Review Date: 3/5/00
Cast: Ichikawa Raizo
Wow, Nemuri Kyoshiro kills A LOT of people in this film. The film opens with Kyoshiro exchanging some harsh words with a woman who begs to sell herself to him. As a result of her shame, she commits suicide. This has a somewhat unnerving effect on Kyoshiro, and he feels guilty for chastising instead of encouraging her. His guilt is compounded by the fact that the woman's adopted son is now an orphan, and in a sincere attempt to balance out his bad karma, he assumes responsibility for the boy. But there's another thorn in his side - the younger sister of a man that Kyoshiro killed a few movies back is relentlessly pursuing him in the hopes of avenging her brother. Time and again she causes Kyoshiro grief by killing everyone that he gets involved with, which really starts to piss him off. Things get more complicated as it turns out that the young boy is the illegitimate, but sole surviving heir to a certain clan, and in a desperate act of self preservation, the clan kidnaps him and returns him to their castle. Kyoshiro doesn't stand for this and goes to rescue the kid, deftly avoiding all of the cunning traps that his numerous enemies lay before him. When he finally gets to the castle, an army of samurai awaits him and he lays them all to waste. He finally rescues the boy and promises to look after him.
One of the better films in the series, the story is interesting and gets increasingly complex as the film progresses. We get to see another side of Nemuri Kyoshiro this time around, as a compassionate man who regrets his wrongdoings. For the entire film he carries around the Noh mask of the suicide victim, as a reminder that karma must be served. It's a nice symbolic touch, and adds a creepiness factor as well (those masks have always scared me). Apart from one dreadfully long satanic "black mass" ritual, the pacing is good and the story is constantly moving. The action scenes are nicely done and we even get some brief, but satisfying bloodshed in the vein that you would expect from the genre. Good stuff.