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RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 166 minutes
Cast and Crew Bios
A lord has to commit seppuku. The 47 Samurai under his watch won’t let this stand. Together…they are RONIN!
Kazuo Hasegawa, Shintaro
Katsu,, Raizo Ichikawa Koji Tsuruta, Machiko Kyo, Fujiko Yamamoto,
Michiyo Kogure, Chikage Awashima, Ayako Wakao, Yataro Kurokawa, Eiji
Funakoshi, Eitaro Ozawa and Takashi Shimura
The Japanese National Epic Chushingura is widely known in the land of the rising sun. It tells the tale of 47 Loyal Ronin rising up to defend the name of their shamed master. The tale is a paper thin piece of propaganda defending Bushido. The story also gets trotted out from time to time to back the nation’s legal system and the complexity of the social system. There’s been many versions of the tale, but none shine brighter than Kunio Watabe’s 1958 film.
Samurai Cinema has always had this cloud hanging over it in America. You have the ghost of John Belushi slicing sandwiches in the deli swimming through the collective subconscious. When you tell newbies that the Samurai drama sports a proud and noble tradition, you get blank stares. If you’re lucky, you might be able to find someone who can name a few of the Kurosawa riffs in Star Wars. So, why should the average viewer take The Loyal 47 Ronin seriously?
The film is less about swordplay and more about the fatalistic flaws inherent in polite society. Lord Asano’s failure to understand the rules and procedures of greeting a messenger of the Royal Court starts the tale. When the Royal Court bares down upon him, they demand satisfaction. To make amends, Lord Asano is told to commit seppuku. His name will be tarnished, but at least he’ll get to die with dignity. Meanwhile, the 47 samurai in his employ must watch their master die over something trivial.
sole battle sequence in the film is classic Japanese action at its best. But, the power doesn’t come from the fighting. It comes from the newly formed Ronin coming together and making vows to avenge their former master. The heart of the matter is a group of men saying that loyalty matters more than believed duty to an unseen system of conduct that has nothing to do with their lives. As they turn their backs on those that would have them stay at home, they meet in two groups to attack their master’s killers.
When the 47 Ronin dressed in Lord Asano’s colors and insignia descend upon Lord Kira, it’s majestic. There’s an inner beauty to cinematic violence that rarely gets praised in the modern era. The svelte beauty of hot steel slicing through flesh against a formal background. The obvious shots framed against paper thin sets built on film studio interiors provides for such a wonderful disconnect. It’s hastily constructed art framed against a popular historical tale. As bodies fall upon the snow, we see what matters in life. The experience of doing the right thing.
film arrives on DVD with a wonderful transfer. There’s no print damage and no visible digital noise on the print. The audio is a cleaned up mono track that saves the Daiei studio’s original audio mastering. The supplementals are decent text based materials and trailers that back up the film. But, what matters is finally having an anamorphic transfer for the film. It’s quite the improvement over the previous Image Entertainment release.
I’m not saying that you have to dress up as a rabbit. It’s just that if we’re going to call you Usagi, you’ve got to work with us a little.
The supplemental material presented on the disc follows the same formula as the other Animeigo Samurai Cinema releases. There’s a handful of trailers for this film and other Daiei releases. There’s an image gallery of stills taken from the film. Plus, there’s some text-based pieces that shine light on the story and cast.