Though he is largely forgotten today, Daisuke Ito was regarded during the 1920s and early '30s as Japan's premier film director. Sadly, much of his early silent work has been lost. Starting with his first film in 1924, Ito stripped away trite conventions of the samurai film and infused the genre with an unprecedented level of sophistication; he incorporated material from German and French novels into his stories and elevated the jidai-geki (period film) to the level of the avant-garde. The camera leapt from one angle to a jarringly different one, samurai warriors raced from one side of the screen to the other, and a line of lanterns twisted and swirled against the backdrop of an inky black sky. Through his innovative use of rapid montage, the rhythm of his films reached an unprecedented speed.
At a time when the genre was increasingly being used as a vehicle for Japanese ultra-nationalism, Ito's films defiantly, nihilistically rebelled against established power while sympathizing with the plight of the poor. In so doing, they laid the groundwork for an influential subgenre called tendency films, which depicted poverty with unprecedented realism. Though Ito continued to make films into the early '70s, he never regained the critical success that he enjoyed during the silent era.