Samurai Rebellion (1967)

Samurai Rebellion (1967), directed by Masaki Kobayashi.

Japan in 1725 has enjoyed a long period of peace. Invasion and civil war are not issues, but you still have to worry about court intrigue and back-stabbing by nobles on your own level.

The local feudal lord ejects his concubine and insists that one of his vassals marry her. Neither the young man nor his sword-master father are happy with the prospect -- ToshirĂ´ Mifune is the picture of brooding displeasure -- but they have to obey and the extended clan applies all sorts of leverage to ensure compliance.

Surprise: it works out. The bride is a decent sort and the young people are happy together. Until the lord wants her back again. Further, the family have to formally plead with the lord to take her from them.

That's going too far. Come and take her. Father and son vs the world. There will be blood.

Most of the story is setup for the action in the final quarter. The tension is between the personal and the political: what duties do we owe our rulers? Does loyalty to the clan excuse any degree of vile behavior?

Available on DVD from Criterion.