IN HIS PRIME
Duel at Ganryu Island, the third film in Inagaki’s Samurai trilogy with Toshiro Mifune, shown last week on Turner Classic Movies as “Samurai lll,” must be one of the most remarkable color films of all time. The tones and textures in TCM’s superb print are breathtaking. I counted only one process shot and two possible matte shots in a glorious palette of shades and tints through which rich historical garments flow and blend with the color design of interior and exterior settings.
The story, devoted to Musashi’s choosing between mentoring and guarding an overlord or leading a simple life and to his being chased by two very different young women, amounts to historical melodrama. Were this film in our own language and shot in black and white, we might dismiss it — except for the towering presence of Toshiro Mifune as Musashi. His typically incomparable body language and subtly expressive countenance add wonders of depth to the writing.
Coming six years after Rashomon and but a year after Seven Samurai, Duel offers Mifune in his prime — well, his first prime. Don’t miss it when Turner Classic Movies next shows it or get it from the Turner store or amazon.com.
AN AMERICAN ORIGINAL
Passing from the Japanese cowboy to the American cowboy: At CINEVENT at Columbus, Ohio in May I saw my first Hoot Gibson film. If King of the Rodeo is an example of his westerns, he made comedies in which he wore cowboy clothes and rode his horse in cities. King of the Rodeo has good western credentials. The story and titles are credited to B.M. Bower. But I did not find Hoot Gibson very amusing or even likeable, though he is funny at one point — several, actually, a running gag — trying to recover a lost shirt.
King of the Rodeo includes a pattern frequently seen in comedy-romance in which the genders (the couple), unknowingly in love at first sight, constantly put each other down (the shoe and who wears it varying from picture to picture). This always builds to a final kiss as prelude to we all know what. Like wife-beating, followed by sex.
King of the Rodeo includes in its cast the youngest Slim Summerville I can remember seeing.
LOSS OF A GREAT ACTRESS
Obituary in the July 21 New York Times reported the death of Japanese actress Isuzu Yamada who starred in films of Kurosawa and Mizoguchi. My list of the 25 greatest actress performances of all time (to be the subject of a future blog) includes her achievement in the Lady Macbeth role for Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood (1957). She was successful in theater and televsion but is best remembered for her film roles, usually as geisha or prostitute
Throne of Blood, after Shakespeare’s Macbeth, is one of Kurosawa’s greatest works, and Isuzu Yamada is great in it.
Duel at Ganryu Island King of the Rodeo Throne of Blood
(Samurai lll) Henry MacRae Akira Kurosawa
Hiroshi Inagaki 1929 1957
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ATTENTION LESLIE HOWARD -ers
Viewers interested in my previous blogs devoted to Leslie Howard will want to enjoy a site devoted entirely to him: INAFFERABILE LESLIE HOWARD. It includes a splendid array of unusual photos of Mr. Debonair.
NEXT POST Friday August 24
See you at the movies,