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Rebel Samurai: Sixties Swordplay Classics (Samurai Rebellion/Sword Of The Beast/Samurai Spy/Kill!) (The Criterion Collection)
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Masaki Kobayashi's Samurai Rebellion, starring Toshiro Mifune (Rashomon, Shogun), is the most traditional of the four: Visually elegant and austere, it meticulously traces how a forced marriage leads to a family's collapse in a bloodbath. Repressed emotions erupt in honor-shattering violence as a father and son turn against the lord of their clan in the name of love. In the other three, the moviemaking itself reflects the upset in values. Hideo Gosha's Sword of the Beast follows an aimless ronin (a masterless warrior) who, pursuing gold, finds a new meaning in life as he battles killers from his own clan. "To hell with name and pride!" he shrieks in the first five minutes of the movie, mere seconds after a sexual dalliance in the underbrush. The story roars along, the visual style loose and dynamic, the characters far more gritty and rough than the stiff-backed soldiers of Samurai Rebellion.
Masahiro Shinoda's Samurai Spy fairly explodes with spectacular action sequences and dynamic editing; the politics are almost impossible to follow, but the story rips along as a handsome spy navigates a treacherous war, musing about life and death when he's not engaged in acrobatic swordplay. The final film, Kihachi Okamoto's Kill!, is as outrageous as its title. From the opening scene of a starving ronin stumbling out of a howling dust storm, Kill! pushes the complexity of clan politics to absurd proportions and discards stylized duels in favor of realistically brutal and clumsy butchery, backed up with a startling surf guitar soundtrack. Black humor abounds as wildly eccentric characters--including Tatsuya Nakadai as a laconic, Robert-Mitchum-flavored ronin--scrabble for food, sex, and some shred of dignity in a ravaged landscape. All four films will be a revelation to anyone who thinks the samurai genre begins and ends with Kurosawa. Each is mesmerizing on its own; as a package, they're a potent education. Essential viewing. --Bret Fetzer
Top Customer Reviews
Of the four films, "Samurai Rebellion" is the greatest masterpiece. Toshiro Mifune is incredible as an aging samurai trying to maintain his honor and the honor of his family in an age that is no longer honorable. Director Kobayashi ("Harakiri") should rightfully take his place next to Kurosawa and Ozu in the pantheon of great Japanese directors. Masahiro Shinoda ("Double Suicide") gives us "Samurai Spy," a tale of intrigue deeply wrapped up in real Japanese history. It is almost film noir, with its twisting plots and shifting loyalties. Hideo Gosha ("Three Outlaw Samurai") in "Sword of the Beast" shows a bleak portrait of a samurai who comes to realize that honor is garbage and that he is nothing more than a pawn of bureaucracy. Finally, Kihachi Okamoto ("Sword of Doom") goes in an entirely different direction with the parody "Kill!," which is sort of the "Blazing Saddles" of the chambara genre.
Anyone fan of the samurai genre is probably planning to pick up these four DVDs individually, and this box set allows you to get them all for a bit cheaper. For Criterion Collection releases, they are surprisingly bare-bones, being only the movie with few extras, but at least they are available and looking beautiful. The box itself is annoying, only opening on the bottom as opposed to the side like most boxes. This makes it hard to access the DVDs, as you have to pull them all out in order to get the DVD you are searching for.
"Samurai rebellion" is a great tragedy, with a top-notch Toshiro Mifune as a retired swordsman, a shakespearian final battle, and a great plot. The oral arguments are as sharp as the sword fights.
"Sword of the beast" is a very good thriller, with a ronin on the run after being used by his master in a power grab.
"Samurai spy" is centered around spies, with a twisted plot, double crossings and deceptions a-plenty, and a captivating intrigue.
And for me, the gem is "Kill!", which skillfully moves between tragedy and comedy, has hysterical moments of slapstick combined with a solid storyline, and mixes the traditional samurai movie codes with western influences: highly recommended.
* SAMURAI REBELLION (imdb score: 8.4/10, 303 votes)
Excerpt From 1993 Interview with director Masaki Kobayashi
Original Theatrical Trailer
Essay by Japanese film historian Donald Richie
In Masaki Kobayashi's SAMURAI REBELLION, a formerly loyal Bushido warrior revolts against his tyrannical lord when the royals claim his unwilling daughter-in-law as a mistress. Although his quest for justice is futile, the swordsman refuses to accept the command without a fight. Theatrical release: December 1967. Winner of the FIPRESCI Award at the 1967 Venice Film Festival. Toshirô Mifune and Tatsuya Nakadai also appear in many of Akira Kurosawa's films.
* SAMURAI SPY (imdb score: 6.8/10, 47 votes)
Video Interview with director
Essay by film scholar Alain Silver
Director Masahiro Shinoda weaves a complex, twisty narrative in the aptly named SAMURAI SPY, which follows war- and subterfuge-weary warrior Sasuke Sarutobi (Tetsuro Tamba) as he gets drawn into one last mission, tracing a wily defector named Koritama. Defying the genre conventions of samurai films, Shinoda's story is full of noir-ish intrigue and double-crosses. It takes place in a world where none of the characters, not even samurai, are what they seem.Read more ›
I really enjoy this set because it shows a wide breath of the samurai film genre. It includes the traditional lord vs. retainer film Samurai Rebellion. Which is arguably one of the best samurai films ever made. Kill! is a fun spaghetti-western style film. If your a fan of Yojimbo, you'll immediately gravitate toward Kill! Samurai Spy is a bit hard to follow due to the large cast. But that just encourages repeat viewings! Samurai Spy is pretty interesting in that it can introduce people to the sub-genre of Ninja films, (the real ones, not the cheezy 80's fake ones.) Sword of the Beast is more of a examination of a Ronin who's trying to find something to live for after he's been sold out by his clan. Directed by the great samurai director Hideo Gosha, you can't go wrong with this one.
Overall, it's a great starter box for anyone interested in diving into the genre. If you've watched Seven Samurai or Yojimbo, and you feel like you want to explore more. I highly recommend this set!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Love this genre. This sets not as good as Kurosawa's box set. So if you don't own either then invest in The Hidden Fortress/Sanjuro/Yojimbo/ 7 Samurai set first. Read morePublished on January 11, 2014 by Stuart A. Bailey
Rebel Samurai - Sixties Swordplay Classics -Criterion Box Set
This box set contains 4 individually cased DVDs. These DVDs contain minimal extras. Read more
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