Sunday, December 20, 2009

Day 282: Harakiri (1962) - Rank 5/5


The first twenty minutes sets the scene for this epic film set in 17th century Japan. Noble samurai Hanshiro arrives at the palace of Lord Saito, hoping that the lord will allow him to commit seppaku on his grounds (for he deems it an honorable place to do so). Saito is skeptical, explaining to Hanshiro that the land has many wandering transients claiming to be samurai who wish to perform seppaku in the hopes that the feudal lords will placate their grief and poverty with money, rather than allowing them to kill themselves. Saito makes it known that he is not like those other lords and that Hanshiro will be forced to kill himself if he claims that is his wish. Saito recounts a tale of the last samurai that came to his palace, a man whom he deemed a fraud because the ronin had a sword and dagger made of bamboo. That man was forced to kill himself, very slowly and painfully, with the flimsy bamboo dagger. Hanshiro insists that his wishes are genuine and later, before the ceremony begins, Hanshiro requests a special second to assist him with the ceremony. While the requested guard is sought, Hanshiro essentially says, "Now let me tell you a story. You recall that samurai you mentioned earlier? I knew him - he was like a son to me."

From that moment, I was hooked. Hanshiro casually recounts the tale as to how his foster son ended up in the predicament he did, and along the way, we come to learn that a great deal of revenge has been enacted upon Lord Saito already, unbeknownst to the nefarious host. The film features spectacular sword battles, including a finale fight that was undoubtedly the inspiration behind the Bride's battle with the Crazy Eighty-Eight at the end of "Kill Bill Vol. 1." Quite simply, this was one of the most impressive revenge stories I've seen in a good, long while.

Watch the Trailer

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