Sword of the Beast (1965) Poster

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8/10
what separates humanity from beasts?
jprince1119 February 2006
On the surface this may seem like a typical samurai action flick but like Kurosawa and Kobyashi films there are many social implications beneath the surface.

The movie seems to revolve around the irony that while Gennosuke, the main character who is basically cast out of society in to the wild and forced to constantly fight for his survival like an animal, is actually the only character that tries to show any qualities above that of a beast.

Every other character from a group of bandits he encounters to the group of clansmen trying to exact revenge after Gennosuke killed their leader, to a man and his wife from a separate clan trying to steal gold to improve their clan status are either acting for revenge, power, or greed. The greed exists because most of the movie takes place around a mountain where gold has just been discovered and Gennosuke is befriended by a poor man hoping to find some for himself.

Throughout the movie there is constant backstabbing, deception, and generally brutal acts committed by a multitude of these characters. For instance the man from a separate clan living with his wife on a shack by the river are attacked by bandits in the woods trying to steal the gold they have already mined; they hold the wife hostage in demand for his booty but the man would rather give up his wife then part with his gold. Her saving grace is when Gennosuke shows up on the the scene and acts with the courage and compassion to save her life. The husband does come around a little later in the movie but in the end his rival clan plans to kill everyone on the mountain and save the gold for themselves threatening the couple, Gennosuke, and his persuers.

Gosha does a great job with his imagery, demonstrating a wild, dark world threatening to swallow humans whole. Throughout the film, which is almost all outdoors are scenes of men disappearing into woods or buried beneath shrubbery. In fact, it's quite reminiscent of another Japanese Classic, Rashamon. Some of the shots are virtually identical, ie the sun being concealed over the forest canopy or disappearing behind a mountain.

One of the best touches is towards the end when soldiers from the rival clan are planning to take the mountain, and kill anyone who knows about the gold. One of them sounds a battle horn to signal the approach, a battle horn made to sound conspicuously like some kind of strange animal call.
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The path of the beast...
chaos-rampant24 April 2008
This early Hideo Gosha jidai-geki that was released by Criterion opens quite abruptly with a ronin named Gennosuke being hunted down for having killed his clan's counsellor. We're at 1857, on the brink of the Meiji reformation that saw Japan opening to the west after years of seclusion and the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The central plot revolves around the struggle between the old and new in a country on the verge of change. Although short in duration (clocking in at 85 minutes), the story never lets up with numerous twists and a fast pace. A series of events will find Gennosuke and a prospector he meets along the way searching for gold in a mountain, until they get caught up in another clan's schemes. Nothing is what it seems though, and therein lies the beauty of Sword of the Beast. As the story progresses both forwards and backwards (with glimpses in Gennosuke's past in the form of flashbacks), the characters' motives are fully fleshed out and this provides the extra dramatic oomph that pushes Sword of the Beast above "merely OK" territory. Behind all the swordfighting (and there's enough of it to be enjoyed here, certainly not Lone Wolf and Cub though), Gosha has a story to communicate.

With beautiful natural exteriors photographed in stark black and white, confident directing from Gosha, very good swordfighting scenes from actors who know their trade and decent performances all around, Sword of the Beast should appeal to all jidai-geki fans. It's neither as monolithic and tragic as Masaki Kobayashi's work from the same time nor as lyrical as Kurosawa's, but it stands somewhere in the middle, stripped to the essentials with a focus on story and theme.
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9/10
Solid intro to Gosha's work
shinobirastafari12 July 2001
One of Gosha's earlier movies, it contains all the elements that made him a "chambara" director to be admired and emulated: Well-composed and thoughtful cinematography, a cynical view of authority (with certain implications for modern Japanese society), human drama, and OF COURSE, some excellent swordplay!

Certainly a solid and watchable samurai drama, both for "popcorn" and "cinema" appeal. I'd see Goyokin and/or Hitokiri first, but see this one next!
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8/10
A decent "anti-samurai" film
MartinHafer10 February 2007
The film begins with a group of VERY determined samurai chasing another one in an attempt to kill him. You really don't know why, but it seems they've been chasing him for a long time. I really like the story-telling method where only slowly is the reason for this and other sub-plots revealed AFTER the major action has introduced the characters. While this could have made the film confusing, it didn't drag this mystery on for too long and ultimately created quite a tale. I particularly liked the overall theme of the meaninglessness of the corrupt samurai system--this could make the film a "downer" for some, but I really liked how it was a rebuttal to the myth of the beauty and elegance of the code of the warrior (much like the myth in Western society of knighthood and chivalry).

