Toshirô Mifune is confidence supreme and humility incarnate as the mature samurai master Musashi Miyamoto in the final film of Inagaki's sprawling trilogy. Now a legendary swordsman whose latest quest is to save an isolated village from rampaging brigands (shades of Seven Samurai
), he remains haunted by the memory of Otsu (Kaoru Yachigusa). Meanwhile the ruthless and increasingly jealous Kojiro Sasaki (Koji Tsuruta) plots his battle royal with Musashi to prove who is the finest fencer in Japan. Inagaki weaves the web of subplots into a series of grand confrontations, among them the most exciting battles of the trilogy: Musashi's skirmish with the army of cutthroats while the village erupts in a fiery inferno around him, and the sunset duel between Musashi and Kojiro on an isolated beach, the two warriors taking on mythic dimensions silhouetted against the sun setting over the surf. Inagaki's delicate use of color throughout the series becomes most pronounced in this final sequence, where the glow of orange and red adds dramatic flourish to the twilight battle. Inagaki's reserved, restrained style and Mifune's melancholy performance--his granite face and stocky stance the very essence of somber wisdom and sad assurance--bring a gravity and seriousness to the drama that ultimately illuminates the personal cost of Musashi's supreme skill as his story ends on an elegiac but hopeful note. --Sean Axmaker
Hiroshi Inagaki's acclaimed Samurai Trilogy is based on the novel that has been called Japan's Gone with the Wind. This sweeping saga of the legendary seventeenth-century samurai Musashi Miyamoto (powerfully portrayed by Toshiro Mifune) plays out against the turmoil of a devastating civil war. The Trilogy (whose first part won an Academy Award®) follows Musashi's odyssey from unruly youth to enlightened warrior. In the third installment, Duel at Ganryu Island, Musashi reunites tragically with the women who love him, and battles for samurai supremacy in a climactic confrontation with his lifelong nemesis.