Bohachi Bushido: Code of the Forgotten Eight (1973)

Genres - Action  |   Sub-Genres - Samurai Film  |   Run Time - 81 min.  |   Countries - Japan  |  
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Those familiar with the world of Japanese exploitation filmmaking are probably familiar with the delirious excesses of director Teruo Ishii. For those who aren't, Bohachi Bushido: Code Of The Forgotten Eight is an excellent introduction to his over-the-top style. The storyline, adapted from a Kazuo Koike manga, is as dense with plot as it is with sex and violence and lends itself nicely to Ishii's delirious approach. Ishii helms the proceedings with confidence and stylistic bravado, frequently deploying artsy devices to highlight key elements of action: one of the best is a moment where focus is drawn to gun-vs.-sword standoff by darkening the lighting until only the two duelists are illuminated. Despite his love of bare female flesh and blood-spurting swordplay, Ishii's direction is very precise: the pace never lags, the setpieces are carefully designed and the end result packs a tremendous visceral punch. The final piece of the puzzle is a charismatic turn from Tetsuro Tamba as the protagonist, Shiro: Tamba is the unflappable focal point at the eye of the storm, bringing both movie-star presence and an effortlessly believable world-weariness to the role as he quietly battles his way through an endless series of ambushes and double-crosses. His work grounds the movie and is a perfect counterbalance to the director's intense style. Ultimately, Bohachi Bushido: Code Of The Forgotten Eight is probably too extreme and bizarre for the general audience but there is more going on here than mere exploitation -- and daring cult movie fans will find that this film is as stylish and skillfully-made as it is outrageous.