After checking out Kill! the next Criterion film I checked out was Sword of the Beast, another samurai film, this time from 1965. The film was directed by Hideo Gosha and is set in 1857 toward the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The story follows Gennosuke (Mikijiro Hira), a samurai on the run after assassinating a counselor in his clan. He is relentlessly pursued by Misa, the daughter of the counselor he killed, and Daizaburo, her future husband.
As with several films of this genre that I’ve watched recently, the reasons behind Gennosuke’s actions are…well, complicated. The gist though, is that like other protagonists, Gennosuke was tricked into doing what he did, expecting to be rewarded afterward. Instead, he’s double-crossed and forced to go on the run.
That much of the story I can understand, as well as Gennosuke’s rightful claims that the clan he formerly served is corrupt to its core. Apart from that though, this story actually disappointed me. I was expecting and/or hoping for Gennosuke’s issues to be properly resolved in some way by the end of the story…but they’re not. Sure, by the end Misa appears to have given up her wish to see Gennosuke dead, but the story just ends with the rebel samurai walking away. It’s an ending that doesn’t satisfy me at all, as I feel like Gennosuke’s story doesn’t have any closure. After all, isn’t the clan still going to be after him for what he did?
Also, I found parts of the story to be a little jarring. Some characters are introduced that seem to have no relevance to Gennosuke’s story, and even though their connection to the story is later explained, it was still a bit awkward for me.
I did like watching Sword of the Beast for the most part, but it’s not my favorite samurai film by any stretch of the imagination. It has its moments, but I can’t get over how disappointed I was with the ending of the story.
Let me know what you think about Sword of the Beast in the comments below and have a great day!
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