate another heartless massacre akin to an earlier reign of terror that caused Magobei to resign his position and leave the clan. The original massacre has become a legend that is attributed to an evil spirit. Protecting the last survivor of the massacre, a beautiful woman named Oriha (Ruriko Asaoka), Magobei absorbs a phenomenal amount of punishment as a way of atoning for the sins of his clan.

Gosha's film is a awesome spectacle of blood and swordplay that uses the Tohoku Locales as a backdrop of the film. The films exudes an atmospheric feeling as the crushing waters impact against the shoreline, the white snow stained with blood, with black crows looking to feed on the carcasses of the dead. The film looks very authentic and accurate to its timeline. The film's main premise is the blind loyalty to one's clan, and the hope for redemption by atoning for an indifference to an injustice. Goyokin has the same style and feel to the chambara classics by Kobayashi, and far superior to the works of Suzuki, because his films have better characterizations and better content with superior performers.

"GOYOKIN" has definitely hit a bull's-eye in casting Tatsuya Nakadai as the lead character. The film revolves around a tortured soul that is haunted by his past, and Nakadai is impressive as Magobei. His gestures, action and mannerisms have that intense feel that emphasizes a man looking inward to the depths of his own soul. It is also a fantastic move for director Gosha to cast Yoko Tsukasa as Shino, this actress has impressed me with her performance in "Samurai Rebellion" and although she did have limited screen time, she nonetheless grabs the audience as Magobei's wife. It was quite ironic as a retainer named Kunai ordered Magobei assassinated, because Kunai is lusting after his wife; this event is what triggered Magobei's resolve to atone for his mistake. Kinnosuke Nakamura plays a role originally intended for Toshiro Mifune, and the man does add a certain charisma to the film's proceedings.

The film also has a satisfying share of swordfights that will attract action lovers. The swordplay displayed are reminiscent of the "Shogun Assassin" films that are nicely choreographed and staged with a realistic feel. The film also has a climactic duel between Magobei and Tatewaki (Tetsuro Tamba), his main nemesis, with a maneuver that rivals the "quick draw" in Kurosawa's "Sanjuro" for sheer intensity that makes you say "that's cool". Blood splattered onto white snow adds a lot of visceral punch.

GOYOKIN is a film very worthy of anyone's time and while it may be inferior to the chambara films of Kurosawa and Kobayashi, the film is very satisfying in its own right. The film's meticulous execution in historical accuracy gives the film a very "real" feel that gives its audience an "authentic" experience. The film is very clever in staging its action sequences that will remind us the subtleties of the execution of swordplay, much like an Akira Kurosawa film would. The exciting execution of the film enhances the story and the characters enhance its content. Hideo Gosha "Goyokin" is a true part of great Japanese classics.

Highly Recommended! [4 Stars]

Note: The film is great but the subtitles in this dvd needs to be translated better. The translations carry the occasional American "slang" that annoyed me at times. Example: "Matte" in Japanese means "wait" but was translated to "hang on". "Angry" and "understand" has been translated to "pissed off" and "got it' respectively. "Kane no tamenara nanndemo suru" ("I'll do anything for gold") is translated to "I'll do anything for a buck." There is no "buck" during this period.

The mistranslations doesn't really ruin the dialogue but it does serve occasional annoyances.
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on January 9, 2007
This is an underappreciated classic - while the editing is disjointed, the visuals are stunning. My quess is that the director was influenced by Hitchcock - the beginning scene where the bride returns to her village has a very Hitchcock feel. I saw the film maybe a dozen times before I could look at that scene all the way with my eyes open. There are several memorable scenes in this movie, including the one with the hero in front of a wall of fire and the final battle in the snow.
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on December 31, 2006
I first saw this great film in the early 1970s, at the now defunct Fox Theatre in Venice, California. I remembered that the film was somewhat butchered in its theatrical release, therefore, I am willing to take any translation transfer until a better one is released. I can understand the spotlight reviewers complaints, it bothers me too. The film centers around the character Wakizaka Magobei (Tatsuya Nakadai) as a samurai who returns to his clan which he has left for many years. And (Tatsuya Nakadai) portrays his character exceptionally well in this film. Wakizaka Magobei is guilt ridden from an incident [no spoilers] which occurred years before. He has returned to prevent a massacre from happening again.

Furthermore, Wakizaka Magobei is intent on preventing his clan from repeating this intended massacre which he feels great remorse for. This film is an excellent morality and loyalty tale involving the films main protagonist, (Tatsuya Nakadai). And the films psychological nuances are intelligently woven into this film. The cinematography is outstanding, with many beautifully captured and stunning visuals. Moreover, the films concluding duel is terrific. The film has an entertaining plot, great visuals and beautiful cinematography which makes this one of the better samurai films out there. This film is not to be missed, it belongs in your cinema collection, and is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. [Stars: 5+]
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on June 13, 2013
I can believe Amazon is selling this movie with all problemas tha it has, poor subtitles and worst translation language ( japanese to english ). This one of the most important movies about this era of samurais. Excellent actors Tatsuya Nakadai and Tetsuro Tamba, remember Tange Sazen and Yokimbo films. Bring a DVD with more quality.
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on October 18, 2009
I have fifty years of fluent Japanese in reading, writing, speaking. The subtitles are without doubt very very very poor. You cannot achieve a sense of the dialogue , and therefore the action, by the miserable subtitles. The
video transfer, impeccable, the subtitles miserable and confusing. Buy only if you are fluent, and turn the subtitle off. Fortunately, I can enjoy this.
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on October 25, 2012
Most of Hideo Gosha's films waver from really gripping (The Wolves, Three Outlaw Samurai and Hitokiri) to pretty average and dull (Sword of the Beast and Hunter in the Dark) but what shows in all his films is brilliant eye for direction and set pieces, for example the brilliant festival scene in The Wolves and the final duel in Goyokin amid falling snow. He brilliantly captures in all his films a visual beauty while sometimes the film material does not match up with his direction but sometimes it does, Goyokin is one of them. the film stars Tatsuya Nakadai as Magobei Wakizaka a wandering ronin who used to work for a Feudal Lord but disgusted by a massacre that they perpetuated has left. Guilt haunted by it, he discovers that another massacre will take place and he returns back to stop it and exact vengeance on those responsible. Goyokin boasts some barbed social criticism on the Samurai and a story which meanders yet grips and boasts many beautifully directed sword fights scenes making this a classic Gosha film. Also a very good transfer from Tokyo Shock.
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on April 19, 2012
I love this movie. I lost the disk but still had the box lying around, taunting me, so I had to buy it again. Definitely a great watch. Phenomenal main character and supporting cast.
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