Set in the civil wars of the 1570s, the film follows three samurai, Hayate, Jurata, and Yakeiji after the fall of their castle. Jurata escapes by pretending to be Hayate and escorting Hayate’s love Kano to safety, while the other two survive the fighting despite their wounds. Yakeiji becomes the leader of a bandit group while Hayate is saved by Oryo, the daughter of the leader of a different set of bandits. Jurata falls in love with Kano, but she leaves him to search for Hayate, just missing him several times, and Oryo also falls in love with Hayate and tries to track him down after she believes he killed her father. Numerous changes of sides, adventures, and confrontations follow for all.
Sengoku burai is another of those significant movies that somehow slipped through the cracks in film history. Based on a 1951 novel, it is another step in Inagaki’s post-war revival of the jidai-geki. The result is a grand romantic spectacle that, if nothing else, reminds us that the modern samurai movie did not begin with Kurosawa.*
Unfortunately, it is a bit difficult to really judge Inagaki’s film, because at the moment we can’t actually see it. According to IMDB, the only available DVD at present is missing a full 30 minutes, almost a quarter of its original content. And that DVD is made from a print that is considerably faded, with both darks and lights grayed down so that in some scenes it is not always possible to distinguish faces, much less details of the settings. But there is enough there to indicate that this was in fact a major milestone in Japanese post-war film-making, even if the critics of the time seem not to have noticed.
Japan On Film
1.47GB | 1 h 45 min | 700×510 | mkv
Subtitles:English (srt muxed)