Incident at Blood Pass (1970)
by Del Harvey
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The great Toshiro Mifune is Yojimbo – a nameless ronin samurai who is hired by a mysterious stranger, the only instructions given are that he is to travel to a snowy mountain pass and await further instructions. Seemingly an easy way to earn a dollar, he accepts and, along the way, he rescues Okuni (Ruriko Asaoka) from her abusive husband and agrees to let her accompany him, eventually dropping her at the Minoya Inn where she quickly finds employment.
Upon reaching the pass, the samurai encounters an assortment of apparently harmless local characters who, unknown to him, plot a major ambush of an official caravan soon to pass their way.
This group of characters includes: Yataro, a young gambler (Yûjirô Ishihara), the passionate policeman Ibuki (Kinnosuke Nakamura), a group of drummers, some pissed off gangsters, and Gentetsu (Shintarô Katsu), a former doctor who lives in a barn behind the inn. When Yojimbo discovers his true purpose of these individual’s being there - to rob the Shogunate gold - his loyalties are put to the test as he is crossed and double-crossed before the final, bloody climax.
Yojimbo must deal with the political intrigue he has blundered into, and finds betrayal waiting at every turn.
“Incident At Blood Pass” is the last of Toshiro Mifune’s “Yojimbo” films. It also marks the second meeting between another icon of 70’s Japanese samurai cinema, Shintaro Katsu, and Mifune. Katsu made numerous films and even a television series as the “Zatoichi, The Blind Swordsman.” The first time Mifune and Katsu acted together was in director Kihachi Okamoto’s 1970 film “Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo.” In “Incident at Blood Pass,” Katsu appears not as the good-willed blind swordsman, but as the antagonist Gentetsu. For Mifune, Katsu’s participation in Incident at Blood Pass would mark the retirement of the Yojimbo character, while Katsu’s role as Zatoichi would continue for a number of years to come.
But the stars are not the only draws in this film. Hiroshi Inagaki was a well-known and highly decorated director of the period. He worked with Mifune earlier on his famous Samurai Trilogy, for which he won a best Foreign Film Oscar. And the leading female actress, Ruriko Asaoka was a major star, having appeared in over 121 films between 1955 and 1967.
“Incident At Blood Pass” is an excellent film, a great addition to the samurai genre, and an opportunity to see two of the genre’s best actors perform one last time. Don’t miss it.
DVD Extras Include:
A trailer can be found on YouTube here.
To learn more about this great Samurai classic, or to purchase, please visit the AnimEigo page here.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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