Toshirô Mifune defines the quintessential samurai in Hiroshi Inagaki's 1954 Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto
, the first feature in a trilogy based on the epic novel by Eiji Yoshikawa. As in Kurosawa's classic Seven Samurai
, which appeared the same year, Mifune plays a brash and ambitious peasant who desires fame and power as a swordsman. His dreams of glory in war sour when his army is routed and he becomes hunted by the authorities, but the "tough love" attentions of a kindly but severe monk help him develop from a hot-tempered outlaw to a thoughtful swordsman. Inagaki's somber color epic is very different from the energetic action of Kurosawa's films. The sword fights and battles are practically theatrical in their presentation, staged in long takes that emphasize form and movement over flash and flamboyance. Mifune brings a sad, almost tragic quality to the samurai warrior Musashi Miyamoto, whose dedication proscribes him to a lonely life on the road. Though the film stands well on its own, its stature takes on greater significance as the first act of Inagaki's stately, contemplative epic of the professional and spiritual development of Musashi, whose training and adventures continue in Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple
. --Sean Axmaker
Winner of the Academy Award® for Best Foreign Language Film, and hailed as one of the most visually stirring movies of the 1950s, Samurai I
follows the formative years of Musashi Miyamoto, Japan's most famous swordsman, as he goes off to a civil war in search of glory but finds defeat and shame instead. Toshiro Mifune's Miyamoto is spellbinding, and his performance here rivals his work in Seven Samurai
. The first film in Hiroshi Inagaki's Samurai Trilogy unlocks the beautiful and savage world of the samurai as few other films have.