Hideo Gosha 1964 film THREE OUTLAW SAMURAI saw the beginning of a master director. It reflected the permutations of the Chanbara after their growth and success internationally. Criterion have released Gosha second film SWORD OF DOOM previously. A film so good, I went out and bought it. With my own money no less! Now they have released his first film. And after owning the US DVD for an age, my excitement was over flowing!

When wandering ronin (Tetsuro Tamba) happens upon a group of peasants, who kidnapped the local corrupt magistrate daughter. He does not fully understand that this will entangle him in the dangerous business of two other samurai (Isamu Nagato and Mikijiro Hira). They have been hired to execute the band of peasants.

More than just an origin-story of a Japanese TV series of the same name. THREE OUTLAW SAMURAI is an incredibly confident piece of film making. Gosha uses held frames, harsh lighting and hard action in a dizzy, rampaging blend. When you get over this, you return to script. Complementing the pull and push of the narrative, are elements of abuse, sexuality and sadism that are relentlessly observed. The three leads each have their role in this. Some times they counteract expectation and it gives them potency. Other times they are driven by some extricated agency. This lets them swagger into position, punching their opponents, slicing them in the gut, directing us to root for their success. I would say this is all the directors doing (and I believe it is) but it is also the work of many. They greatness of the whole cannot be ignored. But if I were to say, take away one thing, its that slap of physical violence. Simply astonishing.


DVD to Blu comparisons are sometimes empty. Here they are not worth the time. The Blu ray raises the game up about three notches. Better clarity. Better colour correction and nicer finish. So no yellow tone or washed out edges. Thank you very much.


Complaints, I have had a few. This is the worst release by a country mile. It has no extras. If you have the DVD of the film from Region 1, you might hesitate buying. Rightly so. The booklet is well illustrated and Ebiri essay enters the world, not only of Chanbara but Gosha and his style of work. This is very compelling for film studies and directorial insight. But do you pay just for a booklet?

  • High-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Trailer
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Bilge Ebiri

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