Chapter four of the stylish 1960s samurai series about the outcast ronin Kyoshiri Nemuri finds our antihero mixed up in a labyrinthine plot involving persecuted Christians, opium smuggling, a murderous princess, and a search for a "saint" who supposedly knows the dark secret of his
Princess Kiku is killing off her ladies-in-waiting by giving them overdoses of opium, which is being smuggled into Japan by the Inner Court's physician and a rice-dealer named Bizenya. Meanwhile, Torizo, a member of an underground Christian group, pleads with wandering samurai Kyoshiro Nemuri
(Raizo Ichikawa) to find and save a priestess called "Virgin Shima," who, Torizo claims, knows about the circumstances of Nemuri's birth. After Nemuri finds out about Bezinya's smuggling and confronts him, he foils several attempts on his life, including one by Princess Kiku. During a Noh-dance
performance, Nemuri rips off Kiku's mask to reveal her horribly disfigured face, which is the reason she was murdering her beautiful ladies-in-waiting. Kiku demands Nemuri's head and one of her guards follows him, but is killed by Nemuri.
Nemuri eventually finds Shima on Bezinya's smuggling ship, and after he vanquishes Bezinya's guards and a Chinese boxing master named Chen Sun (Kenzaburo Joo), Shima admits that she's a fake employed by the authorities to catch Christians. As Nemuri is about to kill her, she tells him that her
mother was his wet nurse when he was a baby and that he was conceived as part of a Satanic ritual performed by a Christian missionary who raped his mother. Nemuri then kills Shima and walks away, followed by a stray dog.
SWORD OF SEDUCTION is an even more somber contemplation on alienation and loneliness than the previous three series entries, and the first to actually depict the Black Mass rape of Nemuri's mother during which he was conceived, which is the basis for his status as an outcast character. The
flashback is brilliantly handled, masterfully utilizing the entire widescreen frame--as does virtually every shot in the series--by shifting the images of Nemuri, his mother, and Shima to different parts of the frame, showing the mother lying in a coffin surrounded by flickering candles as the
demonic missionary violates her. It's a chilling sequence that more than compensates for the sometimes disjointed and confusing narrative that precedes it. It is complemented by several other stunning images: Kiku's shadow laughing as her dying ladies-in-waiting wail in pain; Nemuri decapitating
an old man (who turns out to be his father) after he rapes a woman; Kiku's hideously mutilated face; bloody water dissolving into a red sky; and the finale where Nemuri slashes Shima as she runs toward him and her white dressing gown slowly turns crimson with her own blood. The numerous
swordfights and duels are equally stylish, placing the characters on the extreme edges and employing angles from overhead and underneath, while in slow motion, Nemuri's blade is shown moving in psychedelic trails as he flashes his sword in preparation for his infamous Full Moon Cut. (Violence, sexual situations.)
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Chapter four of the stylish 1960s samurai series about the outcast ronin Kyoshiri Nemuri finds our antihero mixed up in a labyrinthine plot involving persecuted Christians, opium smuggling, a murderous princess, and a search for a "saint" who supposedly kn… (more)