Monday, December 19, 2011

REVIEW: Sleepy Eyes of Death 5: Sword of Fire

眠狂四郎 炎情剣 (Nemuri Kyōshirō: Enjo-ken)

Released: 1965

Kenji Misumi

Raizo Ichikawa
Tamao Nakamura
Sanae Nakahara
Ko Nishimura
Ryuzo Shimada

Rrunning time: 83 min.

Reviewed by Matthew Hardstaff

After taking a brief respite, skipping "Sleepy Eyes of Death 4", writer Seiji Hoshikawa returns to the incredible anti-hero samurai series to collaborate once more with the late great Kenji Misumi. For the fifth part in the series, "Sleepy Eyes of Death 5: Sword of Fire" (which I think is suppose to be more along the lines of "Sword of Passion", the fire between the loins), Nemuri Kyoshiro’s desire for women, or his desire to punish those women that are corrupt and black of heart, becomes the central theme.

Nemuri Kyoshiro finds himself embroiled in a scheme by a retainer of the Todo clan and a corrupt merchant (Ko Nishimura) to steal treasure accumulated by a band of pirates, treasure they were suppose to present to the Shogun, and in the process killing all that are able to tell the tale. How does he become embroiled in this scheme? Wandering through the Japanese countryside he comes across a rogue accosting a damsel in distress, Nui Higaki. Higaki, obviously outmatched, but filled with the suicidal desire to kill the rogue, begs Nemuri Kyoshiro for assistance, claiming this man killed her husband and she demands revenge. Kyoshiro reluctantly intervenes, after being promised anything he wants, and with this act, he finds him pulled into the pirate treasure cover-up. Of course, the bastardly plot by the corrupt and vile players is merely a means to an end, as the real treat is watching how all the players double and triple cross one another, and watching how Nemuri Kyoshiro slowly works them against each other, until he’s the last man left standing.

What really separates this film from the others in the series is here we’re presented with a Nemuri Kyoshiro that is known throughout Japan not only as a master ronin with the deadly full moon cut, but he’s also known as a man with an appetite for woman, as it is put so eloquently, ‘a master of irrigating green young fields’. Of course, he only gains pleasure from irrigating those green young fields when they’re vile and dirty, as he states ‘when I see a woman like you, it brings out my roguish side!’ In previous films his relationship with woman has been a part of the series but never a focal point, but this time it’s at the films core. Several woman play key roles in the plot to steal the pirate treasure, and the ones pure of heart he treats as angels, and will do anything to protect them, but if they are tainted, if they’re is evil in their heart, then he uses them as little more than sexual objects, and then quickly discards them, often killing them or setting into motion events that will lead to their demise. Perhaps this has to do with his Christian beginnings, as he treats the pure of heart as virgins who must forever remain chaste. A sexual deviant Nemuri Kyoshiro must be, as he appears to only gain pleasure from having his way with the vilest of women (and of course the prize he takes from Higaki at the beginning of the film is a night with her body).

Under the brilliant direction by Kenji Misumi, neophyte cinematographer Fujio Morita’s compositions shine, with some wonderful long takes, an expert use of the colour red and the usual Misumi style of a calculated and well crafted cinematic experience, filled with some terrific fight scenes that unfold with expert staging and choreography. The film helps to develop and flesh out the already nihilistic bad boy of the samurai world, and gives fans another spectacular foray into the world of "The Sleepy Eyes of Death" and the full moon cut!


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