Written by: John White on March 21st, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1969
Director: Hideo Gosha
Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Tetsuro Tamba, Ruriko Asaoka, Kinnosuke Nakamura
DVD released: February 14th 2006
Approximate running time: 124 mins
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
DVD Release: Media Blasters
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
Magobei is a former clan member who left his best friend and brother in law, Rokugo, when he slaughtered a village in order to steal gold and save the clan. This slaughter has been covered up by the invention of a local folklore called Kamikakusura and when Magobei is attacked by an assassination squad from his clan he learns that they plan to do it again and starts back for his home to convince Rokugo by his words or by his sword. Several ambushes and a survivor of the original massacre lie in his way.
This movie is to Samurai films what the Great Silence is to Westerns. A brilliant anti-samurai film in the snow with the intense Tatsuya Nakadai pitted against the laid back and Machiavellian Tetsuro Tamba. Nakadai is as brilliant as ever as the haunted Magobei driven to make up for turning a blind eye to his friends’ mendacity. Nakadai is a study in yearning when tested and encouraged to walk away from this fight by his love for his wife, and at the same time is amazingly single-minded through battles, spies and capture. Tamba’s role is the harder one though as the clan official fighting for survival because of the cruel taxes of the Shogun, his is the evil of a good man making concessions for the greater good.
The film is a slow burner with occasional chambara setpieces, the best of these occur in the dark at the beginning with Nakadai dispatching assassins and at the very end when the inevitable face to face of Tamba and Nakadai. The great thing about this final duel is how it reflects the characters of the duellists with Nakadai seeming to lose as Tamba takes advantage of circumstances. The film is greatly aided by breathtaking cinematography and a tremendous sense of foreboding created by the opening discovery of the Kamikakusura with Ravens and all. The score by Masaru Sato is as good as any he did for Kurosawa.
Goyokin is a tale of revenge, split loyalties and good men gone bad. It is an equal of many great Samurai films. Enjoy it.
This being a Media Blasters release I did not have hopes for it like I would a Samurai film released by Animeigo or Criterion. However this is far better than I have come to expect from MB as the print is good if not pristine with occasional marks and signs of age. The contrast and brightness levels are well done and the scenes in the snow are particularly beautiful.
The sound is very good with very little distortion and the English subtitles are excellent.
The trailers on the disc are the only extras.
Media Blasters have delivered here and although not perfect this film is unlikely to get a better release on dvd. The film is a must for Samurai film fans.
For more information about Goyokin visit Media Blasters here.