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Samurai Spy (The Criterion Collection)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Hiroshi Aoyama, Jun Hamamura, Osamu Hitomi, Minoru Hodaka, Hisanobu Ichikawa
  • Directors: Masahiro Shinoda
  • Writers: Koji Nakada, Yoshiyuki Fukuda
  • Producers: Shizuo Yamanouchi
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: October 25, 2005
  • Run Time: 99 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #181,323 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Samurai Spy (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Exclusive new video interview with director Masahiro Shinoda
  • New essay by film scholar Alain Silver

Editorial Reviews

Years of warfare end in a Japan unified under the Tokugawa shogunate, and samurai spy Sasuke Sarutobi, tired of conflict, longs for peace. When a high-ranking spy named Koriyama defects from the shogun to a rival clan, however, the world of swordsmen is thrown into turmoil

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
See all 7 customer reviews
There are many excellent samurai films.
C. O. DeRiemer
Sasuke is loyal to his clan, but he also follows his own mind and heart, and he believes that wars are not necessary, even though he fought, as he was required to do.
Julie L. Hayes
Not the typical violent samurai movie but enough excitement to keep it stimulating.
Tommy Wu

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 31, 2005
Format: DVD
"Ibun sarutobi sasuke" ("Samurai Spy") was made by director Mashario Shinoda in 1965 and the title is quite apt because this really is a spy movie in which the spies are samurai. To be accurate many of them are ronin, and most of them are Yagyu ninjas, but even though they run around with swords and throw deadly little stars you may well find yourself thinking more of James Bond than Akira Kurosawa. Actually, when it comes to being reminded of other famous directors the one that will most come to mind when watching this film should be Orson Welles because Shinoda is obviously into film noir and has a great love for deep focus camera techniques.

The story, based on a novel by Koji Nakada, is set in the year 1614 during the period of uneasy peace that followed the years of warfare that led to Japan being unified under the Tokugawa shogunate . Sasuke Sarutobi (Koji Takahashi) represents a clan that has avoided taking sides in the conflict between the Tokugawa and the Toyotomi clan. Even though he is a spy he has grown weary of war and desires peace. However, when Tatewaki Koriyama defects from the shogunate to another clan, Sasuke is drawn into the tangled web of intrigue. While Sasuke trails Tatewaki a strange white-hooded figure, Sakon Takatani (Tetsuro Tanba), is hunting them both. Then there is the young Christian who the local magistrate wants to crucify and the women who cross the path of Sasuke, including Omiyo (Jitsuko Yoshimura). The politics here gets a bit confusing, especially since even the honest people are involved in some sort of double cross, which may explain why Crierion has actually included a character gallery as one of the special features that tells you who is on what side and what they are trying to do.
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Format: DVD
To enjoy Samurai Spy, you'll find three things are helpful. First, some knowledge of Japanese history. Second, the ability to keep straight a lot of Japanese names, some of which sound alike to Western ears, such as Tatewaki and Takatani. And third, a fondness for pulp adventure stories.

So, history first...and take notes because this is important to what the story is all about. Hideyoshi Toyotomi had succeeded in unifying Japan, but he spent a lot of money and time in two brutal invasions of Korea. When he died he left a lot of unrest and a young heir, Hideyori. Ieyasu Tokugawa was a noted general, a leading supporter of Hideyoshi and one of the regents for Hideyori. He also was smart and ambitious. He managed to maneuver things in such a way that he could not be blamed when his forces and the forces supporting Hideyoshi's young son came to blows. In 1600 Tokugawa decisively beat his enemies in the great battle of Sekigahara. But now the forces of the Toyotomi, based in Osaka, are gathering their strength again. Tokugawa, shogun since Sekigahara and based in Edo, will not tolerate this and is gathering his forces. And both sides are employing ruthless spies.

Now all those names. Sarutobi Sasuki (Koji Takahashi) had been a spy for a clan allied with the Toyotomi. Now he is sick of war and has left all that behind. He is a strong man of noble character. Tatewaki Koriyama (Eiji Okada) had been a key spy for the Tokugawa but has defected to the Toyotomi. Sakon Takatani (Tetsuo Tamba) is the main spy for the Tokugawa and is determined to find and destroy Koriyama. Takatani is a master swordsman and skilled in all the ways of the spy.

The story is a kind of pulp samurai mystery-adventure.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ernest Jagger on December 30, 2006
Format: DVD
This samurai film, directed by Mashario Shinoda, is set in the year 1614. It is after a time of relentless warfare by the two major warring clans: The Tokugawa and Toyotomi. After the Tokugawa clan has become victorious, it is a time of uneasy peace. The Tokugawa shogunate has been able to unify Japan. However, the Toyotomi clan still has a base of power in Osaka. The Tokugawa shogunate is wary and extremely concerned about this, and therefore engages in spying activities. One of the characters in the film, Sasuke Sarutobi (Koji Takahashi) comes from a clan that did not take sides during the battles between the Tokugawa and Toyotomi clans. His is a very interesting character in the film: His samurai skills are also matched by his ninja skills. And I would have to write, it felt like a samurai film, but with more of a twist of ninja.

However, Sasuke Sarutobi was employed as a spy by one of the clans that was allied with the Toyotomi clan. Sasuke is tired of war, and is an honorable man; but the latest intrigue that is about to engulf him will require his use one more time. Meanwhile, there is a fissure in the uneasy peace in this newly unified Japan. One of the Tokugawa spies, Tatewaki Koriyama (Eiji Okada) has defected to the Toyotomi clan. Sakon Takatani (Tetsuo Tamba) is the main spy for the Tokugawa shogunate, and he is determined to kill Tatewaki Koriyama. The Toyotomi clan is still bent on overthrowing the shogunate, and the use of a spy within the Tokugawa shogunate would be a feather on their cap concerning the inner dealings of the spy network and secret plannings of the Tokugawa shogunate. While the Toyotomi clan are gathering forces, the film takes off into a somewhat Cold War type mystery film: And what ensues is a atypical samurai spy film.
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