Confusing, but entertaining, fast paced and fun ninja flick.
21 December 2000
Warning: Spoilers
The confusion level is very high for the story, but so is the entertainment quotient. This is good fun, in a fast-paced, light drama; but without any of the goofball humour that mars later 1970s Japan samurai pulp films. The elderly leaders of two Ninja clans are actually the same person in disguise. The old man frequently changes disguises and travels to the other hideout during the night to give commands and play his role as the clan leader in each place. In one clan, he enlists and inspires one young ninja aspirant to fight for him in trying to overcome a powerful warlord who is trying to kill off all the ninjas in Japan. The young man ends up being seduced by the old man's young wife. The old man catches him and blackmails the young ninja into asassinating the warlord. One of the most interesting things about this film is watching all the now well-worn cliches of ninja behaviour and methods being introduced in this story: The old man climbs up his walls and in his attic almost like a monkey; the old string and poison assasination trick is used in one place, and some mild humour is added when one adept young ninja keeps accidentally killing small birds when trying to hit various assasination targets with his little star wheels. By the end, most of the confusion is cleared up, and I even found myself wanting to watch it again to understand more of the details. Both the evil old nina leader and the young, ambitious ninja warrior are very convincing in their roles, and are just really fun to watch. On the downside, this movie is too well-made to rate as a good B-movie, but is not really good enough quality to rate it as an "A" movie, either. So the overall feeling is that of a slightly better than mediocre grade A movie. Also, the action is spread a little thin and far between longish drama scenes. Since the drama is on the light side, there is no mesmirising effect as with a good Kurosawa yarn. Overall, however, it is still an entertaining and satisfying movie to watch from an early 1960s ninja filmmaking master.
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