Akira Kurosawa (Japan, 1962)
(Tsubaki Sanjuro). This sequel to Yojimbo finds Kurosawa with tongue firmly in cheek as he and Mifune liven up the samurai plotline with a welcome dose of satire and some pointed digs at “the way of the warrior.” Mifune’s Sanjuro is a wandering, remarkably un-noble samurai just looking for a place to sleep and drink (not necessarily in that order), but unfortunately not even he can ignore the plight of several hopelessly naive, incompetent youngsters attempting to battle corruption within their prefecture and risking getting slaughtered in the process. Mifune plays Sanjuro like Bogart would a reluctant Robin Hood, cool and coiled, almost blasé as he wipes out hordes of enemy swordsmen, his interest piqued only when there’s sake or women involved, or when squared off against villainous, stone-faced Tatsuya Nakadai in a memorable, literally explosive finale.
• Written by Ryuzo Kikushima, Hideo Oguni, Kurosawa, based on the novel by Shugoro Yamamoto. Photographed by Fukuzo Koizumi. With Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Yuzo Kayama, Takashi Shimura. (96 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, B&W, ’Scope, 35mm, From Janus/Criterion Collection)