Ninja warfare in YAGYU BUGEICHO – Part 1

posted in: 1 - Film and TV | 2

Spent a lot of time on American and Chinese posters and packaging lately, so let’s take things back to where it really all starts with this site – 60’s Japanese films. This will be the first of several posts on B&W shinobi cinema.

Chambara icon Jushiro Konoe knew a good thing when he saw it.

The 1962 semi-historical Toei actioner Yagyu Begeicho (aka The Yagyu Secret Scrolls, Yagyu Chronicles, or Yagyu Military Arts) was nothing necessarily new or groundbreaking – Jubei Yagyu was a known figure, and the ‘secret scrolls’ thing had been done a few years previous by Hiroshi Inagaki with Toshiro Mifune for rival studio Toho. But Konoe and director Shoji Matsumura knew that similar elements repurposed in the fervor of the Shinobi-no-Mono craze would make for a sure fire homer, and were they right. Konoe would return for EIGHT sequels in the next two years! The property even jumped to TV in 1965. Now that’s running with a hit…

Original poster art used in current DVD packaging. Note that Jubei doesn't have the trademark tsuba eyepatch until the third film - the epic takes him through quite a few years.

Next to the superb swordplay of Konoe and frequent guest star roles for his matinee idol son Hiroki Matsukata, a big part of the YB success formula had to be the presence of the black suited ninja. Regardless of the intrigue afoot or out-numbered sword fights Jubei found himself in, there was always a black-clad listener under the floor boards, or hooded cat burglar making off with a sacred parchment. Ninja were crucial to this series, and the eighth installment has perhaps the most ninja of any 60’s craze film.

Yagyu Bugeicho: Katame no Ninja (Yagyu Chronicles 8: The One-Eyed Ninja) is somewhat unique in that it has an all out military BATTLE between rival shinobi armies. It’s like the ninja Longest Day, complete with a castle siege and a body count like Gettysburg.

The credit sequence, painted titles over rolling waves, has strobe-cuts of these weird illos of Jubei and the tools of the ninja.

In the first seven films, the 'Yagyu secret scrolls' are the object of conflict, but in the eighth, they bear a grim mission for the clan from the Shogunate.
Matsukata plays a conflicted shadow-skilled swordsman, duty bound to the same mission as Jubei, but also his sworn enemy. It's a complex relationship.
Ninja spies and military advisors abound, with a variety of looks.

Bust most of them end up dead...
This battle plan is little more than a suicide mission for the dozens of Yagyu ninja agents assembled, but duty calls.
Political intrigue, valuable hostages, and a cache of imported repeating rifles await in this nigh-impenetrable fortress!

CONTINUED TOMORROW – with perhaps the most horiffic ninja battle ever…

2 Responses

  1. tung131189

    may i download this series from internet ?
    plz show me the link if u have it 😡

  2. krainville

    It’s available for sale in DVD form, and the link is provided in the post. We don’t link to bit.torrent or illegal download sites by policy.

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