Enjoy this Monday with Mildred!
The Sword of Doom
You may have noticed I haven’t reviewed anything zombiefied lately. I just tried to watch Undead or Alive, an old west with zombies pastiche. Nothing felt old about the west and the zombies were terrible. I lasted fifteen minutes and stuffed it back into its Netflix envelope.
So I pulled out Into the Night, a stylish 1985 cameo fest in which Michele Pheiffer plays sock-it-to-me siren to Jeff Goldblum’s sleepy lost soul. A lot of Hollywood turned out to help in this attempted comeback after the Twilight: The Movie accident that many people blamed on director John Landis. BB King gave it a killer score and cameos included David Bowie, Dan Aykroyd, Jim Henson, Cal Worthington, and directors David Cronenberg and Don Siegel. This film is actually one of my favorites, and I hate myself for it.
The best film I’ve seen in a few weeks, though, is a 1966 Japanese samurai noir, The Sword of Doom, in which a sociopathic samurai cuts a swath through the 17th century countryside. This is easier to achieve if you’re the best swordsman in the world, and it’s the sort of role actor Tatsuya Nakadai returned to time and again, possessing believable cutting skills and a thousand yard stare Freddie Krueger would envy. If you’re having trouble remembering the dictionary definition of sociopath, this could also be an educational tool.
Coincidence is the order of the day in Japanese films then and now, but this can move the plot along very quickly and up the stakes dramatically so I don’t have a lot of problem with it. Ryunosuke slaughters an old man while on his way to a tournament because, well, why not if you find an old man praying, right? As the film goes on and the body count doubles and triples and centuples you begin to wonder how many people has this guy casually slain before the old man. His granddaughter now has a tougher row to hoe without family, and it gets worse still when she and Ryunosuke’s paths cross again later, with neither of them knowing of the connection.
Not long after that walk-by assassination Ryunosuke has to fight his way down a narrow lane to get out of town. This iconic sequence is often listed in those best of lists for good reason. Too bad those tend to forget the Kill Bill snowy back room scene but oh, well. There are many well done fights and some serious creepiness going on through most of the movie, with an unusual ending that may frustrate you. This was supposed to be a trilogy, as it’s based on what has been called the longest novel in the world. It’s a crime they never finished.
If you’re looking for a mid-century masterpiece, try The Sword of Doom, especially if you’re looking for creeping horror along with the sword fights, and an interesting look at ancient Japanese culture. It certainly beats watching an American Old West with characters in stylish off-the-rack Reno tourist wear.
The Sword of Doom 1966 Trailer
The Sword of Doom – Movie Trailer [With added music and titles from the YouTube channel creator.]
CFR: In Addition: OMG. Mildred did not mention that Toshiro Mifune, one of the greatest actors of the 20th century, is in this movie. OMG. He is legend. I would watch this movie for him alone.