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Sword of the Beast (The Criterion Collection)

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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(Oct 25, 2005)
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The Criterion Collection
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Editorial Reviews

Legendary swordplay filmmaker Hideo Gosha Sword of the Beast chronicles the flight of Gennosuke, who kills one of his clan's ministers as part of a reform plot. He is pursued by his former comrades, and the betrayal so shakes his sense of honor that he decides to live in the wild, like an animal

Special Features

  • New essay by Japanese-film and pop-culture authority Patrick Macias

Product Details

  • Actors: Mikijirô Hira, Gô Katô, Shima Iwashita, Toshie Kimura, Kantarô Suga
  • Directors: Hideo Gosha
  • Writers: Hideo Gosha, Eizaburo Shiba
  • Producers: Gin'ichi Kishimoto, Masayuki Satô, Seichi Mori, Suguru Matsunaga
  • 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: 85 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,170 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Sword of the Beast (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
When we first meet Gennosuke Yuuki (Mikijiro Hira) at the start of "Sword of the Beast" ("Kedamono no ken"), the samurai of the Enshu Kakegaw clan has just killed Counselor Kenmotsu Yamaoka and is in the process of fleeing to his home province. Kenmotsu's only daughter, Misa (Toshie Kimura), along with her fiancé, Daizaburo Torio (Kantaro Suga), immediately set off in pursuit. Gundayu Katori, master swordsman of the clan, and four of his best men were sent along to assist them. The year is 1857, after the arrival of Commodore Perry's fleet, and the nation faces inevitable reform. But staying alive is Gennosuke's only goal. His pursuers disparage him for being a coward by running away, but Gennosuke would rather sacrifice his pride than his life.

The problem is that as he flees Gennosuke meets up with this shady fellow who knows where to find gold on land owned by the Shogun near Mount Shirane. Also after the gold are a gang of bandits and the samurai Jurota Yamane (Go Kato), who is being aided and abetted by his wife. What is set up is a sword fight between Gennosuke and Jurota, but when Gennosuke saves Jurota's wife from the bandits that changes the dynamics of the situation. Meanwhile, everybody is making their way to the mountain for the big showdown, and while this film was originally released in the United States as "Samurai Gold Seekers," the title "Sword of the Beast" proves to be much more accurate.

Director Hideo Gosha ("Yokiro") and his co-writer Eizaburo Shiba come up with a more complicated scenario than we usually find in these samurai movies. Although Gennosuke is the central character, it is Jurota whose life is the subject of flashbacks to explain his problems and motivations.
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Format: DVD
Idealism. Patriotism. Loyalty. These are powerful tools that the corrupt and cunning can use to manipulate the naive and willing. Thinking that they are working for the greater good, it can come as a cruel surprise that the innocent foot soldier is only a pawn-sacrifice in a greater game of personal gain and self-advancement. However, sometimes the pawn is not willing to be sacrificed.

That is the theme of Gosha Hideo's "Sword of the Beast" ("Kedamono no Ken") . Gennosuke, a minor clan warrior, is tricked, under the banner of "reform," into assassinating a high-ranking minister. He has been promised position and prestige for his bold act. Instead, his sponsor soon turns on him, claiming no knowledge of the plot and demands Gennosuke's death. Realizing his "samurai honor" is a house of cards, he flees into the wilderness, determined to become a beast, living only for himself. Pursued by the murdered man's daughter and her fiance, he scrambles only to live, refusing to play his role and lay down and die. Encountering Yamane, another idealistic samurai who is being played the fool by another clan, he is determined to enlighten Yamane and his pretty wife before they too become beasts, abandoned and betrayed.

Gosha's second film, after his excellent debut in "Three Outlaw Samurai," he continues the same themes of the juxtaposition of idealism and harsh reality, and how loyalty and service to a greater good are shallow hopes, used to enslave those stupid enough to believe in them, serving only to gain wealth and status for the leaders. It is a dismal, depressing viewpoint, but an understandable exploration in light of Japan's history and personal encounters with manipulative military leaders.
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Format: DVD
Samurai melodrama, and not bad. Gennosuke Yuki (Mikijiro Hira) is a young, low-ranking samurai who is ambitious and wants to reform his clan. It's 1857 and Perry's black ships have already had an impact on feudal Japan just by sailing into Tokyo Bay four years earlier. Gennosuke's naivety and ambition lead him to kill his clan's counselor. He had put his trust in a clan leader who had implied this was needed, but he has been betrayed. Now he's a hunted ronin with a price on his head, pursued by Misa, the vengeful daughter of the murdered counselor, and her betrothed, plus a small retinue of clan warriors and a master swordsman. "To hell with name and pride," he says. "I'll run and never stop."

After more betrayals and deadly sword fights, he encounters Jurota Yamane (Go Kato) and Taka (Shima Iwashita), a married couple who are illicitly panning gold from the Shogun's mine for their own clan. At first he is determined to take the gold from the man, an ambitious samurai like he was who has put his trust in his clan leaders. "I can't afford to to live by my conscience," Gennosuke says. "My opponent is a warrior, it's true. But it's up to me whether I defeat him and take his gold, or am defeated by him and left to die a dog's death in the hills." Bandits and the ruthless intentions of an advisor and his men from the other clan make Gennosuke find he hasn't entirely lost his sense of honor. At one point Taka tells him, "I want to become a beast like you," but she finds that, ultimately, although her husband and Gennosuke are both flawed, they make sacrifices that redeem themselves.

In other hands, this might have been high drama with moral overtones. What we have, in my view, is effective melodrama which is satisfying to watch. I wouldn't consider Mikijiro Hira a compelling actor.
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