by Jack Nilan            EMail :

Bushido (1963)

Director: Tadashi Imai

Jack   B+

IMDB    6.8



   A very early look at the cruelties inherent in the Japanese feudal system. Although the samurai were not on the bottom rung of society, their lifestyle was often not as glamorous as it was portrayed in the other samurai movies.

   This movie begins in modern day with a man who is called to the hospital because his girlfriend has attempted suicide. He then begins to think back on the seven generations of samurai that he is descended from. The story of the family has been preserved at a local temple.

   The story begins with a ronin who was finally given a position with a clan. As a requirement of Bushido, he and all the generations to follow must give their loyalty to their Lord and their clan. Each generation goes through horrors as they seek to serve. One samurai is raped and then castrated by his master. Another has his young daughter given away as a gift. Another is forced to commit hari-kari because of a mistake that was made. Another has his head sawed off in public when he dares to present a petition during a famine, to his Lord requesting aid for the farmers. A wife is "borrowed" by a Lord because she is good looking and commits suicide rather than submit to him. A father is tricked into executing his daughter, and then he kills himself.

   The movie shows a young boy being brain washed. "The lives of samurai do not belong to the samurai. They belong to their Lord." Later in modern times, loyalty is seen as being transferred from the Lord to the Emperor. The latest relative is now a kamikaze pilot in World War II.

   As the movie moves back to present day, we return to the last link in the Ikura clan chain. Now the loyalty has been transferred to the company. The boss wants the man's fiance to get some information about her company's bidding on a contract to help in a deal that is going down. When she brings home the information, the boss then asks to delay the wedding a couple of years so no one will figure out what happened. The girl feels used and then tries to kill herself.

   Bushido is a very brave film. It is not just saying that there was a particular evil master. It is saying that the whole system, like American slavery, was cruel, corrupt and morally bankrupt. Power corrupts, and the Lords came to treat their vassals as non-humans. This was a very strong indictment of a past which many Japanese honored and glorified.

   The movie was ultimately an indictment of the Japanese involvement in World War II, in which they became involved because of their blind obedience to the bushido code of loyalty. The movie also serves as a warning that this cycle of blind loyalty to a bushido code should be broke. A really good movie, which is well worth seeing.