Samurai 1: Musashi Miyamoto (1954)

Genres - Adventure, Drama, Historical Film  |   Sub-Genres - Samurai Film  |   Run Time - 92 min.  |   Countries - Japan  |  
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The first installment of Hiroshi Inagaki's Samurai trilogy, Samurai 1: Musashi Miyamoto expertly balances action, plot, and character development, and perfectly sets the stage for the rest of the series. Some patience is required for the first half, and many of the secondary characters are not as complex as one would like, but there is a maturity to the film that goes beyond the Saturday matinee aspects of its plot. Mifune beautifully handles Takezo's transformation, and Inagaki's filmmaking skills are impressive, moving through the story with a relaxed rhythm that should not be underestimated. Toward the end, two seemingly irrelevant characters, Seijuro and Toji, also appear, and it is only in the second installment that their crucial importance becomes apparent. Samurai 1 apparently had some box-office success in the U.S. upon its release, and it received an honorary Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, back in the days when there was no regular competitive category. Its crossover appeal is evident, as its fluid, colorful approach to action is unlike anything Hollywood or Europe was producing at that time.