SAMURAI SAGA

(Japanese title: Aru Kenga No Shogai)
(aka The Life of an Expert Swordsman)

(1959 - Japan)
With Toshiro Mifune, Akira Takarada, Yoko Tsukasa
Directed by Hiroshi Inagaki
Reviewed by JB

They never let poor Toshiro join in any ronin games     Toshiro Mifune as Cyrano de Bergerac as a Samurai?  That's the unlikely premise of Hiroshi Inagaki's SAMURAI SAGA, a colorful, funny and beautifully mounted vehicle for Japan's most famous movie star.

     In SAMURAI SAGA, Mifune gets to show a sympathetic side that his work with Akira Kurosawa rarely allowed, even indulging in some rare moments of pathos as the large-nosed poet whose love for a local beauty goes unrequited. Rising to the occasion, Mifune gives one of warmest and most enjoyable performances, one that ranks with his best work.

    In an introduction the the book The Films of Akira Kurosawa, Mifune, estranged from the director at the time, wrote that he was proud of nothing he ever did except for his work with Kurosawa.  A nice sentiment expressed toward a man with whom Mifune didn't always see eye to eye, but one has to wonder why the actor shortchanged himself and dismissed his work with Hiroshi Inagaki, especially in this film.  ½ - JB

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