Chimoji yashiki (Mansion of Vendetta aka Mansion of the Blood Curse, Toei, 1962), from an original story by Fubo Hayashi, was filmed in scope & color. Eiichi Kudo, a leading jidai-geki or chambara director too little known in the west, takes the material seriously, giving weight to what in other hands would have been no more than Toei "product."
Veteran chambara star Ryotaro Otomo plays Kamio, a samurai clerk of Edo Castle who has married a merchant's daughter, Somoe.
Kamio's senior, Omi Tobe, was also in love with Somoe, & encourages the clerks working under him to give Kamio a difficult time. They refuse to acknowledge the wedding invitations, but it is a successful event anyhow, because several commonors & merchants worked hard to make "the lonesome wedding" a pleasant one.
Late on their marriage night, his co-workers from the castle got the newlyweds out of bed, having arrived under pretense of celebrating the marriage, but in reality to turn the house into a mess.
At the castle, they ride him mercilessly. They tease him about marrying "money" & suggest his merchant wife is sleeping with some peasant while Kamio works in the castle. Omi gives him double duty so that Kamio can rarely see his wife.
He accepts all this punishment & more, but they never tire of badgering him. In fact, they have mistreated good men before, forcing them to resign, so that they can keep their wicked little in-group intact. This group of clerks was also notorious for maltreating townsmen & otherwise using their positions to cause trouble for others.
Into this situation comes Magistrate Ooka, played by baby-faced Hashizo Okawa, whose girlish good looks are to be expected of an actor who began his career as an onnagata or kabuki performer of female roles.
Magistrate Ooka knows full well that the entire group of low-ranking samurai are victimizing Kamio & numbers of other persons. But Omi Tobe & his men have the support of Lord Wakisama, & Ooka is powerless to act against the lawless clerks.
Forced to apologize for fabricated reasons, Kamio has his patience-fan torn & is forced to bow with face to mat while the clerks place their feet on the back of his head, one at a time. He seems to be crying while he takes this undeserved sadistic treatment, which causes Omi Tobi to demand that Kamio raise his face, "So I can see your tears."
When Kamio raises his face, he is not crying, but laughing, & the look on his face suggests that he has taken just about enough.
The clerks move back, suddenly afraid. But Kamio merely leaves, with Omi pursuing him because no clerk is permitted to leave the premises without his express permission.
"He'll be forced to resign," the clerks tell each other smugly. A few moments later, they are surprised by the sound of a shoji or rice paper window being torn open, & the head of Omi Tobe is tossed through the window. Kamio has killed his senior & when Magistrate Ooka hears of it, he exclaims, "He went so far!"
There follows a halfhearted hunt for Kamio, with whom everyone sympathizes. Ooka pretends he wants Kamio brought in for his crime, but does not pressure the sympathetic police force to succeed. The police ultimately help Kamio achieve vengeance against seventeen clerks whom Magistrate Ooka secretly agrees should be purged from Edo Castle.
[SPOILERS ALERT!] While a fugitive, Kamio meets a rough-speaking ronin who is his spitting image. Ibara, known as "Sir Quarrel," together with Kamio, take up the vendetta against the seventeen wicked castle men. Why Sir Quarrel cares is never actually stated, except that he likes his look-alike & also likes the idea of killing bad men.
Ryotaro Otomo is given a grand opportunity to create two very different charcters in the same film, & to create two distinct fighting styles as well. Ibara is a bawdy street killer while Kamio has a serious, intense swordstyle. The staging set-ups & cinematography are excellent. It's convincing how choreography is arranged so it seems like two look-alike fighting men are in the same scenes at the same time.
Toei film studio was not often as bloody & grim as in this one, though occasionally they'd do something quite harsh like Daisuke Ito's The Retaliation of Gonza (1963) or Kudo's Mansion of Vendetta. The plot is well-structured, the decapitations & duels bloody. There is humor in the film as in so many Toei productions, but the tone of the story itself is deadly serious until vengeance is achieved.
In the wake of the vengeance, Magistrate Ooka appears & chastises the police for arresting Kamio's double "by accident." But after chastizing them, Ooka smiles in the way only an actor of Hashizo Okawa's extreme beauty can: a ray of sunshine, a toothpaste commercial, & the police are thereby reassured they acted properly.
Ooka then throws Kamio's look-alike a traveler's pass for two people. Ibara knows to give these to Kamio & his wife so that they can leave Edo forever & never be punished for secretly approved crimes. The happy-ever-after epilogue shows Kamio & Somoe hugging each other on the highway between cities. [END SPOILERS]
Mansion of Vendetta is a better than average example of Toei's commercial product. The fight scenes & story are harsh enough for it to not seem like only a kids' film, but it does have that glowy-happy ending typical of Toei family films. It's also a grand opportunity to see Ryotaro Otomo, an established screen idol, together with Hashizo Okawa who was being groomed to become a replacement for just such aging idols as Ryotaro.
Also in the cast are Satomi Oka, Hiroko Sakuramachi, Mikijiro Taira, Shingo Yamashiro, Naoka Kubo & Kuso Abe.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl