THIRD NINJA is first rate

posted in: 1 - Film and TV | 1

More pretty B&W shinobi action today, courtesy of Toshikazu Kouno‘s 1964 Toei actioner Daisan no Ninja (The Third Ninja).

Brief synopsis (anything longer would be spoiler-heavy): Two competing ninja, one an obedient servant, the other an upstart looking for a job, are given the task of hunting down Takeda Shingen’s deadliest assassin Chidoken. The winner becomes #1 Resident Suppa, the loser gets the axe. Along the way, the tenuous duo encounter a third ninja with a grudge against their target, and the game is on. Commando-style invasions of booby-trapped houses and ninja-on-ninja weapons fights ensue, with a couple of surprise reveals making for a truly dramatic (and blood soaked) end.

TN is definitely in that 'credible' vein of films, taking the history and techniques seriously - seen right away in this precarious crossing between a nightingale floor and a blade-rigged ceiling.
Subtle differences in black dyes make for a simple and effective way to keep track of which ninja is which.
Sato Kei and Satomi Kotaro have the same target, but with only one head to claim and death to the loser in this competiton, there's little cooperation in the pursuit.
That's Koji Nanbara as the third wheel. I love how each of the shinobi tie their hoods differently. Kudos to the costumer here...
Misako Watanabe stars as Kotaro's fate-crossed love interest, another exploration of the familiar 'ninja aren't allowed emotions' deal.
The middle of the film has some great sequences in tall reeds, among several fantastic in-studio 'exteriors.'

And there's some ambitious wire work too. Nifty when it works, but often distracting when it doesn't. Might be the film's one weakness.
A brief glimpse at Kotaro's arsenal. Those saw-blade shuriken are pretty ridiculous...
But this combination spear-head / climbing device is devastating in the hands of Chidoken. Kotaro is pinned to a tree as...
...his target swings down on him like a bird of prey. Great action scene!
Alas there's no way I can show more caps of the climax without major spoilers, but rest assured it all looks this good. Awesome photography throughout TN.
The denoument consists of this stunning shot, and...
...this over-the-top final image of Satomi Kotaro's sword struck through the kanji for "Nin." THIRD NINJA is also an exploration of the 'can I escape this life in the shadows' concept.

I really dig The Third Ninja. It doesn’t miss a trick of the genre: cat burglar skills, shuriken fights, close-quarter short-sword duels, disguises, traps, it’s ALL here. Grim, gritty, gory – it’s a tough tale and there are some truly wretched characters on both sides of the morally ambiguous goings-on.

Again, GREAT photography at times here. This is certainly on the short list of movies that prove B&W to be the superior artistic vehicle for shinobi cinema. The Hajime Kaburagi score is great too, lots of haunting harmonica work to support the noir-ish visuals and somber themes.

Read Paghat’s superb review at the Weird Wild Realm!

Buy it at Kurotokagi.

  1. zaphate

    Really fantastic film. I found your nine essentials of B&W Shinobi Cinema, through Wildgrounds Japanese Film Blogathon. Thanks for identifying it, probably my favorite shinobi film right now.