Follow TV Tropes


Film / Samurai Rebellion

Go To

Samurai Rebellion (上意討ち 拝領妻始末, "Order to kill: The bitter end of a bestowed wife") is a 1967 film directed by Masaki Kobayashi, starring Toshiro Mifune and Tatsuya Nakadai.

It is 1723, the Edo period in Japan. Isaburo Sasahara (Mifune) is a vassal of the Aizu clan. He has a good friend in border guard and fellow vassal Tatewaki Asano (Nakadai), but otherwise his life is rather cheerless, and he is stuck in a bad marriage to the domineering Suga. The family is not happy when the daimyo (lord) of the Aizu clan foists one of his concubines, Ichi, on Isaburo's son Yogoro in an arranged marriage. It turns out to be a love match, however, and everyone except for bitchy Suga is happy. Ichi bears Yogoro a daughter, Tomi.

Their happiness is interrupted, however, when the daimyo's eldest son dies. That makes his second son heir to the lordship. That second son is Ichi's son Kikuchiyo, and it wouldn't do for the heir apparent's mother to be married to a minor vassal family. So the daimyo demands Ichi back.


  • Arranged Marriage: Isaburo's went horribly. So he is very upset when Ichi and Yogoro's happiness is interrupted by the daimyo.
  • Aside Glance: Tatewaki gives one when Isaburo assures baby Tomi that Tatewaki will become her foster father and take care of her if he dies.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Isaburo and Suga can't stand each other. Isaburo says "There's never been a shred of love in my married life."
  • Call-Back: The film opens with a closeup on Isaburo's face, then a focus change to a closeup on his sword blade, as he practices swordsmanship with Tatewaki. At the end, when they are dueling, there is an identical shot.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Tatewaki is torn between his friendship to Isaburo and loyalty to his clan. It's clear he loathes his superiors' unfair and cruel actions toward Isaburo's family and supports Isaburo's action. In the end, Tatewaki chooses to fullfil his duty as his clan's border guard and to fight Isaburo.
  • Death Glare: Mean-spirited Suga flashes a lot of these, principally at Ichi when Ichi is being stubborn about not going back to the palace.
  • Dies Wide Open: Poor Isaburo.
  • Dirty Coward: The steward, who barks threats at Isaburo and Yogoro and brings a whole platoon of guards to take them out, but tries to run away when Isaburo goes after him. Isaburo stabs him In the Back.
  • Dirty Old Man: The daimyo. Young, lovely Ichi makes it clear that she is thoroughly grossed out by a man 30 years her senior climbing on top of her.
  • Downer Ending: Isaburo, Tatewaki, Yogoro, and Ichi are all dead. Tomi is orphaned, although Kiku the wet nurse is there to look after her.
  • Driven to Suicide: Isaburo and Yogoro angrily refuse seppuku, but Ichi flings herself onto a guard's spear.
  • Dutch Angle: Several in a row when a mortally wounded Isaburo is staggering back towards Tomi.
  • Flashback: How Ichi relates to Yogoro the story of her expulsion from the daimyo's household. She hated the daimyo, but resolved to bear him a lot of sons so no other young woman would be so victimized. However, upon returning to the palace following maternity rest, she finds that the daimyo has already taken a new concubine. She flips out and physically attacks both of them.
  • Fighting Your Friend: Isaburo has to fight Tatewaki, his best friend and the border guard, so he can go to Edo.
  • For Want Of A Nail: The daimyo's firstborn son and heir Masamoto dying from an illness, leaving Ichi's son Kikuchiyo as the new heir, is what kicks off the tragic events that follow.
  • Friendly Enemy: Isaburo and Tatewaki have been best friends for a long time. Even when Tatewaki has to fight Isaburo in the movie's final act, it's not because of malice or hatred, but because Tatewaki has to fullfil his duty as border guard and Isaburo is trying to illegally pass without their daimyo's permission. It's clear both of them are very reluctant to fight one another and when Isaburo managed to defeat Tatewaki, Isaburo is clearly heartbroken over his friend's death. Tatewaki himself, in his dying breath, told Isaburo to quickly go to Edo and wishes him luck.
  • Gold Digger: The daimyo's new concubine, Tama, whom Ichi attacked along with the daimyo himself. As Ichi explains to Yogoro, she saw no sorrow whatsoever on Tama's face. On the contrary, Tama was clearly satisfied and proud to have become the daimyo's new concubine. This is what set Ichi off.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: Seen when Ichi is told she has to go back to the daimyo.
  • Hate Sink: The daimyo of the Aizu clan, a thoroughly selfish and lecherous individual who uses his position as absolute ruler of his domain to indulge in his wants and desires with no one being able to say 'no' to him. The ostensible need for male heirs is more of a convenient excuse for him to take advantage of women young enough to be his daughter, which is something that thoroughly repulses Ichi.
  • Henpecked Husband: Isaburo at the beginning, in what was something of a Playing Against Type role for the eternally macho Mifune.
    "I married into my wife's family and have been henpecked for 20 years."
  • Honor Before Reason: Tatewaki has to fight his best friend Isaburo in the film's end. Tatewaki does this not out of any personal enmity, but because as the border guard, he has the duty to prevent anyone from passing their clan's territory ilegally. It's very clear he's not happy about it.
  • Jidaigeki: Firmly in the middle of the Jidaigeki era, but this film is also a lacerating takedown of feudal Japanese values—and by implication, the feudal values that had just recently brought Japan to devastation in World War II. See also Kobayashi's film Harakiri, which is set in the same era and explores the same themes.
  • Jump Cut: Several employed in the film, like when Isaburo's command to Yogoro to quit the daimyo's household is followed by a jump cut to Isaburo and Tatewaki talking about how Yogoro's quit the household.
  • Master Swordsman: Isaburo and Tatewaki; both are considered to be the two best swordsmen in their clan. When they finally fight during the film's end, Isaburo proved to be the better one.
  • Papa Wolf: Do not threaten his son, daughter-in-law or granddaughter or Isaburo will destroy you.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Despite the circumstances surrounding their arranged marriage, Yogoro and Ichi eventually fall in love.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: During the siege in his home, after the steward's men killed both Yogoro and Ichi, Isaburo goes completely apeshit and proceeds to slaughter the whole platoon and the steward without even breaking a sweat.
  • Together in Death: Yogoro is cradling Ichi's freshly dead corpse when he is stabbed by the steward's thugs. After he dies while still holding onto her, Isaburo buries them both in a common grave.