”Samurai” DVD roundup
Rebel Samurai: Sixties Swordplay Collection, a quartet of action movies, unfolds like an origami kaleidoscope. Two, set at the height of the feudal samurai system, show incipient disillusion and injustice: Masahiro Shinoda’s Samurai Spy is ninja noir, with a hero dodging lethal objects to solve a convoluted murder mystery, and in Masaki Kobayashi’s brilliant, tragic Samurai Rebellion, Mifune’s retired swordsman swallows a lot of guff from his despotic overlord before striking back. The parallels to Westerns are startling: The principled loner reluctantly battling great odds (Shane, The Far Country) evolves, by the 1800s period of the other two films, into the ignoble hero of Leone and Peckinpah. Underscored with the guitars and maracas of spaghetti Westerns, Kihachi Okamoto’s Kill! follows a raffish ronin and a goofy farmer who oppose a ruthless clan. And in Hideo Gosha’s sardonic Sword of the Beast, a hunted samurai plans to steal from a gold prospector before doing the right thing, with mixed results. A new interview with Shinoda about his career is the only EXTRA of substance.
Spy:B- Rebellion: A- Beast: B+