I figured Halloween Month was a good time to – at long last – resume my reviews of the Son of the Black Mass series of Samurai movies. This time around I will examine the fourth film with legendary Raizo Ichikawa. I will eventually cover the pre-Raizo and post-Raizo SOTBM flicks as well PLUS the original novels that the movies were based on. FOR MY BRIEF OVERVIEW CLICK HERE
SWORD OF SEDUCTION (1964) – We revisit our protagonist Kyoshiro Nemuri – a red-haired Samurai, the offspring of a Japanese woman and the insane Portugese Christian Missionary who raped her. That madman was dabbling in Satanism and Nemuri was conceived during a Black Mass, hence the title of the novels and the subsequent film series.
Once again the story is set in Japan in the 1780s. The persecution of Japanese Christians continues, with the religion officially outlawed and with practitioners being imprisoned and – if they refuse to renounce their belief system – executed by crucifixion.
I always jokingly refer to the opening of Sword of Seduction as “the Casablanca opening.” A fugitive Christian approached a boozing Nemuri Kyoshiro at a tavern and showed him a logo of a cross inside a secret compartment of a piece of jewelry like the Free French ring used in Casablanca. To further the similarities to the Bogart film this Christian soon gets dragged off Ugarte-style for his Christian beliefs and he flees back to Nemuri Kyoshiro in a vain plea for help from our melancholy antihero.
Before that happened the Christian begged the red-haired Ronin to go to Nagasaki and use his famed fighting skill to protect the central figure of the remaining Christians in Japan: a beautiful woman called “the Saint” and “the Virgin Shima.” When Nemuri refused, the man sweetened the deal by mentioning that the woman had knowledge about our protagonist’s murky origins.
Kyoshiro would still rather just stay there drinking and the imploring Christian departed only to get chased back by goons of the Shogunate who are rounding up Christians. Cue the Ugarte-figure pleading with Nemuri to save him only to get dragged off when the fallen Samurai refused. No, he did NOT say “I stick my neck out for nobody” but he DID coldly tell the man he brought his fate on himself with his foolish religion.
There’s no fighting fate, though and it’s not long before another incident involving Christians piques Nemuri’s interest and drags him deeper into the situation. He is drawn to a beautiful woman – not for his usual reasons, but because he supernaturally read her aura and realized she was headed for a violent death.
NOTE: The films finally start to more actively deal with the Son of the Black Mass’ paranormal abilities. The novels paid much more attention to Nemuri’s ability to read auras as well as his ability to hear whispers from the dead.
Kyoshiro discreetly followed the woman to a prison where Christians are held until they convert or get crucified. He skillfully slips past the guards and shadows the lovely lady without being detected. It turns out the woman’s brother is slated for crucifixion for practicing the forbidden faith and she is cooperating in a cruel deal to secure his release.
The guards toss the woman into a cell with a hideous and elderly white Christian missionary who has refused to renounce his faith. The missionary has withstood all forms of torture so the sadistic guards are curious to see if a sexy young female can get him to do so. If she succeeds the girl’s brother will be pardoned.
Nemuri talks with the white “holy” man after the guards wander off. He’s intrigued by the hardships he has been seeing Christians endure rather than taking the easy way out by just renouncing their religion. He wryly asks the missionary if his deity will give him the strength to resist THIS temptation, then withdraws into the shadows.
The girl throws herself at the white oldster, who eventually succumbs, renounces his faith in writing and has sex with her. The next morning the missionary is roughly thrown out of the prison and warned to never again be caught practicing Christianity.
The guards were lying about the woman’s brother, however, and throw her out while laughing at her. Nemuri cannot stand the unfairness of the missionary going free but not the young lady’s brother, so he attacks and beheads the holy man.
The frantic woman runs to where her brother is mounted on a cross and desperately tries to free him, only to be stopped by guards. Thugs serving the evil Princess Kiku (more on her in a moment) try to gang-rape the girl while their vile mistress watches from her carriage.
Our fallen Samurai intervenes, killing the gang-bangers and the guards but – typical of the fate of so many women in the SOTBM flicks, the girl has been killed in all the mayhem. Nemuri wants revenge on the sadistic Princess Kiku for her role in all this.
Regarding that cruel woman, various scenes in the film have shown how villainous she is. She uses smuggled opium to get women in her court hooked, then makes them degrade themselves for more once they’re addicted. After toying with the ruined women until she hungers for new victims she watches them die of withdrawal to amuse herself.
The gourmet Chinese opium is supplied by a smuggling ring which also deals in contraband jewels and precious metals from China. The authorities turn a blind eye to the ring in exchange for that ring’s help in betraying fugitive Christians to those authorities.
Kyoshiro’s harassment of the smugglers (to try disrupting Kiku’s supply) draws the attention of the Japanese gang’s Chinese enforcer. That enforcer is Chen Sun, the kung fu master who clashed with Nemuri in the first Ichikawa movie, The Chinese Jade.
While leaving the usual trail of dead bodies in his wake the Ronin maneuvers his way into Princess Kiku’s bedroom but tricks the stoned girl into sleeping with an ugly old man, humiliating her. He also exposes her secret to the public: behind the silk veils she wears lies a hideously scarred face. That is why she takes such joy in tormenting beautiful girls.
Needless to say our protagonist’s involvement with the Christian underground brings him face-to-face with the Virgin Shima, their ringleader. She falls into the hands of the smuggling ring and Chen Sun before Nemuri can find out what she knows about his past.
Kyoshiro pursues her abductors but is prevented from stopping their escape by ship when he is attacked by an evil warrior trying to use a whirling chain in unison with his sword to overcome our Samurai’s Full Moon Death Strike. Nemuri wins the battle, of course.
Heroically overtaking the ship bearing the remaining villains and the Virgin Shima, Kyoshiro finds he is not only hugely outnumbered but that his foes have guns plus bows and arrows in addition to swords. Naturally our antihero STILL manages to kill the gang members, and following another indecisive battle with Chen Sun he confronts Shima in the ship’s hold.
Shima reveals that she is the daughter of the woman who wet-nursed Nemuri after his mother’s death. The former Samurai already knew he was a half-breed from his red hair but for the first time in the Ichikawa films he learns the full details about his mother’s rape during a Black Mass and his subsequent birth.
There are two more minor twists in the final moments but I’ve spoiled enough already, so I’ll preserve at least those mysteries for new viewers. Be advised this film features one of Kyoshiro’s GREATEST double-kills in the first half. +++
*** I’ll be examining the rest of the movies soon!
FOR MY REVIEW OF THE FIRST MOVIE IN THE RAIZO ICHIKAWA SERIES CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2014/12/31/samurai-films-the-son-of-the-black-mass-series/
FOR SIMILAR ARTICLES AND MORE OF THE TOP LISTS FROM BALLADEER’S BLOG CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/top-lists/
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