The Purple Hooded Man (Japan 1958)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 9/28/15
Cast: Kataoka Chiezo

Murasaki Zukin (aka The Purple Hooded Man) is a Japanese variation on the Robin Hood legend. He represents the poor and downtrodden, and fights for justice against a corrupt government. When a greedy and power-mad official murders a competitor, conspires with merchants to deny goods to peasants, sets up a gold embezzling operation, burns a warehouse to the ground, and attempts to coerce young maidens into marriage, the mysterious Purple Hood (Kataoka Chiezo) shows up to protect the suffering townsfolk. At the same time, a scruffy and irresponsible ronin wanders into town and an ugly master painter also makes an appearance. Could they all be the same person? Hmm... As the unscrupulous Tanuma steps up his gold embezzling operation, people start asking questions and ending up dead. Purple Hood finally amasses enough evidence to prove Tanuma's guilt and delivers it to the Shogun during a spectacular party. With justice served and the people free from tyranny (for a while, at least), Purple Hood leaves in search of more adventure. "He comes from a different world than we do" mourn two women as they watch him go.

It's a gorgeous and beautifully filmed production, but the print quality is absolutely terrible which makes it difficult to watch. Kataoka Chiezo is a good actor and the samurai swordplay matches the style that was popular at the time. The fights are intense, but completely bloodless, and basically revolve around brief flurries of flashing steel followed by people falling over. Purple Hood is the perfect hero: dashing, daring, selfless, honorable, chivalrous, righteous, and always there to help those in need. He's also a matchless swordsman and an extraordinary painter, which elevates him to super human status. Is there anything he can't do? The actress who plays Osen is incredibly attractive, and is a pure joy to watch. Overall, I was both pleased and impressed. Admittedly, with a title like "The Purple Hooded Man" showing up in a cheap ninja movie box set, I had very low expectations. I also found it interesting that both Eastern and Western cultures have very similar medieval heroes who fought against corruption and stole from the rich to give to the poor. Were these real folk heroes or simply the wishful fantasies of a repressed society?