The Sword of Doom


The sword is the soul. Study the soul to know the sword. Evil mind, evil sword.

I watched The Sword of Doom ("Dai-bosatsu tôge" so, more literally, Daibosatsu Pass) over the past couple of nights.  I started Friday night but was too tired to finish it, so I wrapped it up last night.  A dark movie looking into a dark soul, it featured a magnificent performance by Tatsuya Nakadai as the brooding, malevolent Ryunosuke. Not sure the plot made a whole lot of sense, but the body count was as high as any samurai flick I've seen.

Ryunosuke is a samurai without conscience during the mid-1800s in Japan, as the shoguns collapsed and the emperor rose.  Despite accepting a rival's wife's offer of her virtue in exchange for throwing an upcoming match, he ends up killing him and slicing and dicing his way out of a pack of the dead rival's friends.  He is exiled, although he does take along the wife of his rival.  Ryunosuke becomes involved in a few samurai clans as a hired sword, while being tracked down by the brother of the slain fighter.  The movie ends in a paroxysm of sword fighting and death, which doesn't come as a surprise to anyone, including Ryunosuke and the viewer.

There's also a parallel story of woman whose grandfather Ryunosuke sliced at the beginning of the movie.  I'm not really sure what Omatsu had to do with the story of Ryunosuke, besides the fact there were occasional intersections.  The IMDB entry says that it was originally to be the first of a trilogy, so perhaps Omatsu would have played a bigger part in later movies. Many of the one-on-one killings done by Ryunosuke have a cloudy morality. The grandfather was literally asking to die, while the rival tried to kill Ryunosuke first, so perhaps we can't cast too harsh a judgment on Ryunosuke.

I liked "The Sword of Doom", although, as I mentioned in the comments to Yokimbo's Sanjuro/Yojimbo post,  I'm not terribly fond of these dark, violent samurai movies.  I like ones with a more obvious moral compass, like Seven Samurai or Hidden Fortress. Call me simple, I guess!  But "The Sword of Doom" could probably stand another viewing, just to see how dark Ryunosuke's soul truly is.


no surprise, but i have this dvd.  i originally wanted to get the vhs version, but i'm glad i ended up waiting for the criterion dvd. although criterion usually put out great dvds, i found that the lack of extras for this one was kind of.. well disappointing.  i hope they revisit it with new material, like what they've been doing with all of kuroswa's film.

Yes, it was quite a bare dvd, but as I rarely have time for any extras, it didn't really bother me.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on January 28, 2007 7:52 AM.

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