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4.2 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Toshiro Mifune, Koshiro Matsumoto, Yuzo Kayama, Chusha Ichikawa, Setsuko Hara, Yoko Tsukasa - Dir:Hiroshi Inagaki For two hundred years, no other story has captured the hearts and imagination of the Japanese people more than "Chushingura." When Lord Asano


Chushingura means "loyalty," and that potent Japanese theme runs like hot blood throughout this stately samurai epic. It's often called the Gone with the Wind of Japanese cinema, and while that may be a fitting cultural parallel, it gives an inaccurate impression of the film, based on one of Japan's most enduring and oft-interpreted historical events. A simmering, deliberately paced drama set during the Tokugawa shogunate in 1701, it centers on 47 loyal samurai who seek vengeance against the arrogant elder statesman who caused their master's ritual suicide. The now masterless ronin let seasons pass (and the movie occasionally seems just as long) before executing a climactic raid that is both expertly fierce and lethally efficient. Featuring a who's-who of fine Japanese actors, including Kurosawa regulars Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura, Chushingura bears little resemblance to Kurosawa's action-packed samurai classics. This is a thematically dense, politically complex drama, presented here at its fullest length (207 minutes) and best appreciated after multiple viewings. Masterfully composed with painterly precision, Chushingura weaves its intricate tapestry from time-honored tenets of Japanese culture, offering a challenging but grandly rewarding experience. --Jeff Shannon

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Yûzô Kayama, Chûsha Ichikawa, Tatsuya Mihashi, Akira Takarada, Yôsuke Natsuki
  • Directors: Hiroshi Inagaki
  • Writers: Toshio Yasumi
  • Producers: Hiroshi Inagaki, Edward Landberg, Sanezumi Fujimoto, Tomoyuki Tanaka
  • Format: Color, Dubbed, Letterboxed, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: 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: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: February 27, 2001
  • Run Time: 207 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000056NWP
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #115,323 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Chushingura" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tracy E. Blackstone on November 18, 1998
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
This film is one of the two best Samurai films of all time, the other being Kurosawa's SEVEN SAMURAI. CHUSHINGURA ("loyalty") is based on a real incident in 18th century Japan, wherein 47 loyal retainers of a disgraced lord take a vow of vengeance on the corrupt nobleman who caused his downfall and death. The story is timeless, the acting is uniformly magnificent, the camera work is so gorgeous that any frame of this film could be hung in an art gallery, and the music is exciting and heart-lifting. It's a complex plot, following many separate individuals as their vengeance unfolds, so first-time viewers may get confused. No matter -- it all comes together at the end. Watch for the late great Toshiro Mifune in a cameo role as a Master Spearman who becomes drinking buddies with one of the 47, and who takes it upon himself to hold off the cops in the final showdown so that his pal and the other 46 won't be interrupted before they can find and behead the bad guy and fulfill their vow. I have watched this movie many, many times, and I always find something new and wonderful in it. Now that it's FINALLY available on video, don't miss it!!
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Despite the film's division into two parts, I think the Chushingura is best understood as a complicated story told in three acts.
The first act, culminating in the seppuku of Lord Asano, details the conflict between the young lord and Kira, the Shogun's master of ceremonies, and is, in my opinion, the most interesting as it unfolds logically, tragically, and inevitably towards the spilling of blood in the Shogun's castle. Asano and Kira, at least in this stage of the film, are fully realized and three-dimensional characters, and their conflict can be understood on several levels: idealism versus pragmatism; rural versus urban; and, most centrally, a conflict between different conceptions of honor. Kira is slighted because Asano won't show him the deference he feels he deserves, and Asano cannot accept Kira's attempt to teach him a lesson without fatally wounding his pride. The characters feel real because the situation is developed so carefully, and we as viewers understand why the principal actors behave as they do.
I think the movie bogs down a bit in the second act where the retainers of Asana plot their revenge on Kira. I also feel it is at this point that those unfamiliar with this story may find it difficult to follow the plot. Like the assassination of Thomas Becket in 12th century England, the story of the 47 loyal retainers has left the historian with not only a wealth of primary documents but also of contemporary analysis of exactly how the events were interpreted. Whereas Becket's murder resonated because of the changing perceptions of the limits of temporal power in medieval Europe, the 47 ronin reflect the changing nature of samurai honor following the pacification of Japan under the Tokugawa shogunate.
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Based on actual events, the story of the loyal 47 ronin is probably the most dramatized story in Japanese theatrical tradition. Appearing originally as a bunraku puppet play, it was soon followed by a fantastically successful Kabuki adaptations and more than eight cinematic versions. Its enduring popularity is based on the core Japanese values it represents; loyalty to a superior, at the cost of all things including life, love and personal happiness. Like the Western King Arthur and Robin Hood, the 47 ronin have passed from history to legend.

This version, "Chushingura" (Full Japanese title is "Chushingura: Hana no maki yuki no maki,") is a sprawling 3 hour epic from the Japanese master of legendary films. Director Hiroshi Inagaki, probably best known in the West for his 3-film Miyamoto Musashi masterpiece "Samurai I,II and III," brings his unique eye to the familiar story, blending a quiet human touch into the massive picture. He has assembled the all-stars of the Japanese chambara ("swordfight") genre. Tatsuya Mihashi ("Tora Tora Tora,") Takashi Shimura ("Seven Samurai,") Yuzo Kayama ("Red Beard") and of course Toshiro Mifune ("Seven Samurai," "Yojimbo," too many films to mention...), each name on the roster is one of the best, each with at lease on Kurosawa-credit on their resume, if not more.

The story unfolds at a long, dense pace, leaving you wondering along the way which of Lord Asano's 60-plus samurai will remain loyal, and which will give into fear. By no means is this an action film, but a didactic tale stuffed with politics and the disintegrating nature of modernization and the loss of traditional morality and ethics. However, the film is a long slow fuse, building to the dynamite that is the rightful vengeance of the loyal 47.
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Format: DVD
Chusingura (the 47 Ronin) is a tale that is as popular in Japan -and as often produced - as The Christmas Carol is in the U.S. - and just as revealing of cultural assumptions about right and wrong. There are many versions, each focusing on one of the "47 masterless Samurai" who refuse to surrender and face disgrace out of loyalty to their master. The theme (and story) will be familiar because it's been reworked many times ranging from Gilbert and Sullivan's "Mikado" to "From Here to Eternity."
If you want to gain insight into the Japanese concept of loyalty and the price of honor above all else this is the one movie you should not miss.
The color photgraphy and scene settings are well done and sound is excellent; the acting is also very good and does not lean heavily on over-emoting that is the sometimes "norm" for Japanese films. Sub-titles are a little light, but easy enough to see and this is one of the more accessible versions (many are not available to Western audiences as more recently they tend to be done for annual TV specfials. You won't need to know the history to follow the story - or get the point.
It's a true story of a proud, old fashioned country Samurai who puts the Samurai Code and personal integrity above politics of reality. He's summoned to the Shogun's castle to do his duty - service to the emperor whole messengers are coming through the territory. A corrupt court official expects and demands a bribe to tell the Samurai what he must know of intricate protocol and is outraged when our hero refuses to bend. The official goads him into drawing his sword in the castle - a capital offense, leading to his forced harikiri - suicide.
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