5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Film and Action!
SWORD OF DOOM is one of the masterpieces of samurai, and action, cinema but certain aspects of it are difficult for non-Japanese audiences or viewers not familiar with the historical background of the subject.
Toshiro Mifune, who gives a fine performance as fencing master Toranosuke Shimada, once said in an interview, "We [the Japanese producers and filmmakers] know...
Published on Dec 5 1999 by Morgan Alexander
3.0 out of 5 stars Superbly shot, Shot Storyline
What to say about this movie- As others have written, it is a great movie until the very end. I loved the swordplay and the directing, but the plot was confused, and in the end, brought it down. I would recommend this for the sword fighting, but not for the plot. If you had combined the swordplay here with the plot of Kagemusha, that would be a truly amazing film.
Published on July 2 2000 by Nick Porter
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Film and Action!,
Toshiro Mifune, who gives a fine performance as fencing master Toranosuke Shimada, once said in an interview, "We [the Japanese producers and filmmakers] know that many samurai films are shown outside of Japan, but we make no attempt to cater to that market." SWORD OF DOOM is a perfect example. It was made for Japanese audiences who are familiar with the original story which had been filmed and staged many times and was well-known. The Japanese audience is expected to be as familiar with the plot and historical details as an American audience watching a film about the Civil War or the Old West is expected to be.
Here are some plot points that may make the film a bit easier to understand for new viewers or for other viewers who previously watched it and got tripped up on some details. I know I did the first time I saw it theatrically. If you found the film difficult on the first viewing, give it another chance. And maybe these notes will help!
* In one scene, the main character Ryunosuke Tsukue changes his name to Yoshida after killing an opponent during a duel. The name change isn't explained in any detail. A subtitle simply identifies a sign outside his house as "Yoshida." Some characters now refer to him as Yoshida and others as Tsukue. Again, remember that Japanese audiences are probably familiar with the change.
* Tsukue first meets Shimada at his fencing school. Tsukue wants to challenge the student who won his match with "a splendid Do attack." This referrers to Kendo, the Japanese martial art of fencing. In Kendo, participants wear headgear and leather armor and fence with bamboo swords. Only certain areas on the body are legitimate striking points: the top of the head, the forearms, and the sides. When Tsukue defeats his opponent, Shimada says, "Men. He won." He's referring to a point scored, not addressing his students!
* In one scene, a title informs the viewer, "The Shinsen Group is formed!" The Shinsen Group (Shinsengumi) were a para-military group of swordsmen who vowed to protect the Tokugawa Shogunate which was losing its once vast power. Shinsengumi fought against anything that might weaken the Shogunate; including foreign influences and internal factions. The Shinsengumi have been portrayed many times in movies and TV shows. In some cases, they are portrayed as self-sacrificing patriots loyal to their country. In others, they are portrayed as a fascist military group killing anyone who opposes them or the Shogunate. Toshiro Mifune starred in and produced an excellent film about them called BAND OF ASSASSINS (SHINSENGUMI). Hopefully, AnimEigo will eventually release this.
* The final scene. What exactly happens? Does Tsukue kill dozens of men and then die? Does he survive to face the brother of the man he killed? Or is the entire battle only in his deranged mind? It's the last scenario. When Tsukue ran out of men to kill, his warped mind invented more. Of the three versions I've seen, (this version, a trilogy of films made in the 1950s by Tomu Uchida and another trilogy made in the 1960s by Kenji Misumi) this is the only version that doesn't explicitly show that Tsukue is imagining the final battle.
* What does happen to Tsukue? If you'd rather not find out, skip to the next paragraph. Tsukue is blinded during an explosion and becomes more of a sympatric figure. The avenging brother finally has a chance to settle with him during a violent storm. He hesitates to kill the nearly defenseless Tsukue. A flood washes Tsukue away to his death.
SWORD OF DOOM is a fantastic film to watch. The director, Kihachi Okamoto, was one of the most impressive visual stylists working in film. The final scene holds up beautifully today. The acting is excellent all around. Nakadai as Tsukue gives one of the screens best performances. Few actors could create such disturbingly nihilistic characters as Nakadai does in this performance. The character is a perfect contrast to Mifune's Shimada. Both are highly skilled swordsmen but Mifune knows that "an evil soul is an evil sword."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Into the Dark,
5.0 out of 5 stars my favourite movie,
This review is from: The Sword of Doom (Criterion Collection) (DVD)this is not going to be a helpful review, but if you like bloody fun and samurai goodness, this is the movie for you. Also, Tatsuya Nakadai is beautiful, so it's even better.
5.0 out of 5 stars "serious buisness",
This review is from: The Sword of Doom (Criterion Collection) (DVD)Pretty awesome film! There are ambiguities, but that's what adds to the mystery of it all. Apparently this movie was to have been made into a trilogy, and is based on a series of (historically based) manga that is over forty issues long and also still incomplete. The cinematography is stunning, and the actors superb. Definitely a worthy purchase for an admirer of Japanese film (or classic film in general), particularly if passionate about such history. Sit back and enjoy, its a goodie.
4.0 out of 5 stars Great movie, but abrupt ending!,
5.0 out of 5 stars film noir meets chambara,
5.0 out of 5 stars A Pleasant Surprise,
4.0 out of 5 stars Samurai Evil,
4.0 out of 5 stars "DOOMed" From The Start,
Structured like a good novel (and based on one by Kaizan Nakazato), DOOM allows the viewer to follow the lives of several separate people -- two samurais, two women, and a thief -- as they are inexorably drawn closer and closer together ... and a seemingly chance meeting brings this boiling masterpiece to a violent, destructive head.
However, the real mastery of this film is the sword choreography, though Nakadai's brooding menace certainly keeps the viewer riveted to the screen. Rarely has a samurai film moved to the level of the bloodbath fighting that quite probably was associated to true samurai matches, and certainly, as the product packaging provides, nods to influences of Peckinpah, Leone, and (much later) John Woo are warranted. The climax -- the inevitable explosion of a man driven mad by the ghosts of his past -- is brilliantly staged and executed.
Along for the ride in a blistering cameo is Toshiro Mifune who, in five minutes of screen time, shows what a tour de force performance is truly meant to be.
If DOOM has any shortcoming, it might be an inability to reach a suitable conclusion with Western sensibilities. American influences almost require a neat and tidy packaged ending to films, and DOOM postulates one much like BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID where the fate of the participants is largely left to the imagination of the viewer. As the mad Nakadai swings and swings his way through his final showdowns with the gang he has long served, the audience is never given the ultimate vision of his survival or demise ... and that's the beauty of the tale. In the arc of his character, the samurai has already found and faced his fate, and it is madness.
Grim, inescapable madness.
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Greatest Samuari Films,
The main charater has a dark foreboding feel of a samurai "Darth Vader". Though, in Star Wars, it turned out Vader had good barried within him. This charater is just bad. To me he will be one of the quintessential evil charaters of all time.
That said, the plot is excelent, the acting is great, and the directing is top knotch. The director is capable of creating the same tension as a Leone shoot out, and the same sinse of carnage of the shootouts in the Wild Bunch, except with swords. That is why to me Samurai films are supperior to Hong Kong Kung Fu movies, they were directed to create mood were the Kung Fu movies are only about action.
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The Sword of Doom (Criterion Collection) by Kihachi Okamoto (DVD - 2005)
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