Secret of the Urn

Director - Hideo Gosha

Cast - Kinnosuke Nakamura

Country of Origin - Japan

Discs - 1

MSRP - $24.98

Distributor - Animeigo

Reviewer - Ryan Miller

The Film (4/5)

     It seems I'm a sucker for the betrayed samurai genre and because of this, Secret of the Urn(Tange Sazen: Hien iaigiri), a recent release from Animeigo, was a ton of fun to watch. The film, which initially released theatrically May 25 1966 in Japan, features a character from Japan's who, as noted specifically on the reverse of the DVD, is similar to Zorro or the Lone Ranger. His name is Tange Sazen, a betrayed samurai-turned-ronin with half the eyes and arms and twice the bad-ass of any other typical samurai. Apparently, he's a very popular fictional character out east.

   As noted before, Tange Sazen is a betrayed samurai and the beginning of the film quickly delivers the origin story of the beloved hero. While investigating some political shenanigans, Tange Sazen, then referred to as Samanosuke, agrees to be the second to a treacherous spy during his ritual suicide. Not surprisingly, the spy attacks Tange costing him his eye. Then he loses his arm. Of course, the spy dies anyway, impaled on Tange's katanna.

   Cut to a year later, Tange has a new name, haircut, and sword fighting style befitting his new ronin lifestyle and lack of limbs. What follows is him finding an urn with the key to a shit ton of money. Now he has to keep this mysterious urn safe from ninjas, thieves, shogun, a little boy, and some dude who fancies himself "The Grim Reaper."

   The film is certainly pretty enough, largely due to a remaster but the footage isn't too shabby either. The swordplay was fun to watch, a typically important factor in samurai flicks, as the camera often moved to accommodate and showed everything necessary. Basically, I'm saying it was slick. The color popped pretty well. It's no Tarsem Singh, but for a movie that came out before the moon landing, it's pretty awesome. The film is presented in an anamorphic widescreen so you don't miss any of it.

   My only complaint for the film is that it lacks a varied soundtrack. By the end of the film I was very sick of hearing the same piece over and over again. A better dramatic orchestral score could have turned this good movie into a fucking amazing film. That's just my opinion. The movie features an all Japanese language track with English subtitles with an added bonus of cultural explanations when necessary for us gaijin.

   The extras for Secret of the Urn are pretty standard. The usual trailer, some production notes containing some trivia and goofs, biographies for the main actor(The legendary Kinnosuke Nakamura) and director(Hideo Gosha), and an image gallery.

   Basically, if you like samurai films and/or Japanese Feudalism, this is a film I wouldn't miss. It has everything you need for your eastern craving: swords, sepuku, a crazy shit-talking, one-armed ronin zorro, and ninjas. So many dead ninjas.