The Sword of Doom Screen 7 articles

The Sword of Doom

1966

The Sword of Doom Poster
  • It’s primarily those final seven minutes—a small eternity for an action sequence that never pauses for breath—that have made The Sword Of Doom a cult favorite. What makes it more art than exploitation, however—and secured it a place in the Criterion collection, which has now upgraded it for Blu-ray—is Nakadai’s creepy performance, which plays now like the prototype for such sociopaths as Travis Bickle and Anton Chigurh.

  • Kihachi Okamoto’s The Sword of Doom is likely to strike the innocent viewer as an exercise in absurdist violence... The extreme but stylized violence of Okamoto’s film epitomizes a style of Japanese filmmaking that profoundly influenced such directors as Sam Peckinpah and Sergio Leone.

  • Shot with an inventive mixture of tension-laced tranquility and swift, unrelenting exactitude that mirrors Ryunosuke's swordfighting technique, the film is a spectacle of symbiotic movement and sound in which the director creates subtle interplay between his delicate camera pans, atmospheric silence, and lacerating editing.

  • Its holocaustic denouement, a surreal demolition job with Nakadai furiously hacking at voices, shadows and spectral enemies, is a kiss-off to the genre's moral coherence in the context of budding '60s nihilism, and a cataract of brutality that builds until it short-circuits into a stunted freeze-frame.

  • In a conventional samurai movie, Ryunosuke would be a bad guy, and he would eventually be challenged and thwarted by one or more of the many comparatively righteous people he wrongs over the course of the narrative. But it gradually becomes clear that this samurai is a barometer of the atrocity happening around him... The world of The Sword of Doom is terrifying and inexplicable—its barely decipherable political plot obscured by noir shadows and submerged urges.

  • Okamoto, Japan’s Sam Fuller, made dozens of high-intensity genre films that would be minor classics were they ever re-released. We should count ourselves lucky as a culture that we were given The Sword of Doom to represent his largely ignored body of work. There is no samurai film as dark or bewitching.

  • [...Nakadai] opens his eyes, lifting the lids as slowly and majestically as a theater curtain, and gazes upward—a breathtaking image. By this point his character, Ryunosuke, has slaughtered a host of people, including his common-law wife and an innocent Buddhist pilgrim; he is a vicious, arrogant, heartless psychopath with a gift for exploiting the weakness of others. Yet he is profoundly mysterious, evoking awe and spine-chilling fascination, like a snake that hypnotizes its prey.

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