(1956)3Bob MastrangeloHiroshi Inagaki's Samurai trilogy comes to a dramatic conclusion with part three, Duel at Ganryu Island. Musashi has tired of the adventurous life and so returns to his roots as a simple village farmer. His peace and tranquility are short-lived, however, as he must deal with the dueling affections of Otsu and Akemi, battle terrorizing brigands, and face a tough challenger in Kojiro Sasaki. Much more dramatically uneven than the first film, the plot takes more predictable turns this time around, is far less focused, and several important characters from the first two episodes are given short-shrift or are gone altogether (and the great Takashi Shimura, playing a new character, is wasted in what amounts to a cameo). The subplot involving bandits who make misery of the lives of the rural farmers comes off as far too similar to Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai, and the tacked-on climactic battle between Musashi and Kojiro seems almost an afterthought. Still, like parts one and two, Duel at Ganryu Island is at its best when focusing on Musashi, and the role continues to offer Toshiro Mifune plenty of opportunities to stretch his acting muscles. Physically and psychologically, Mifune undergoes a stunning transformation over the course of the three films, wild and buckish in part one, confident and swaggering in part two, and finally wearied but somewhat content in the final segment. The film, however, remains at its weakest when portraying its women characters. As complex and layered as Musashi is, Otsu and Akemi are shallow and at times insulting, coming dangerously close to harming the film's overall credibility. Taken as a whole, the Samurai trilogy is a remarkable achievement, and an underrated classic of the genre.