Three Outlaw Samurai
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New English subtitle translation
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Bilge Ebiri
Top Customer Reviews
Three Outlaw Samurai begins in simple yet extravagant fashion. We see Shiba take a few steps in the mud followed by an extremely loud music cue and the title card written in Japanese Kanji. Six seconds into this chanbara film and I already know I'm going to love it. The film buys its time though as the first half of the film is mostly very talkative and swords are drawn only briefly before lengthy discussions begin once again. The storytelling is a high point as loyalty and the overall cause for all of this mayhem are always both relevant to the events taking place on screen. The cinematography is also brilliant, especially since this is the debut of Hideo Gosha. The well-choreographed and intense swordplay sequences are always captured with the most precise camera placement.
Lighting and shadows also play a big part in how the film is presented visually. The one-shot sword fight in the two-story whore house is the best example of this. Right down to the drastic lighting on Kikyo's eyes before everything goes to hell, Three Outlaw Samurai is the type of film fans of samurai, foreign, and great cinema in general dream of.Read more ›
So glad this film is getting a Criterion release and will hopefully finally get its deserved recognition by samurai movie fans in the west.
The story concerns a group of peasants who kidnap the daughter of a corrupt local official, in the hopes of attracting his attention to the plight of the poor townsfolk. Several samurai tough guys happen to be in the area, and the plot hinges on whether these samurai will decide to help the peasants. While this scenario seems quite simple on the surface -- and I suppose it is -- director Hideo Gosha handles it expertly, generating lots of suspense and sympathy for the characters.
Surprisingly, some commentators consider this film an inferior "rip-off" of Kurosawa fare like Seven Samurai. I have a couple of responses to that. First, I don't think Kurosawa really invented the samurai genre, or even the type of world-weary samurai character so often played by Toshiro Mifune (e.g., the samurai character of Tange Sazen predates Kurosawa's stuff). Also, because Three Outlaw Samurai is very short, violent, and "punchy," it has a different feel/tone from Seven Samurai and similar Kurosawa epics, so I don't think the two films really conflict or negate each other at all. I enjoy both styles quite a bit.
Meanwhile, Criterion's DVD of Three Outlaw Samurai has a very nice print that highlights the beauty of the film's black-and-white photography. (I'm kicking myself for not buying the Blu-Ray instead, but hey, I had no idea I'd like this so much!) There aren't any great special features to speak of, though the DVD comes with an essay that provides interesting details on Gosha's career and the TV show that inspired this film. So on the whole, this DVD gets my enthusiastic seal of approval.
Airing on Japan's Fuji TV from 1963 through 1969, the drama series achieved a high rating of 42%. In Japan, anything over 25% is fantastic and not only did the studio Shochiku have a hot series, the three actors Tetsuro Tanba, Isamu Nagato and Mikijiro Hira became the most popular actors because of the TV series.
And with the success of the first season, Shochiku decided to create a jidaigeki film based on the characters of the TV series and "Sambiki no Samurai" (Three Outlaw Samurai) and give Hideo Gosha the opportunity to direct his first film.
And in 1964, "Three Outlaw Samurai" was released in theaters and would become a classic samurai film in Japan which would later inspire a manga series and TV sequels that would air on TV Asahi last from 1987 through 1995 (featuring newer characters) and a final "goodbye" drama series which aired from Oct.-Dec. 1999 which would feature the return of original actor, Tetsuro Tanba.
And now, "Three Outlaw Samurai" makes its first Blu-ray and DVD appearance in North America courtesy of the Criterion Collection.
The film is the second Gosha film to be released by the Criterion Collection, the first release on DVD was Gosha's second film (and his most popular film in the west), "Sword of the Beast" (1965).
"Three Outlaw Samurai" is presented in black and white (2:35:1 aspect ratio). This 1964 film looks absolutely fantastic on Blu-ray. Not only is there a good amount of grain, there is also a good amount of detail. May it be the dirty floors of the mill or its wooden surroundings.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It was a decent samurai film but it could've been better.Published 5 days ago by Francisco J. Miyares, MD
A fantastic release from criterion and a great movie to boot. No complaints here.Published 4 months ago by Joseph Sheldahl
I always liked Japanese Samurai flicks so I am a sucker for this one. Done very well.Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer