Gosha’s 1979 “Hunter in the Dark”

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As in “Goyokin” (1969), “The Wolves” (1971), “Ominasa” (1982), “Kumokiri “ (1978), and “Heat Wave” (1991), Gosha Hideo cast Nakadai Tatsuya in “Hunter in the Dark” (Yami no karyudo, 1979), a Tokugawa-era yakusa film of considerable complexity and slow pace, following a brisk opening ambush scene. Nakadai’s character, the worn-down, eager-to-retire gang leader Gomyo hires skilled swordsman, one-eyed amnesiac Tanigawa Yataro (Harado Yoshio [Rônin-gai]) as his bodyguard and eventually has to avenge his death.

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The last half hour or so involves a lot of action and kills off almost all the characters, male and female (the exception is the loyal Oriwa (Ishida Ayumi). Nakadai and Sonny Chiba conclude the carnage with a swordfight in a chicken coop, with chicken feathers taking the place of plum blossoms from the end of “Samurai Saga.” I think that in 137 minutes there should have been more character development! The movie is markedly inferior to Gosha’s first two films (, which were not lacking in narrative complexity.

Satô Masrua’s score won the Japanese academy award, though it did not positively impress me.

 

©2016, Stephen O. Murray

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