Sunday, January 13, 2013

7 Vows (1956) Three features in serial form

A word of explanation at the start. Back in September I picked up the 7 Vows after seeing the trailer for the films at Kurotokagi Gumi. There was something about them that I thought looked neat so I ordered copies. When they came I put on the first film, fell into it and immediately watched the second film and then aimed for the third.  Sadly there was a problem with the disc, and it had to be replaced. By the time it arrived I was wading into the New York Film Festival and didn't have time to return to the series.

Then a few days before Thanksgiving I pulled out the DVDs and zipped through the first two films again before putting on the third film. Watching the films I realized that I could follow what was going on but the details of names and such were lost on me. There simply was too many characters and I was too long away from the films. Looking at my notes when I first saw the film I quickly realized that they kind of didn't mean a great deal to me... This left me with a problem. I could wait to go back through the films at regular speed and write up the films as detailed as I first intended or I could wing it and just write it up as best I could.... I have decided to wing it.

As you read this understand that the the first two films end on big cliffhangers and that the film is awash in characters, both good and bad, making this a kind of samurai/action soap opera. My lack of details is the result of there being too many to relate and not being able to decipher my several month old notes.

The 7 Vows is a three part epic from Japan. A weird mix of genres the film is a truly spectacular film from Toei. I know very little about the film itself other than it can be had on the US collectors market either as three separate films or in a 3 film package. I’m not sure how the film was originally released since two of the three films end on cliffhangers. Each film runs just over an hour.( If you know anything about the film or films let me know)

Part 1-Black Narcissus Chapter
Things start when Goro a young man who is traveling by horse cart on his way to try  and find his father. He is stopped by a group of armed men. They are from Ongo a bandit on the order of Genghis Khan who wants speak with him. Acting first as a friend, he is in fact trying to get a ring he thinks Goro has in his possession. It seems Goro is the heir to a destroyed kingdom, one that Ongo‘s grandfather had betrayed. While the kingdom fell the treasure went missing and the ring is the key to finding it. When Goro is discovered not to have the ring he’s tossed into the slave pit .. where he finds his father and love with the lovely Sara. An escape is in the offing but Ongo won’t give up so easily the film ends with a siege of the castle where Sara’s brother is the ruler. Additionally in Japan, where the ring had been secreted and there are additional friends to the fallen kingdom, a bad samurai is plotting to take over the country...

Part 2- The Slave Boat Episode
Having been captured at the end of the Part 1, Goro, his father and friends are made galley slaves and forced to row Japan. Once there Ongo contacts the rebellious samurai and makes a pact to help him seize control of Japan in exchange for help finding the treasure and the ring.  Still held prisoner Goro and his friends are forced to do hard labor. When Goro becomes the object of a royal ladies affections he uses it to his advantage to plot every ones escape.

Part 3- Victorious Chapter
Having escaped the exploding island the the various friends are now branded outlaws. On the run they must try to clear their name and take back the treasure and their kingdom.

This is a really good action epic. On some level by the time the films reach the third part the film has kind of become less broad epic and more a standard samurai soap opera (villain Ongo kind of disappears for much of the final third), but it still has action aplenty. Battle scenes often tend toward being large scale affairs, with what appears to be armies battling on all sides. The outdoor sequences are similarly big  with several sequences filled out if not with thousands, at least hundreds.

As I said I know nothing about the background of these films since until I stumbled upon the trailer for them I had never seen anything from them. I would suspect that they are a kind of long form movie serial aimed at older kids (the open song is performed by children) though it does have one character meeting his end via harikari which I'm guessing is why the films may never have played the US (that would not have gone over well in Peoria).

I really like the films a great deal. Its decidedly different than most American films from the period, not to mention even Japanese films, at least those that I'm familiar with. There is  a much more literary style  to the films even though they play like action packed soap operas.  Honestly it's times like when I stumble upon films like this that remind me of why I started Unseen Films.

If you have the inclination track the films down and give them a whirl.

No comments:

Post a Comment