There were quite a few films made in Japan about the corruptness of the Japanese feudal system (such as THE 47 RONIN and SAMURAI SPY), so the overall focus of this anti-samurai film isn't that unusual. However, for fans of this genre, the film has good acting, writing and direction--so it certainly is recommended. It's just that there are other even better Japanese films that are worth seeing first.
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7/10
A Cautionary Tale
sc80312 July 2008
As others have mentioned, this is a solid film about corruption among feudal samurai. The acting and cinematography are both good and the evolution in the characters throughout the film is solid. The action scenes, while not all too common, are very frenetic and gripping.

It is easy to see why this was a Criterion release. There are certainly a number of good samurai movies, but this one isn't like all the others. The title may easily be confused in English with "Sword of Doom" and the protagonist does look quite a bit like Tatsuya Nakadai, but these movies and their themes are completely different.

The movie also stayed with me after watching it. It left me thinking about cults, fraternities and clans. Individuals who dedicate themselves most selflessly to a cause or group, aren't they the easiest group members to sacrifice?
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7/10
Stong direction, photography and action enliven a standard theme
ChungMo27 October 2007
There are many films set in the feudal period of Japan that can be read as commentary on contemporary Japanese life. Here a couple of well-meaning and excellent sword-fighters are used by their superiors to further selfish agendas. The "beast" of the title is not a crazy samurai but rather the noble hero who is forced by treachery to forgo his social connections and travel from place to place like a roaming beast.

As western values permeate Japan, the conflict between the individual, as personified by the wandering noble ronin who gives up attempting to reconnect with normalcy (or in American cinema, the western hero who rises above social norm and becomes an ideal to attain), and the good samurai who upholds social stability to the detriment of his own needs (no real American equivalent) found itself expressed in period Japanese films. Many Japanese films of the 1960's and 70's feature characters who reject old fashioned values in the name of justice, yet suffer and never really are able to enjoy their good deeds. This film is set in the time after Commander Perry's ships essentially invaded Japanese territory and threw Japanese society for a spin.

Well-made, good acting and a solid directorial effort makes this a good samurai film even if the repeated flash-backs might be confusing. Unfortunately there are some excellent films that cover this topic already so this particular film seems unremarkable by comparison.

Good film and recommended.
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6/10
Warmth of a Woman's Skin
Meganeguard21 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Near the end of the Edo Period and on the eve of the Meiji Restoration Japan was a country entrenched in Civil War. Conservative factions supporting the Shogunate and Revisionist factions supporting the Emperor fought each other for the future of the country. Like most revolutionists, Yuuki Gennosuke was quite young and full of ideals when he slew a conservative counselor. However, instead of receiving a higher position after his daring deed, Gennosuke is forced to become a bandit and is pursued by the daughter and son-in-law of the slain counselor.

With only his swords and his wits to protect him, Gennosuke continuously flees his pursuers to keep alive. Having abandoned the samurai code, Gennosuke incorporates every method to save his own skin. However, because his pursuers have been granted permission to seek a vendetta against him, vendettas were only official if given government approval, they can also use whatever means necessary to seek their revenge. Heading deeper into the wilderness, Gennosuke learns from a petty vagabond that a nearby mountain is covered in gold. Having to support himself for his life on the run, Gennosuke agrees to help the man acquire some gold. However, it is illegal to search for gold on the mountain and also Gennosuke and his partner are not the only two on the mountain searching for gold… Part of the Criterion Collection's Rebel Samurai Collection, The Sword of the Beast takes the samurai ethics displayed in such classics like Inagaki Hiroshi's Miyamoto Musashi and turns it on its head. Loyalty to friends and loved ones is sacrificed for wealth and in one case with Jurota and his wife Taka the pact of marriage is of lower worth than gold. Full of action and several well done swordfights, Sword of the Beast is not to be missed by fans of samurai cinema, however, for the common viewer Kobayashi Masaaki's Hara-kiri or the samurai films of Kurosawa Akira would be a better place to start.
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8/10
Highly enjoyable, briskly paced 60's samurai film
jschergen11 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is a very early Gosha film and an immensely enjoyable one. Thematically this film is fairly similar to Gosha's masterpiece Goyokin. Both films follow disillusioned samurai while they attempt to break away from their past life as retainers. Compared to Goyokin, Sword of the Beast is much shorter and not as wide or ambitious in scope.

