In many ways, the western and samurai genres are often intrinsically linked. Indeed, tales of wandering Ronin and revenge didn’t become popular in Japan until after American boots were occupying the land of the rising sun. By far and away the most famous example of this symmetry is the Seven Samurai/The Magnificent Seven film. A concept which clearly works so well in both worlds. Hideo Gosha’s Three Outlaw Samurai swaps guns for swords.

After taking shelter in a barn for the night, Shiba (Tetsuro Tamba), a wandering ronin, is drawn into a dispute between three peasants and a magistrate. They’ve kidnapped his daughter and have a number of demands, whilst he’s after their blood. When Shiba defends them against the justice’s hired hands, he ends up in a twisted plot with two other samurai (Isamu Nagato and Mikijiro Hira) who have their own agendas.

Three Outlaw Samurai is a swashbuckling and rambunctious tale of power, loyalty and revenge. Whilst the plot is economic, if occasionally convoluted, it’s the action which rules the day. When it comes it’s both swift and stylish. Mixed in with the drama is a sense of kinship, bonhomie and brotherly bonds. It’s essentially a story of good versus evil. Of society and solidarity versus tyranny. Three Outlaw Samurai is one heck of a ride.

Special features:

  • High-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Trailer
  • New English subtitle translation
  • A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Bilge Ebiri

Three Outlaw Samurai is released on Blu-Ray by Sony Pictures as part of the Criterion Collection on 20 July.