Nemuri Kyoshiro At Bay: The Sword of Seduction
Directed by Kazuo Ikehiro
Japan, 1964, color, 87 min.
This episode is regarded as one of the best in the Nemuri Kyoshiro series of films, the first twelve of which starred Raizo Ichikawa and the final two which starred Hiroki Matsukata, after Ichikawa's death. It was the first one that Kazui Ikehiro directed, and it was a good thing that the film was a hit. The first three had not been particularly successful and the studio indicated that it would discontinue the series if number four didn't work.
A terrific film by any standard, its success is due in part to Ikehiro including elements from Renzaburo Shibata's books, upon which the films were based, that had not been used in the previous movies. Key among these was introducing the secret of Nemuri's illegitimate birth. Ikehiro also took a cue from the early James Bond films and used "Bond girl" femme fetales to inject a spark of sexuality -- though not nudity -- into the mix.
Not surprisingly, The Sword of Seduction, like several other films in Japan Society's The Double Edged Sword film series, gets a 3.5 out of 4 star rating and is very highly recommended.
Here's a synopsis from the Japan Society website:
Half-breed warrior Nemuri (“Sleepy-Eyed”) Kyoshiro, the other most popular swordsman of all time (alongside Zatoichi), and the self-proclaimed "Son of the Black Mass," was the archetypal anti-hero: dark, romantic and desperate! Widely considered to be the strongest entry in the wonderfully perverse and violent samurai Nemuri saga, The Sword of Seduction finds the shadowy outcast mixed up in a labyrinthine intrigue involving persecuted Christians, opium smuggling, a drug-addled princess, and a search for a holy Madonna!
The Sword of Seduction is part of the Monthly Classic Series The Double Edged Sword: The Chambara Films of Shintaro Katsu & Raizo Ichikawa
For the Japan Society website page for this film, which includes a link for ordering tickets online, click here.
And don't forget that earlier on Saturday, at 5:00 PM, there will be a separate screening of New Tale of Zatoichi.
Finally, I must acknowledge using some information from Patrick Galloway's Warring Clans, Flashing Blades and Chris D.'s Outlaw Masters of Japanese Film in my comments above. Anyone with a serious interest in the kinds of films they describe should own both of these invaluable books.