The plot follows Gennosuke, a samurai that we learn has been manipulated by his clan and eventually hunted. Adding to the drama, he is hunted by a group of people lead by a former friend from his clan. Through flashbacks we learn exactly how Gennosuke has ended up in his current position. Previously he was a low level samurai in his clan, with great sword skills but little else. A high level retainer talks with and manipulates a naive and ambitious Gennosuke into taking action. As you can imagine, when he is on the run his aspect on life and his clan is much different! The most interesting aspects of the film occur when his circumstances cause him to view the samurai code much differently than he had as a retainer.

The action is very well filmed with good composition and stylistic choices such as the freeze frame. At only 85 minutes, the film is quickly placed with plenty of action. While Mikijiro Hira doesn't match Tatsuya Nakadai's masterful performance in Goyokin, he still does a more than competent job. Overall, this film was a pleasure to watch. To anybody else who enjoyed the film, I would highly recommend Goyokin (thematically very similar and one of Gosha's best).
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Enjoyable movie
mmushrm3 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I found this movie to be very enjoyable with great pacing. Watching this movie, I was enthralled by the artistry involved in good black and white cinematography. The play of the lighting and shadows and the acting involved in this movie is good. For those of you who remember those old sci-fi horror TV shows where the narrator always comes on in the end and makes a closing statement/comment on the preceding episode. In the case of this movie it would've been ".....and the beast was man.". The plot breakdown has already been written in the other reviews so i will not repeat. However I feel that the "message" of the story is interesting enough that different people will come away with different understanding and feelings. For me its a commentary on how honour, duty, patriotism, ambition can and will be manipulated and used by those in authority to control the actions of the masses (for the authorities on benefit).
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9/10
brilliantly shot and told human story of dignity,love,revenge and redemption
gypzzy18 January 2009
The plot of this film with all its brilliantly weaved in subplots, is as fresh as it was on release simply for its varied human emotions involved.It is brilliantly constructed plot for its masterful simplicity and coherence.I beg to differ with the previous review that the plot is complicated.It has been masterfully shot by Toshitada Tsuchiya.Though not as exclusively done in Hara Kiri, the issue of the insurmountable Samurai-pride is touched upon and exposed for its obvious conflict with human values and frailties.The universal theme of power-centers exploiting desperate individuals for its ends and expending with them once the latter serve out the former's purpose is explored in this film.The theme of the ever-resillient individuals faced with debilitating order and the need to escape the same to be free and alive is the principal theme of this film. Even in its length the film is just one and a half hours.It is so good one would wish it were longer!! This film is highly recommended for anyone interested in films, along with Samurai-drama fans and those who appreciate good cinematography. Definitely a classic.
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9/10
The forbidden gold's creek on high mountain!!!
elo-equipamentos21 March 2019
An unusual samurai tale instead all happening take place at small village or something like that all unfolding of history were in a forbidden area where that has a creek on high mountain, a couple are prospecting for gold under a opposite clan command, which don't has the rights over this area, a runaway samurai see his future in stolen this gold as form to be free from their angry pursuers who crying out for revenge, a fabulous landscape displayed on the canyon where running clean calm waters slide around the rocks on the creek, there are a countless little waterfalls neither, surrounded by a native florest, a little rough hut is an unsafe shelter for the poor couple, who fights with others thieves, in those amazing environment the story develops itself, a fabulous new approach to an psychological side, easy understanding by the audience for this marvelous genre!!!

Resume:

First watch: 2019 / How many: 1 / Source: DVD / Rating: 9
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I really enjoyed this film..
abyss23200230 June 2003
This is Gosha's first or second movie he made in his carrer, after watching his other great movies like goyokin and tenchu, I said what the hell might as well get his other movies, this movie has an exeptional plot and has some great sword fights, especially in the abandoned hut, when the two main characters started going at it...

