Hiroshi Inagaki's acclaimed Samurai Trilogy is based on the novel that has been called Japan's Gone with the Wind. This sweeping saga of the legendary seventeenth-century samurai Musashi Miyamoto (powerfully portrayed by T... more »oshiro Mifune) plays out against the turmoil of a devastating civil war. The Trilogy (whose first part won an Academy Award®) follows Musashi's odyssey from unruly youth to enlightened warrior. In the third installment, Duel at Ganryu Island, Musashi reunites tragically with the women who love him, and battles for samurai supremacy in a climactic confrontation with his lifelong nemesis.« less
"While I don't think these films are quite up to the level of the other great Japanese samurai films of the 1950s (such as Sansho the Bailiff & Seven Samurai), the really great things about the Samurai Trilogy for me were in the marvelous use of natural surroundings, the attractive Japanese leading ladies, and above all being able to see Toshiro Mifune starring in color.
Regarding the DVD transfer, let me first say that I am a frugal guy who does not think that any DVD, however good the transfer, is ever worth 30 bucks. That said, I don't know what all the fuss is about over the image quality on these disks. The film was not released in widescreen so the full-screen image is correct. The only scenes which are perhaps too dark are in the end of the second film, because it was filmed that way originally! The VHS is even darker as far as I could tell. I have 20/40 vision, yet I had absolutely no problem reading the subtitles ever in any of the three films. The image quality in general is not Jeanne d'Arc but it certainly never came close to impairing my ability to enjoy the films. Finally, there are no special features beyond theatrical trailers on any of the DVDs, but the three-pack is also priced cheaper than any other Criterion issues (less than $20/disc) so why complain! "
Musashi: The Pure Warrior
Daitokuji31 | Black Glass | 07/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Samurai I: Miyamoto Musashi:
Based on Yoshikawa Eiji's massive novel _Musashi_, _Samurai I_ is the first in a trio of films depicting part fact part fiction life of Miyamoto Musashi, author of _The Book of Five Rings_ and a master of ambidextrous swordsmanship.
The film begins with a peaceful scene of a small village called Miyamoto, however, times of change and danger are brooding in the distance. The forces of Toyotomi Hideyori, son of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, march through the town and a young orphan named Takezo, Mifune Toshiro, the future Musashi is determined to go off to war with then in order to earn himself fame. Takezo encourgaes his friend Matahachi to accompany him, but unlike the orphan Takezo, Matahachi has not only an old mother to support but also a lovely young fiance named Otsu. Takezo's words, however, convince Matahachi to go off and seek fame and fortune with his friend.
However, instead of finding fame and fortune, the only thing that Takezo and Matahachi find themselves doing is digging trencs at the battle of Sekigahara, a major battle in 1600 in which the forces of Tokugawa Ieyasu trampled those of Toyotomi. However, when his side is on the verge of being completely destroyed, instead of fleeing, Takezo, along with a reluctnat Matahachi, rush into the battle.
Somehow the duo managaes to survive and they find themselves at the home of Oko and Akemi, a mother and daughter who survive my stealing the possesions of dead samurai. The friends remain there for a few months waiting for the wound Matahachi suffered at Sekigahara to heal. the daughter tries to seduce Takezo, but the young warrior rushes away. Also, after Musashi single handedly fights back a band of vagabonds, the mother tries to give herself to him, but once again Takezo balks and runs. Eventually Matahachi splits from Takezo and accompanies Oko and Akemi to Kyoto.
Musashi on the other hand is angered at his friend for abandoning him, but he feels that it is his duty to return to Miyamoto to report that Matahachi is stil alive. He does manage to do this, but at the cost of killing a few soldiers of the local official. What follows is a series of events, with the help of Otsu and a wonderful monk named Takuan, that help form an uncut gem into a beautiful jewel.
Samurai II: Death at Ichijoji Temple:
_Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple_ starts off exactly where _Samurai I: Miyamoto Musashi_ leaves off. Musashi, the former Takezo, wanders Japan in search of ways to improve his swordsmanship by challenging other skilled samurai to duels. At the beginning of the film, Musashi is fighting a warrior armed with a sickle and chain and, although Musashi is victorious, an old Buddhist monk says that Musashi failed as a Samurai because he lacks compassion for his enemy and that Musashi was too strong.
Musashi is dumbfounded by these words, but he continues on to Kyoto where he wants to challenge Yoshioka Seijuro to a duel. Seijuro, although the head of a school of swordsmanship, is actually more interested in receiving the attentions of Akemi,the same girl who tried to seduce Takezo in the first movie, however, when he learns that Musashi wants to fight him, he actually wants to do battle, but his underlings, knowing that there is no way for Seijuro to win in a fight against Musashi, try to keep him from fighting the travelling warrior.
Musashi, although his mind is completely on the future battle, is taken back when he runs into his old love Otsu, who has been searching for him for over a year. Although Musashi states that he loves his sword more that Otsu, she is determined to remain by his side. A battle of love and a battle of steel both wage war inside of Musashi.
This is a good movie, although I don't think that it as good as the first one, which has some pretty cool fight scenes, especially the part when Musashi takes on eighty members of the Yoshioka school. However, the key part is the appearanve of Sasaki Kojiro, Musashi strongest enemy.
Samurai III: Dual at Ganryu Island:
In this final volume of Inagaki Hiroshi's _Samurai_ series the viewer is once again treated to the adventures of one of Japan's most famous masterless samurai: Miyamoto Musashi. Fantastically played by Mifune Toshiro, Musashi comes off as an individual who, although extraordinarily powerful and skillful, also is not without compassion. As can be seen when he buries the bodies of four men slain by Sasaki Kojiro.
