Bride of White Castle (1961)
Directed by Tadashi Sawashima

	Bride of White Castle
Hakuba-Jo no Hanayome
Starring Hibari Misora (Okimi), Koji Tsuruta (Tono-sama), Kokichi Takada, Haruo Tanaka, Isao Yamagata, Juro Hoshi

Toei Company, 85 minutes
Color, 2.35:1 scope ratio
English-subtitled DVD: Kurotokagi Gumi (TV broadcast quality)

Bride of White Castle is a surprising film with more of a bittersweet edge and dramatic heft than your typical Hibari Misora vehicle. Hibari stars as Okimi, an orphaned girl who works as a weaver and dreams of attaining a fairytale life someday. The stately Hakuba Castle overlooks the hovel where Okimi lives with her adoptive "grandfather," who has told her the romantic legends of the castle since she was a child. One of his stories tells how the young lord of the castle once came to their village disguised as a common samurai in order to find a bride. He fell in love with an orphan girl and they lived in the castle happily ever after.

So when a group of police officers come by Okimi's house looking for a someone they describe as a handsome young man, and then Okimi discovers a such an individual hiding in the house, naturally she's convinced that her young lord has arrived. Of course, he's actually a thief on the run from the law with his two accomplices, and they've overheard enough of Okimi jabbering about her fantasy to use it as a quick cover story.

Calling himself Tono-sama (Lord Tono), the thief tells Okimi that they're being pursued by the evil governor who has accused him of false charges, and he won't be able to return to the castle until he has foiled the wicked scheme against him. The thieves need Okimi to retrieve their hidden stash of stolen money, and she's only too happy to aid Tono-sama's mission. Things begin to get darker when Okimi discovers the body of a murdered officer that the men hid in the same spot.

Even after Okimi brings them the money and the thieves ditch her, fate conspires to bring them back together and Tono-sama is forced to continue his lie, which gets stretched thinner and more precarious. But poor sweet Okimi remains fully convinced that he is truly her prince and soon she'll be the princess of Hakuba Castle.

The masterful Tadashi Sawashima manages to build up considerable dramatic tension over what is a patently ridiculous premise. We begin to dread the inevitable denouement when Okimi finally realizes the deception and her innocence is shattered, and that moment of revelation is handled through an unexpected and poignant twist. It's a touching finale that proves Hibari Misora was capable of more than just singing and comedy.

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