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Bushido: The Cruel Code of the Samurai (Bushid˘ zankoku monogatari) - arthouse and international DVD / foreign language DVD / drama DVD / martial arts DVD / action and adventure DVD review
BUSHIDO: THE CRUEL CODE OF THE SAMURAI (Bushid˘ zankoku monogatari) Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 4 stars
Featuring: Kinnosuke Nakamura, Eijir˘ T˘no, Ky˘ko Kishida, Masayuki Mori, Shinjiro Ebara
Director: Tadashi Imai   Distributor: Animeigo
DVD release: 09 February 2010   Runtime: 123 minutes
(1 disc)
Format: Black & white, Color, DVD, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Aspect ratio 2.35:1, Audio tracks (Japanese - Mono), Subtitles (English - Full titles/Dialogue only), Image gallery, Program notes, Theatrical trailers, Bios, Exclusive essay on the Bushido code from Randy Schadel

Still image from Tadashi Imai's BUSHIDO: THE CRUEL CODE OF THE SAMURAIBushido: The Cruel Code of the Samurai is a 1963 film by director Tadashi Imai. The theme (and title) of the film is about Bushido, the Samurai code of conduct and philosophy. The family story is told through seven generations of the Iikura family, all of whom are portrayed by Kinnosuke Nakamura. His performance is the centerpiece of this film as we view Japan's transition from the feudal system to its post-war modernization. The timeframes in the film change somewhat quickly as we shift from one generation to the next. However, we never feel lost - the story is quick to point out the family relationships to avoid confusion.

While some would present the concept of Bushido as a positive thing, emphasizing the loyalty and honor of the system, this film paints a negative portrait. Most of the characters portrayed by Nakamura are dismayed by their lot in life, if not completely destroyed by it. These stories are filled with personal losses and sacrifices that do nothing more than amuse the masters of these poor Samurai.

The film goes out of it way to present the upper classes of the feudal system as dishonest and corrupt. Most of these stories occur during the feudal time period, and the remainder do a great job of conveying the master / vassal dynamic to the struggles of World War II and Japan's modernization.

Most viewers would assume that the title reflects some serious swordplay in this film. Unfortunately, there are precious few action scenes in this film. Viewers will instead see a serious drama that presents these unfortunate few whose lives are destroyed while they attempt to carry on the obligations of their station. I'd hesitate to recommend this to anyone looking for a standard Samurai film. Those who are interested in a historical drama showcasing the opposite side of the "live by the sword" mantra, however, will enjoy it immensely.
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reviewed by Ryan Strampe
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