“Vendetta of Samurai” (1952) written but not directed by Kurosawa

“Vendetta of Samurai” (Mataemon Araki: Ketto kagiya no tsuji, 1952, written by Kurosawa for Mazuo Mori) features four of the (1954) “Seven Samurai” (Shimura Takashi, Mifune Toshiro, Kato Daisuke , and Chiaki Minoru), plus the rubber-faced old farmer Yohei (Bokuzen Hidari) as a teahouse owner. After illustrating the improbable legend of Mataemon (Mifune) slaughtering 36 samurai in the Igagoe Vendetta of 1634, there is a revisionist narration and then a slow middle of the movie as Mataemon plans the ambush in which his young brother-in-law Kazuma (Katayama Akihiko [Mother]) will avenge the murder of Kazuma’s brother by Matagoro (Chiaki). This involves Matemon going against his best friend, Jinza(Shimura), and a fearsome spear fighter Hanbei. Mifune is very restrained. The middle of the movie is IMHO becalmed. Though I appreciate the contrast of legend and greater realism, I miss the cinematic dynamism of Kurosawa’s direction.

Mataemon remains implacable and imperturbable, but Kazuma trembles and Mataemon has to order him to finish the kill. The other two samurai in the revenge party also show fear, as does Matagoro. Also, in their duels to the death both Mataemon and Kazuma have the advantage of having helmets. Jinzai removed his just before crossing the river into town, and Matagoro had been wearing only a straw hat.

 

©2016, Stephen O. Murray

(This should have been included with my posting on two other Kurosawa scripts directed by others at https://japaneseculturereflectionsblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/04/two-late-1940s-movies-kurosawa-wrote-and-others-directed/.)

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