PS: his other movie that I really like was three outlaw samurai..
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6/10
Sword of the Beast
ignatz92823 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Often resembling the pilot of a TV show more than a stand-alone movie, Sword of the Beast is a gritty, cynical samurai film that, like the films of Masaki Kobayashi (with which it was grouped by the Criterion Collection) mounts an attack on Japanese feudal authority, and, by extension, Japanese authority in general. In the film's fast-paced, exploitative opening, the samurai protagonist is on the run from his former clan, who, in a typically shameless male fantasy, send a woman to seduce and distract him (all during the opening credits). As we later learn, the hero's involvement with a group of reform-minded samurai led him to assassinate his conservative clan head, all as part of a plot by the clan's ambitious second-in-command. Only some of this elaborate set-up is actually resolved, since the story comes to revolve around a mountain which other characters have been illegally mining for gold. Despite the very cinematic widescreen style and intensity that director Hideo Gosha brings to the film, the plot's restricted scope and open-ended conclusion give Sword of the Beast more of the feeling of a TV pilot than of a full-fledged samurai epic. The fight scenes are good without having being particularly memorable, but Gosha does bring a nice messy quality to them, so that the participants seem more like fallible human beings than the superhuman warriors who often populate films of this sort. Perhaps the story's biggest weakness is that the story's conflicts : both of the parallel plots involve samurai who are betrayed by superiors in their clans, but in neither case does the betrayal seem to be very deeply felt. It is perhaps in this respect, more so than in the plotting, that the film's TV-like qualities are truly limiting, denying the film the same kind of mythic resonance of the best work of Kurosawa and Kobayashi.
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8/10
No, we *are* connected because I'll see you in hell.
lastliberal6 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
It is interesting that the supposed "beast" in this film is the one who acts with the most honor among all the samurai involved.

It is a short film that has many stories going on.

Gennosuke (Mikijiro Hira) has been betrayed by the vice-Chancellor after he kills the Chancellor of the clan and is on the run, a "beast" forced to live in the forest. He befriends a gold digger, who really has an excellent part with laughs and thoughtful lines.

He also comes across another samurai who has been living in the forest with his wife collecting gold for his clan and hoping for advancement. He, too, will be betrayed, and by the same person as betrayed Gennosuke.

As everything gets sorted out, there is some good swordplay, and, like the western hero we are all familiar with, Gennosuke walks off into the sunset.

Definitely makes me want to check out more of Hideo Gosha.
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4/10
A Run-Of-The-Mill Production.
net_orders21 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Viewed on DVD. Cinematography = seven (7) stars; restoration = six (6) stars; subtitles = four (4) stars; editing = two (2) stars; score = one (1) star. Director Hideo Gosha's mounting of a pedestrian Chanbara (sword play) that starts with a superfluous, expository voice-over (which is never a good sign) and quickly begins to suffer from the effects of ham-handed editing. The film uses flashbacks that repeat everything described in the voice-over. Flashbacks occur without warning with the narrative just suddenly (and confusingly) jumping to past events (for sure, the film could benefit from events emerging in chronological order). In one scene, a prostitute suddenly appears and murders a nearly drown samurai for reasons never fully explained. In another, a major sword fight suddenly jumps from an interior set to an exterior field of tall grass. The list goes on and on. (It is obvious that too much (or not enough) has been left on the proverbial cutting-room floor!) Sword fights are poorly choreographed and seem amateurish. They take on the unmistakable aura of children playing with wooden sticks. The Director seems to have exerted a firm hand on his actors/actresses with the former turning in credible performances (except for their wielding of swords). But, alas, it is not enough to compensate for a weak and wobbly script (gold-panning samurai, anyone?. The movie's title is explained/ underlined ad nausea in scene after scene. Cinematography (wide screen, black and white) is very good. It is often understated with subtle nuances. The use of tall grass and a boulder-laced stream for exterior scenes is excellently staged. Film score includes contemporary jazz rifts that should have been used elsewhere and not in a photo play of the mid 1800's. Restoration is fine. Subtitles are often too long given the fast flash rates. A hallmark of Criterion releases. (Keep a finger poised over the pause button!) A partial cure for insomnia. WILLIAM FLANIGAN, PhD.
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