What you'll get...
Low-Ranking Reviewer | US of A | 10/13/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I don't have my copy yet, so this is not a review. But this potentially great 4-film set will include:
* SAMURAI REBELLION (imdb score: 8.4/10, 303 votes)
Excerpt From 1993 Interview with director Masaki Kobayashi
Original Theatrical Trailer
Essay by Japanese film historian Donald Richie
In Masaki Kobayashi's SAMURAI REBELLION, a formerly loyal Bushido warrior revolts against his tyrannical lord when the royals claim his unwilling daughter-in-law as a mistress. Although his quest for justice is futile, the swordsman refuses to accept the command without a fight. Theatrical release: December 1967. Winner of the FIPRESCI Award at the 1967 Venice Film Festival. Toshirô Mifune and Tatsuya Nakadai also appear in many of Akira Kurosawa's films.
* SAMURAI SPY (imdb score: 6.8/10, 47 votes)
Video Interview with director
Essay by film scholar Alain Silver
Director Masahiro Shinoda weaves a complex, twisty narrative in the aptly named SAMURAI SPY, which follows war- and subterfuge-weary warrior Sasuke Sarutobi (Tetsuro Tamba) as he gets drawn into one last mission, tracing a wily defector named Koritama. Defying the genre conventions of samurai films, Shinoda's story is full of noir-ish intrigue and double-crosses. It takes place in a world where none of the characters, not even samurai, are what they seem.
* SWORD OF THE BEAST (imdb score: 7/10, 10 votes)
Essay by japanese film and pop culture authority Patrick Macias
After killing one of his own clan's ministers in a reform plan gone awry, proud samurai Gennosuke (Mikijiro Hira) flees his former comrades and, thoroughly shaken, goes to live alone in the wilderness in SWORD OF THE BEAST. There he falls in with a group of illegal miners and a master swordsman named Yamane (Go Kato), who eventually shows him how to recapture his lost honor. Director Hideo Gosha is a master at shooting swordplay, but here he handles the more interior, emotional moments with just as much skill.
* KILL! (imdb score: 7.1/10, 80 votes)
Original Theatrical Trailer
Essay by film historian and culture critic Howard Hampton
Two scruffy swordsmen, Genta (Tatsuya Nakadai) and Hanji (Etsushi Takahashi), are the focus of Kihachi Okamoto's black comedy, which is loosely based on the same novel that inspired Kurosawa's SANJURO. Genti, a weary ex-samurai, and Hanji, a former farmer and aspiring warrior, arrive in a small town and promptly get sucked into a dispute between a brutal, corrupt clan leader and a group of brave but hapless rebels. Full of dark, irreverent humor as well as plenty of action, KILL! keeps up a quick pace, and features music by Masaru Sato (who also composed YOJIMBO's terrific score).
audio is in mono, with improved english subtitles. available 10/25/05. imdb scores as of 10/14/05. all info obtained from other websites."
David Chatenay | San Francisco | 11/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The four movies in this boxset are quite similar, and yet very different. They all talk about samurai life, honor, betrayal, the cruelty of chambellans and vassals. But the ways to tell the stories are very different.
"Samurai rebellion" is a great tragedy, with a top-notch Toshiro Mifune as a retired swordsman, a shakespearian final battle, and a great plot. The oral arguments are as sharp as the sword fights.
"Sword of the beast" is a very good thriller, with a ronin on the run after being used by his master in a power grab.
"Samurai spy" is centered around spies, with a twisted plot, double crossings and deceptions a-plenty, and a captivating intrigue.
And for me, the gem is "Kill!", which skillfully moves between tragedy and comedy, has hysterical moments of slapstick combined with a solid storyline, and mixes the traditional samurai movie codes with western influences: highly recommended."
Four Samurai - serious, silly, sneaky and wild
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 08/27/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Rebel Samurai - Sixties Swordplay Classics" is a collection of four superb films, each highlighting a different style in the multi-faceted chambara genre, from a slow-boiling political powerhouse like "Samurai Rebellion" to the parody film "Kill!." The four directors showcased, Masaki Kobayashi, Masahiro Shinoda, Kihachi Okamoto and Hideo Gosha, are probably the greatest directors of samurai films aside from The Emperor Akira Kurosawa.
Of the four films, "Samurai Rebellion" is the greatest masterpiece. Toshiro Mifune is incredible as an aging samurai trying to maintain his honor and the honor of his family in an age that is no longer honorable. Director Kobayashi ("Harakiri") should rightfully take his place next to Kurosawa and Ozu in the pantheon of great Japanese directors. Masahiro Shinoda ("Double Suicide") gives us "Samurai Spy," a tale of intrigue deeply wrapped up in real Japanese history. It is almost film noir, with its twisting plots and shifting loyalties. Hideo Gosha ("Three Outlaw Samurai") in "Sword of the Beast" shows a bleak portrait of a samurai who comes to realize that honor is garbage and that he is nothing more than a pawn of bureaucracy. Finally, Kihachi Okamoto ("Sword of Doom") goes in an entirely different direction with the parody "Kill!," which is sort of the "Blazing Saddles" of the chambara genre.
Anyone fan of the samurai genre is probably planning to pick up these four DVDs individually, and this box set allows you to get them all for a bit cheaper. For Criterion Collection releases, they are surprisingly bare-bones, being only the movie with few extras, but at least they are available and looking beautiful. The box itself is annoying, only opening on the bottom as opposed to the side like most boxes. This makes it hard to access the DVDs, as you have to pull them all out in order to get the DVD you are searching for."