Rebellion (1957)
Directed by Sadatsugu Matsuda

Rebellion
Hayato-zoku no Hanran
Starring Utaemon Ichikawa (Satahiko), Kinnosuke Nakamura (Chikara), Yumiko Hasegawa (Akune), Chinami Katsuura (Shino), Ryunosuke Tsukigata, Kunio Kaga

Toei Company, 89 minutes
Color, 2.35:1 scope ratio
English-subtitled DVD: Kurotokagi Gumi, Samurai DVD (TV broadcast quality)

This is a fairly typical revenge chambara with a bit of Romeo and Juliet mixed in. Utaemon Ichikawa stars as Satahiko, the chief of the Hayato peasant clan. The Hayato have been royally screwed over, with their land stolen and their men taken as slave labor to build a castle for Lord Kanechika. After they escape from enslavement, Satahiko and the Hayato set their sights on revenge against the many parties that have wrong them.

In addition to Kanechika and their former friend Jiro who betrayed them, the Hayato's hit list includes Tadamichi, a nobleman who now holds the deed to their land. They seize Tadamichi's son Chikara (Kinnosuke Nakamura) and hold him hostage, demanding the return of their land in exchange for his life. Satahiko's sister Akune gradually falls in love with the imprisoned Chikara, learning that he and his father are really not their guilty in the crimes against the Hayate, but Satahiko remains hell-bent on revenge regardless.

Despite the complexities of who double-crossed who, it's really simple to predict where things are going, and Ichikawa and Nakamura don't achieve much with their limited characters. The most interesting aspect of Rebellion is the strong women. Akune and Satahiko's unofficial fiancee Shino are a couple of bad-ass chicks who take care of themselves and the Hayato with confidence and skill. And the men never seem to object or feel threatened by the display of female forcefulness, an unusual show of sexual equality in these period films. There's a nice scene early on when Shino and a group of women infiltrate the castle where the Hayato men are being held, posing as a troupe of traveling dancers performing at a banquet. When the men in their dungeon cell hear the women singing a traditional Hayato song, they start chanting and whooping it up, as if to say, "Hot damn, our women are here to save us!"

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