Not to be confused with Samurai Revolution, Samurai Rebellion is a 1967 samurai flick starring an aging Toshiro Mifune.
This one pushes back a bit on the usual image of the samurai as an unerringly obedient servant-warrior.
Mifune plays a middling vassal to the lord of Aizu. As a young samurai, his sole focus was in swordplay and the martial arts, which in the current age of bureaucratic samurai aristocracy have become somewhat undervalued skills. Consequently, he considered himself fortunate when the head of a more prestigious family, impressed with his swordplay, asked him to marry his daughter.
Isaburo’s (Mifune) marriage is a cold one, unfortunately. His wife is a shrew and there is no love between them. But he’s a stoic man and he tolerates her. She bears him two sons.
This is all important backstory for the main plot of the film. Let’s fast forward.
Isaburo’s lord has become displeased with his mistress (who has already born him a son), and orders that she be married off to Isaburo’s son. The samurai and his family are initially displeased with this order and try to resist, but after the deed is done, Isaburo and his son are glad. Ichi winds up being a good wife and daughter-in-law, and she provides his son with the loving marriage Isaburo never had. She bears a daughter, and everyone is (for the most part) happy.
Suddenly the lord’s first son dies of an illness, and his son with Ichi becomes the new heir. And of course it is unfitting that the heir apparent’s mother should be married to a vassal.
The lord orders Ichi returned to the castle. Isaburo and his son resist, calling the order an unjust and tyrannical order, stealing a vassal’s wife.
Their lord orders them to commit seppuku for their insolence, and they answer they that will be glad to comply…when his head and those of his stooges are delivered to them.
What will happen? Watch and find out! Just so happens this one is available (for now) to watch online, here.
Without giving away too much, I will say that while I didn’t find the ending very satisfying (it’s not as bleak as some other J films I’ve seen, but neither is it happy), I found the movie’s focus on justice and love over blind loyalty and “honor” to be refreshing. Mifune, as always, is excellent, and the rest of the cast is great, too.
I did notice the tip of a boom mic in one scene, but whatcha gonna do…