Original Title: Sanbiki no samurai

Country: Japan

Director: Hideo Gosha

Release: 1964

Genre: Action

IMDb | Rotten Tomatoes


A wanderer Samurai encounters a group of poor men who kidnaped the daughter of a magistrate. The Samurai then decide to help the men get their fair demands.

After choosing “Three Outlaw Samurai” to review, I was actually thinking about another movie: “Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji”, from 1955. Only after reading the synopsis, right before re-watching it, that I realized it was a different movie.

Sanbiki no samurai 07

“Samurai Cinema Volume 1” is a selection of six Japanese movies from the 50’s and 60’s. I watched both “Three Outlaw Samurai” and “Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji” from this selection.

Both good movies, but quite different in spirit. While “Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji” is more of a light-hearted movie, “Three Outlaw Samurai” is a little darker.

Another interesting fact about the movie we are about to visit is that recently, the film was cited by Rian Johnson as one of the inspirations for his controversial movie, “The Last Jedi”.

Rian Johnson and The Last Jedi

I got a lot in mind about The Last Jedi, opinions about the movie and about the opinions on the movie, but I don’t see a point in reviewing it because way too many people already done it and my review would be just one more to the mix.

Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi [Blu-ray]

What I can say that before the release, I was really excited to watch the movie and the main reason for that excitement was Rian Johnson, the director of a movie I loved: “Brick”.

Now, after watching “The Last Jedi”, my opinion on the man didn’t change at all, and I’m sure I’ll be excited about his next projects.

Daisy Ridley as Rey in The Last Jedi
Daisy Ridley as Rey in The Last Jedi

I only watched the Star Wars installment once and didn’t want to watch it again just to review a completely different film, but I can’t recall anything in “The Last Jedi” that resembles “Three Outlaw Samurai”.

If there is a movie that has some similarities with “Three Outlaw Samurai” is the Senegalese movie I reviewed during the FIFA World Cup, “Ceddo”.

The daughter of a powerful man kidnaps by the common folk in the hopes of getting proper conditions of life, is a common ground between “Ceddo” and “Three Outlaw Samurai”.

Three Outlaw Samurai

The first movie Hideo Gosha directed tells the story of Sakon Shiba (Tetsurô Tanba), an honorable Samurai coming across three desperate, starving men fighting for their rights to a decent life.

Three Outlaw Samurai (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Jinbê (Kamatari Fujiwara) is the one leading this group of three common farmers, demanding the reduction of taxes so the people living in the farms can afford to eat. If the demands are met, the farmers promise to return the Aya (Miyuki Kuwano) unharmed.

Aya’s father is a magistrate (Hisashi Igawa), unwilling to give in to the farmers’ demands and rather use force and treachery to rescue his daughter and punish the men.

Aya (Miyuki Kuwano) and Shiba (Tetsurô Tanba)
Aya (Miyuki Kuwano) and Shiba (Tetsurô Tanba)

Later in the film, two other Samurai join Shiba in the cause, making a total of three Samurai, thus giving reason to the name of the movie.

Most of the Samurai movies tend to be tragedies, including many adaptations of William Shakespeare works, and “Three Outlaw Samurai” follows this trend, with a dark tone and serious theme.

In a sub-genre with names like Masaki Kobayashi and Akira Kurosawa, it’s hard to be among the best, and this movie is not a masterpiece like many movies in its sub-genre, but we can say is a great movie regardless.

Sanbiki no samurai 04
Kyôjûrô Sakura (Isamu Nagato), one of the three Samurai

Different than many Samurai movies, we don’t see too much sword fighting here, leaving space for other kinds of conflicts. The movie is far from mindless, guilty-pleasure action.

I have nothing against a guilty-pleasure action, I’m just saying this is not the case here.

Sometimes, however, there are some things rushed and underdeveloped. The best example of this is a certain romance that is rushed, unnecessary drama, resembling a Mexican soap opera.

Mikijirô Hira in three outlaw samurai
Einosuke Kikyô (Mikijirô Hira), the third Samurai

The darkness in some instances is a little annoying as well but is understandable for a black and white movie with scenes at night and in closed spaces.

In general, the movie is very solid and deserves the praise. Is the first Samurai movie I review here and it’s definitely not the last, and it’s a great opening for the sub-genre.

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