To be a samurai meant owing nearly absolute allegiance to the leader of one's clan, the daimyo. One often filmed story is about 47 loyal samurai committing harakiri en masse when their clan is disbanded. But what happens when the daimyo is unjust and plays with the lives of his loyal samurai?
In SAMURAI REBELLION, a young samurai is forced by his daimyo to marry a difficult mistress who had dared to manhandle him. Lady Ichi surprisingly turns out to be a jewel, and Yogoro, her new husband, grows to love her. When the daimyo changes his mind and has her kidnapped after several unsuccessful attempts to bully the family, Yogoro and his father Itaburo (Toshiro Mifune) singlehandedly take on the whole clan.
Before you know it, the blades are out of their sheathes, and bodies are falling all over the place. Particularly spectacular is a duel between Itaburo and his friend Tatewaki (played by the great Tatsuya Nakadai) in a windswept field of grass. Director Masaki Kobayashi (KWAIDAN, HARAKIRI) is at his best here; and numerous scenes are icily controlled and eerily beautiful as he guides his camera, breaking down sequences into abstract geometrical patterns.
I can't help remembering the song in the musical BANDWAGON which summarizes HAMLET as "The king and the prince meet / And everyone ends up mincemeat." As in HARAKIRI, there is a point to the mayhem here: The honor of a single family CAN outweigh the honor of the clan.