Hiroshi Inagaki had crafted the excellent Samurai Trilogy, a series of three films detailing the life of Musashi Miyamoto. He also directed the brilliant Chushingura aka 47 Ronin (which will be next week’s Sunday Matinee). And one of his last pairings with actor Toshiro Mifune (who starred in all those films) was Machibuse aka The Ambush: Incident at Blood Pass.
Made in 1970 Mifune stars in a role similar to his Yojimbo role. He’s a masterless, nameless samurai. He’s been hired to wait at a mountain pass. While there he befriends the people staying at the inn and helps out an abused woman. Shintarô Katsu (Zatoichi) is also staying at the inn although there’s more to Katsu than meets eye. Soon Mifune finds out what he was hired for and has to make some tough decisions.
The film isn’t the best work of either Mifune, Katsu or Inagaki but it’s a pretty damn good samurai movie. Not everything needs to be a masterpiece. The plot of the film is quite similar to the 1936 movie The Petrified Forest and the tension builds nicely. In 1970 Mifune and Katsu also starred in Zatoichi vs Yojimbo. It isn’t too bad either but this is the better film of the two.