Directed by Hideo Gosha, 1964, 93 minutes
Black and White, Japanese with English subtitles
This first feature by the legendary Hideo Gosha is among the most beloved chanbara (sword-fighting) films. An origin-story offshoot of a Japanese television phenomenon of the same name, Three Outlaw Samurai is a classic in its own right. A wandering, seen-it-all ronin (Tetsuro Tamba) becomes entangled in the dangerous business of two other samurai (Isamu Nagato and Mikijiro Hira), hired to execute a band of peasants who have kidnapped the daughter of a corrupt magistrate. With remarkable storytelling economy and thrilling action scenes, this is an expertly mounted tale of revenge and loyalty.
With the opening of the most recent STAR WARS film, THE LAST JEDI, (December 2017) there has been discussion about how the story owes a lot to Samurai cinema. Some say that the very concept of Jedi was influenced by Samurai, and the trilogy’s lightsaber fighting choreography took a lot from works of Japanese filmmakers in the 1950s and 1960s, particularly Akira Kurosawa.
Quartz writer Adam Eptein says that director-writer Rian Johnson is likely to continue the trend, this time delving into Hideo Gosha’s first feature, Three Outlaw Samurai. Gosha’s film might not be quite as well-known to Western audiences as some of Kurosawa’s films are, but it’s still part of the Criterion Collection, which we are screening tonight.
We will also be screening Yasujiro Ozu’s I WAS BORN, BUT… on December 7. More info here >