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Eleven Samurai (1967)

Director: Eichi Kudo

Jack   A

IMDB    7.3



   The third film of Eichi Kudo’s Samurai Revolution Trilogy (13 Assassins, The Great Killing) Eleven Samurai is another story of vengeance where an evil feudal lord is taken down by a group of determined men.

  The movie opens with the Shogun's brother, Lord Nariatsu, out on a hunt. He chases a deer in to the next province, even as his vassals scream for him not to. When a peasant gets in his way he shoots him down. When the local lord reprimands him he takes an arrow in the eye for his trouble.

   Back in Edo the petition to reprimand Lord Nariatsu is torn up, because Noriatsu is the retired Shogun's favorite son. For the good of the shogunate, Lord Noriatsu could never have acted that way, so they say he didn't act that way. The blame is shifted to Lord Masayori, who took an arrow to the eye and died, for being insolent. The Abe clan will be stripped of their fief as a punishment.

   Deputy Chief Retainer Sakakibara approaches samurai Hayato, who he recruits to protect the interests of the Oshi clan. He has one month until the announcement will be made. Sakakibara wants Hayato to kill Lord Nariatsu. Hayato says that he will leave the fief, and become a lowly ronin. He will then be able to kill Nariatsu.

   Hayato says: "Our children, and our grandchildren, will inherit a world in which there is no place to appeal for true justice. I can't abide that. Anyway, somebody's got to do it."

   Sakakibara says that the man they most have to look out for is the Chief Retainer of the Tatabayashi fief, Akiyoshi Gyobu. As in the other movies in the series, we find a talented samurai who is willing to defend his lord, even though he know that he is acting badly, because he feels that that is what his duty is as a samurai.

   Gyobu tries to persuade Nariatsu that a trip to Edo could be dangerous. But Nariatsu is anxious to get the Oshi fief, to add to his power. As Nariatsu travels through the Oshi fief, a group of men, including Sir Mitamura and Sir Hoshina, are ready to attack. They are joined by Lady Nui, who comes to represent her family. The group now contains seven. They are stopped by Sir Sengoku and his men who bring them before the Chief Retainer Sakakibara and Hayato for disobeying orders. The men are ordered to commit seppuku, but then when they follow orders and begin to kill themselves they are told to stop and asked to join the conspiracy to take Lord Nariatsu's head.

   The group heads to Edo and finds a drunk Nariatsu at a geisha house. But Gyobu and his men arrive just in time to protect him. Hayato has had to leave his wife, and pretends, that he has decided to become a ronin, but his wife always knows the truth. The movie goes to great lengths to show how much Hayato and his wife love each other, and how great a sacrifice he is making to do what he is doing.

  Hayato and Sakakibara plot a strategy on where to attack Nariatsu. They decide on an ambush in the forest. When Sengoku returns home he finds that his wife, Orie, has killed herself. She could not stand living without him.

   Lord Nariatsu abuses Gyobu after the assassination attempt at the geisha house, but Gyobu still feels compelled to protect him. He knows he and his men would have to commit seppuku if any harm came to him. It is suggested that Lord Nariatsu leave early and travel all night, and then the abolishment of the Oshi clan can be made.

   Sakakibara is called before Councilor Mizuno who plans to see what he is thinking. He suggests to Sakakibara that the Osho fief will not be abolished, hoping to control him for a few days.

   The Oshi men are setting up in the forest for the ambush. They are joined by master gunner Ido Daiijuro who begged to join them. He is looking forward to "A day will come when there won't be any Lords." His younger sister was raped by a Lord and his father and older brother committed seppuku. He wants to take a Lord's head more than anything.

  Gyobu puts his samurai on horseback and wants to travel through the night. Nariatsu refuses to be rushed. Gyobu doesn't listen to Nariatsu and hurries the group on their way. The eleven samurai get ready for the group now on horseback. Sakakibara sends Todo to cancel the ambush. He has been deceived by Mizuno. Some of the eleven are really upset as Nariatsu's procession goes by.

   Then the next day the Abe clan is abolished. Sakakibara rides out and tells the men how he has been deceived by Gyoku and Mizuno. Sakakibara dies as he delivers his message: Chief Retainer Sakakibara has cut his belly.

  Hayato says: "We're going to take the anguish, the grudge of everyone who has been doomed to misery because of the perverseness of one man, and throw it all back at the government." The eleven start out in pursuit. Nariatsu continues to ignore Gyoku's advice and puts himself in danger.

  The eleven attack and some sacrifice themselves as decoys. One blows himself up on a fire to take out some men. There are fifty defenders for the eleven to get through. Men begin to fall on both sides. Hayato and Gyoku square off and Hayato comes out on top.

  Sengolu Hayato finds Nariatsu hiding in a hut. Nariatsu runs, but Hayato catches him and cuts him down. Hayato and another samurai then kill each other. Ido Daiijuro is the only one to survive and he takes Nariatsu's head. The Shogunate reconsidered the abolishment of the Oshi fief's Abe clan.

  A very good movie, maybe the best of the trilogy. It shows how times had changed in Japan in the early 1960's. It was no longer OK to obey bad orders. Sometimes you had a duty to the country to do the right thing.