Called chambara eiga in its native Japan -- an onomatopoeic word recalling the sound of swords clashing together--the Samurai film is a venerable and long popular genre that emerged at the very dawn of Japanese cinema. Like the American Western, the Samurai film takes place in a oft eulogized past -- before 1868 when samurai rule was overthrown -- while dealting with similar issues of loyalty, honor and duty. Of course, the main draw of such films is choreographed violence and jawdropping feats of swordmanship. The genre first developed into form separate from filmed theater productions in the 1910s. By the 1920s, such directors of Daisuke Ito, Mansaku Itami, Sadao Yamanaka and Hiroshi Inagaki began to infuse the Samurai film with a new level of sophistication both in terms of story and style. Particularly note-worthy films during this period include Zanjin Zamba Ken (AKA: Man-Slashing, Horse-Piercing Sword), Kakita Akanishi and the brilliant, leftist Ninjo Kami Fusen. The genre mirrored Japan's tumultuous slide towards a milistaristic dictatorship during the 1930s. Though directors like Itami and Yamanaka used the Samurai film as a means to question social ills -- for which Yamanaka eventually paid with his life -- the genre's reoccurring motifs of duty and honor easily dovetailed into government propagangda and by the late 1930s the samurai film became little more than a platform for hectoring jingoism. Under the banner of democratization and anti-feudalism, the occupying US forces banned the Samurai film for a time though by the early 1950s, the chambara eiga regained its position as one of Japanese most popular film types. Led by such cinematic illuminaries as Masaki Kobayashi and particularly Akira Kurosawa, the 1950s variety featured a distinctly humanistic outlook that questioned both Japanese society and human nature itself. Some of these works, Harakiri, Yojimbo and especially Kurosawa's Seven Samurai are considered some of the finest films ever produced. Though such B-film fare as the Zatoichi series continued to be popular, the climate of the 1960s made the Samurai film seem musty and out-dated as the genre's later day successor -- the Yakuza film -- became increasingly popular.