The early 1960s was a bad time in Hollywood. The enormous bloated historical epic was in full bloom, with 3 hour sandal and sword movies. Japanese directors certainly had no shyness about epics of their own and some of them are among the greatest films ever made. 1962’s Chushingura does not quite meet that standard though. Rather, it was as if Hiroshi Inagaki decided that he could make Ben Hur or Cleopatra too and by God he was going to stuff as many meaningless scenes in there as possible. I first saw this twenty years or so ago and loved it, but I watched in over the last couple of days and the bloat was far more obvious to me than it was then. It’s a 47 ronin story and that’s been told in a bunch of ways by Japanese filmmakers over the years, most notably by Kenji Mizoguchi in his great 1941 film. That in its own right was 4 hours long, but it feels shorter than Chushingura‘s 3 1/2 hour running time because there’s just a lot less bloat. It was as if Inagaki fell in love with his budget and included all the production values, plus a meaningless cameo role by Toshiro Mifune. It certainly isn’t a bad movie–far from it–but it’s not as great as I remembered either.
Here’s the English language trailer