Incident At Blood Pass (Japan 1970)

Rating: **
Alternate Title: Ambush!
Review Date: 3/11/06
Cast: Toshiro Mifune, Shintaro Katsu, Yujiro Ishihara

Another collaboration between Toshiro Mifune and Shintaro Katsu, with Mifune reprising his "Yojimbo" character for the last time. Mifune accepts a cryptic mission at a snowy mountain pass, where he is simply told to "wait until something happens." So he bides his time and manages to rescue a woman from an abusive husband along the way. Several other characters show up at a mountain teahouse, including a discredited doctor named Genetsu (superb Shintaro Katsu), a wandering gambler (Yujiro Ishihara), and a super annoying police official with a criminal in tow. Mifune finally learns that his job is to protect a group of bandits that are hijacking a shipment of gold, but things aren't quite as they seem.

Excellent performances by the entire cast and the cinematography is stunning. The snowy landscapes are cold, hard, barren, and beautiful, and nicely reflect the isolation felt by each of the characters. Unfortunately, the film is slow and tedious, and things don't start to heat up until well after an hour or so. Even then, the bloodless action scenes aren't particularly exciting or memorable, although the matchless Shintaro Katsu is always fun to watch and his eyes burn with a fierce intensity. The young girl at the teahouse is also fun to watch, as she's totally adorable. A well made film, but not what I was in the mood to see.