If you’ve seen The Dark Knight, then you’re familiar with the show-stoppingly dark performance that Heath Ledger put on. The Joker was a stark, unforgiving villain with creepy quirks and an absolute love for mayhem and chaos. Back in 1966, Tatsuya Nakadai played a character called Ryunosuke Tsukue in The Sword of Doom. What’s the similarity here? Nakadai’s role was essentially what Ledger’s is today, but with a much deeper and darker mean streak.
Ryunosuke Tsukue is a swordsman who was raised by the sword and trusts it alone. When a fencing match comes around, Ryunosuke is begged to intentionally lose the match in order for a fencing school’s master to remain. However, Ryunosuke breaks his promise and kills the man in a single quick blow. After this, Ryunosuke is pursued by the man’s brother, in addition to a slew of other people.
The Sword of Doom is a vengeance tale; that much should be obvious by now. However, its foundations are much deeper than my brief synopsis lets on. The majority of The Sword of Doom is told from the perspective of Ryunosuke, which makes it much darker than your average samurai flick. The mentality and simple appearance of Ryunosuke are commanding. Every word that falls from his lips bleeds depression, aggression, and evil. I have to say I got lost along the way when the plot came to fruition, though. While Ryunosuke is more than worthy of your viewing, the plot felt a little disjointed, and certain events that I was looking forward to occasionally never came to visual pass. To add to this, they were occasionally not even mentioned afterwards. However, in the grand scheme of the movie, this ends up being a fairly minor complaint.
As I’ve stated several times already, Ryunosuke is the reason to watch this film. Other characters are done rather well, but he easily steals the show. Throughout, we can’t help but wonder what’s made him such a badass, evil guy. Because of this, we watch him closer and closer as we get sucked into his world of sociopathic violence and unforgiveness. Once seeing him in action or just sitting on the ground, other characters just seem lesser. Even the great Toshirô Mifune (who played Toranosuke Shimada) can’t hold a candle to him.
The action is one other thing that you will note in this film as being awesomely realistic. Before this Hollywood wannabe, Matrix CG animation, we had top notch action sequences that looked like the ones in The Sword of Doom. I gotta hand it to this movie, they nailed realistic action. Ryunosuke makes ribbons out of his opponents, and duels have nail-biting tension. I’d pit the fights done in here to any of the fake action we have nowadays. No slow-mo camera, no CGI green-screen crap, just straight-up carnage done in a glorious fashion.
The Sword of Doom is an awesome piece of cinema even today. The story may be a little disjointed and the ending very…abrupt, but it’s still more than worthy of your DVD player. Go out and rent it now, or better yet, just buy it, and watch it over and over again. Ryunosuke demands it!
Read A.J. Hakari’s The Sword of Doom review here.