Directed by Kihachi Okamoto and released in its home country of Japan in 1966.
Another great samurai film, this time from Kihachi Okamoto and with the great Toshiro Mifune in a fantastic supporting role, leaving ample space for Tatsuya Nakadai as Ryunosuke Tsukue; the samurai with only one partner, his sword: thanks to this he has an endless line of enemies. The question you ask yourself when you watch him take another cup of sake is if he will do himself in or if his demise will be at the hands of another.
The film builds up tension like a rocket awaiting to be fired and at its most incredible features an atmosphere unlike any other to be found in the cinema that I’ve seen from this genre, but then again maybe I need to see a few more films before I make that assessment. Nevertheless, we are treated to a vast array of plot points to keep us entertained as Ryunosuke strolls nonchalantly to his impending doom.
The final freeze frame shot is typical but I’d have liked to see a more intimate final showdown between two. But I suppose once you take into consideration the absolute depravity of Ryunosuke’s character you realise the only way for him to really go out is in a blaze of glory. Toshiro Mifune’s character, Toranosuke Shimada, says this quote midway through the picture: “The sword is the soul. Study the soul to know the sword. Evil mind, evil sword.” This relates perfectly to Ryunosuke’s mindstate throughout the entire film. The performance is no doubt a feat but I owe the greatness of The Sword of Doom to the atmosphere which director Okamoto creates along with the simultaneously stunning choreography of the battles.
Definitely worth a watch more than once.