As part of the JAPANORAMA feature I am inviting fellow movie sites to join in. This post is from Michael over at It Rains… You Get Wet (a sweet Heat reference). The site is full of great articles, although I particularly like the TMT series of posts, which are great pieces of cinema nostalgia – and make me wish that I could visit such grand cinemas in their heyday. You can also follow Michael on Twitter @le0pard13.
The Loyal 47 Ronin (忠 臣蔵 Chushingura) (1958), directed Kunio Watanabe, is based on a historical event that occurred in early 18th century Japan. In that ancient land, it’s the national legend typifying the samurai code of honor, bushidō. I daresay, few westerners before World War II knew of it. Of course, after 1998 that number went up significantly with John Frankenheimer’s espionage-thriller Ronin, which used the famed tale as allegory to its own. Its summation works well here, “Forty-seven samurai, whose master was betrayed and killed by another lord. They became ronin – masterless samurai – disgraced by another man’s treachery. For three years they plotted, pretending to be thieves, mercenaries, even madmen – that I didn’t have time to do – and then one night they struck, slipping into the castle of their lord’s betrayer and killing him.” Essentially what transpires in this film and all the other versions of it (there are a lot). Beautifully shot in widescreen, and considered by many scholars to be the most accurate and best, it’s stage heritage does keep it bound some. But as a timeless yarn of honor and revenge, it doesn’t get any better than this. Shogun Assassin fans should stay far far away, though, as the film’s almost three-hour runtime is its own test of loyalty.