Produced by Toshiro Mifune, SAMURAI BANNERS is a magnificent, colorful and involving historical epic centered on the figure of Yamamoto Kansuke, a brilliant military strategist in 16th century Japan. The story follows Kansuke from lonely ronin to his final battle, as ambition leads him to conquer domain after domain while nursing an aching heart over a captured Princess who remains out of his reach forever. Kansuke is played by Mifune himself, who, as always, somehow manages to maintain his impressive scowling intensity for nearly three hours, leaving me wondering if he suffered from aching facial muscles between scenes.
The film, one of the last from director Hiroshi Inagaki (CHUSHINGURA), is a visual delight with impressively staged battles and is more realistic than his earlier epic THE SAMURAI TRILOGY. In particular, the character of Princess Yu, played by Yoshiko Sakuma, is much stronger than that of the beautiful but vapid Otsu in the earlier film. The Princess's platonic yet passionate relationship with Kansuke is at the heart of the film. What's a war movie without a good love story, eh?
Great stuff, a movie which makes me wish more of Inagaki's films were available in the States. - JB