``Samurai are samurai because of their Lord. The lives of samurai do not belong to the samurai, they belong to their Lord. Know that it is an honor to die for your Lord. To die in service to your Lord that is the beginning of loyalty.``
These mark a samurai`s last words to his son and capture the central but brutal message of the film. In Bushido - The Cruel Code of the Samurai (1963), we follow seven generations of samurai who all embody the cruel code of absolute loyalty and honor. This film is devoid of the idyllic representation we often have of the samurai who often characterize courage, virtue and wisdom and instead are presented with a dreadful portrayal of unconditional servitude and compliance. The Lords are represented as slothful rulers who spend their lives fulfilling their sexual desires and demanding unthinkably callous demands. Do not expect a film filled with good intentions and a virtuous plot but instead enter into a world of despair and unimaginable cruelty.
There seems to be no end to how brutal and sinister a Lord`s command can be toward his samurai, for example, the aged samurai Ikura Shuzo unwillingly accepts to have his bride to be daughter brought to the castle to please the Lord in his bedroom. If this is not a nightmare enough for any father, he is then asked to send his wife into the Lord`s bedroom and once again accepts this shameful request but instead of entering the bedroom, Ikura`s wife commits suicide. The heartbroken samurai is then brought to the castle only to unknowingly execute both his daughter and her fiancé at the demand of the Lord. At this point, you would think that these events would erupt a violent outburst in any person, especially a master of the sword. Instead, as the film darkly but perfectly depicts, Ikura complies with the Lord`s demands and holds out his hand only to be stabbed and then commit seppuku.
As the film progresses we continuously hope that there will be a catalyst who will finally brake the chains of this vicious code but the code persistently defeats any virtue or insight that the samurai might have, it even seems stronger than the love they have for their own family. Watching this film will generate many disturbing emotions as the characters played by Nakamura continuously comply with sinister demands throughout 350 years only to encounter Susumu who finds himself in modern day Tokyo and for the first time becomes aware of the Karmic effects of Bushido but do not expect a character full of courage and wisdom. Staying true to the grim portrayal of its lead characters, Susumu seems like a person struggling with this outdated code but feels obliged to honor it. His decisions to continuously honor his superiors over his own family eventually jeopardizes his relationship with his fiancée and just like Ikura over a century before, his fiancée is led to attempt suicide. Being by his fiancées side at the hospital he then discovers the long karmic road of Bushido and consciously decides to break the cycle of unconditional loyalty by finally choosing love and family over this cruel and brutal code of honor. -Louis Kolovos