Written by Shinobu Hashimoto (who also wrote Rashomon and Harakiri), with music by Toru Takemitsu and directed by the man who created Harakiri and Kwaidan, this Toho-Mifune production represents all the best in the Japanese period film [from the novel by Yasuhiko Takiguchi].
At the end of the 18th century, a middle-aged court official stationed in the North (Toshiro Mifune), married into the house of a virtuous harridan (Michiko Otsuka), discovers that the local daimyo (Tatsuo Matsumura) is demanding back an ex-wife (Yoko Tsukasa), who has since become married to Mifune’s elder son (Go Kato).
Mifune questions the authority of, first, his wife’s family, then the family council, and finally that of the court secretary (Shigeru Koyama) and the daimyo himself.
At first there are various attempts at intimidation and blackmail. When this does not succeed, comes the daimyo’s order for Mifune and Kato to kill themselves. Mifune does the unheard of; he refuses. Instead he barricades his house and awaits the worst.
Nothing happens, except talk, for the first hour and 40 minutes, and then screen explodes into the most slashing chambara since Harakiri. The letting of blood does not purify, nor is it intended to.