A young samurai, Shojuro Sako, travels on the Tokaido to Edo with his two servants, Genta and Gonpachi. Gonpachi has been told by Shojuro’s mother to prevent his Master from drinking.. The road is not safe. On the way, they meet young orphan boy, Jiro, and many other travellers… A team of great directors, including Yasujiro Ozu, Hiroshi Shimizu and Daisuke Ito, assisted Uchida with his remarkable post-war comeback film. It’s an affable samurai road movie with a focus on unglamorous characters, as a dim-witted samurai and his servants traverse the Tokaido highway. Much of the film is played as comedy, making the brilliantly staged violent climax all the more shocking.
Here some words coming from it and about this particular film :
“(Tomu Uchida) was most highly honoured in Japan for the period films which formed the bulk of his later output. In these films, he consistently raised generic expectations only to subvert them. Donald Richie has described his first film on returning to Japan, Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji (1955), as “a ‘real’ samurai film with pre-war motivations (loyalty to the master)”, and indeed the film reveals the influence of the great pioneer director of samurai films, Daisuke Ito, who assisted the film’s production (8). If anything, though, the spirit of the film is closer to that of the pre-war master of comic jidai-geki, Mansaku Itami, partly in its detail of characterisation, partly in its repeated delaying of generically anticipated swordplay. Also reminiscent of Itami is the focus on unglamorous characters: here, the drama centres on the servants, while the master, Kojuro, is a fool and drunkard. The comic device of a servant cleverer than his master is not uncommon, but here it is used to call into question the hierarchical structures of Japanese society. As the film proceeds, Kojuro’s encounters with the common people and his perception of social injustice, lead him to challenge his own values. The climax of the film is tragic: Kojuro is murdered by a group of samurai who mock him for inviting his servant, Gonpachi, to drink with him at the same table. Gonpachi is obliged to kill them in turn. In doing so, he discharges his feudal duties while challenging feudal hierarchies. The irony, however, is subdued: the abiding sense is one of tragic waste, for which the imagery of the final battle, fought in the courtyard of an inn where sake leaches to the ground from barrels breached by spearpoints, seems the perfect symbol.”