Director Kihachi Okamoto (1923-2005)

Samurai Assassin The Sword of Doom Kill!

Warring Clans (1963)
Samurai Assassin (1965)
The Sword of Doom (1966)
Kill! (1968)
Red Lion (1969)
Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo (1970)
East Meets West (1995)
Vengeance for Sale (2001)

Kihachi Okamoto Prior to his career in filmmaking, Kihachi Okamoto served as a fighter pilot in World War II. He got his start in movies as an assistant to varios noted directors including Mikio Naruse, Senkichi Taniguchi, Masahiro Makino and Godzilla director Ishiro Honda.

Okamoto created a fantastically eclectic body of films as a director, working at length in comedies, musicals, yakuza-eiga and World War II epics. His jidai-geki films themselves exhibit a remarkable range of tone and character. Okamoto is best known internationally for The Sword of Doom, a savagely nihilistic story of all-consuming psychopathic evil, and he also directed Toshiro Mifune in one of his bleakest roles in Samurai Assassin. But on the other hand, Okamoto also created some of the funniest and most lightheared jidai-geki features ever made, exemplified by the jaunty chambara parody Kill!, which is my personal favorite of his films. Later in his career he enjoyed mixing genres in fish-out-of-water stories, including East Meets West about a samurai in the American Old West, and Jazz Daimyo about a group of freed black slaves who find themselves in 19th century Japan. (I look forward to finding those two obscure movies someday.)

Okamoto described himself as being more influenced by John Ford and Hollywood westerns and musicals than he was by his Japanese forebears. Despite his sterling reputation as a leader in samurai cinema, Okamoto claimed that he wasn't really very fond of the genre because all the violence and blood was too much for his tastes. It's probably safe to conclude that his popular cruel jidai-geki movies were more the result of studio pressures and career necessities, and the comedy-oriented features were closer to his heart.

The Filmmakers

The Jidai-Geki Knights
Cinema