In the volume, Musashi's fame has spread considerably across Japan and numerous individuals want to hire Musashi as either a teacher or a bodyguard, however, Unlike Takezo, Musashi's old name, Musashi does not seek or desire fame and fortune. What he desires is making himself the perfect samurai. Which he tries to do not only through cultivating his martial skill, but also through certain arts such as carving buddhist statues and painting, as can be seen in the second movie.
However, Musashi still has one tie to his old world and that is Otsu, the girl his best friends Matahachi was engaged to at the beginning of the story. Musashi does his best to avoid Otsu, but the persistant woman always seems to be able to locate him in the end. In this film, Musashi actually even reciprocates Otsu's love. However, of course, the main confrontation in this movie is the fated duel between Kojiro and Musashi. It is very well done.
This movie caps off the series well. Musashi has come full circle from being a hot headed young warrior with only brute strength to a polished samurai who has not only mastered the art of the sword, but other skills as well. However, what I find even more moving is the respect and compassion Musashi feels for even his enemies. A good series. "
RISE OF THE SWORD-SAINT
Daniel Rivera | Los Angeles, California United States | 07/06/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film marks the glorious conclusion to the Samurai Trilogy and the ascent of Musashi Miyamoto to spiritual perfection, Musashi Kensei (The Sword-Saint). TOSHIRO MIFUNE, one of the world's greatest actors, delivers a memorable performance as the master at the peak of his enlightenment.Several years have goneby and Musashi Miyamoto has emerged invincible in over SIXTY duels. Interestingly enough, one sees no pride or ambition in Musashi's manner. He turns down job offers from important lords, including the Shogun's martial arts teacher. In the meantime, Kojiro Sasaki (Koji Tsuruta) regrets the little recognition he has so far received, and seeks to duel Musashi and attain immortal fame. Otsu (the beautiful Kaoru Yachigusa), the quintessence of loyalty, has fervently sought to see Musashi once again, having parted unwillingly in Part II. In like manner, Akemi (charming Mariko Okada) maintains hope of seeing Musashi, having through a tragic turn of events wound up as a courtesan in a geisha house. Yet both women defy their seeming fates and separately seek Musashi, a testament to the power of love. Musashi himself has not forgotten his love for Otsu, expressed in his Kwannon statuettes made in her likeness. In a poignant paradox, Musashi escapes fame and the follies of this world as a farmer, having once been in that position and dreaming of fame.
In the meantime, Kojiro's skill is finally recognized and he comes under the employ of the Shogun. The romance between Musashi and the two women is tragically resolved, and a battle between Musashi and a group of bandits proves very costly. Yet Kensei maintains his poise and graciously accepts Kojiro's challenge to a DUEL AT GANTRYU ISLAND. The perfection of Musashi's technique evident in the fact that he carves an oar into a sword on the trip to the island, using wood against the steel of the deadly Swallow Cut. ONE OF THE MOST MOMENTOUS SCENES IN JAPANESE MOTION PICTURE HISTORY.Hiroshi Inagaki once more deliviers a beautifully directed and cinematographed motion picture. The color is surely the finest in the trilogy, in particular the opening sequence with Kojiro amidst the waterfall and rainbow, and the duel at dawn with its stunning red and gold -Atsushi Yasumoto's photography is brilliant.Ikuma Dan's score is less triumphant and more peaceful and contemplative (though no less dramatic). The pacing is more deliberate, but the strong characters and riveting storyline more than compensate. This duel establishes MUSASHI MIYAMOTO as the Greatest Swordsman in History. After this battle, he no longer uses real swords in combat, only wooden ones. He goes on to write A BOOK OF FIVE RINGS (a must-have), "A guide for men who want to learn strategy," required reading for kendo students and Japanese businessmen to this day. Musashi Miyamoto Kensei represents the ability in all of us to attain perfect understanding."
The great Toshiro Mifune
Stalwart Kreinblaster | Xanadu | 06/04/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I do not wish to compare these films to the works of Kurosawa as others have done (of course they aren't as modern or innovative) but to assess their impact as a trilogy and as a great realized vision of a historical figures' spiritual development. Their are not too many trilogies that hold together this well - maybe 'Star Wars' gives us this sort of vision as well. Toshiro Mifune, of course steals the show, and is very convincing in this kind of role. The cinematography is quite nice (especially in the first and last film) and we get to see a lot of beautiful natural images throughout the film - I am reminded of the Japanese love for nature that has been written so much about (read D.T. Suzuki's 'Zen and Japanese Culture' as another fine example). Overall, I am satisfied with this purchase. I think it has the power to inspire."
A classic film for admirers of Japanese culture, history and
Henry D. Friedman | Syracuse NY | 04/27/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The content has been summarized by others. For the person who has not seen these films, the summary cannot convey the content of these 3 films. In short, the story of perhaps the greatest master of Japanese sword skill ever, a historical/almost mythical figure from 1600 feudal Japan. The 3 movies tell of his evolution from a young hot head with exceptional ability, to a master of both his martial art and of life from a Japanese Shinto perspective. These films are full of Japanese culture and mentality. The actors are spell binding. The fight sceens are believable and of the highest standard. (No, the actors cannot walk up walls!!! and fly through the air!!!). The story for me, was and is deeply moving. Do not misunderstand, my insight and identification does not parallel that of the main character, but it is a story which has become part of me. I do not know if this will appeal to every one. It is in Japanese with subtitles. Some parts of the film become slow. Nonetheless, for me, this is a masterpiece and one of my all time favorites. It is timeless."