Tenchu (aka Hitokiri) (1969) is a historical based samurai film with an all-star cast directed by Hideo Gosha (graduate of Meiji University, where I currently teach). The historical background of the film takes place before the Meiji restoration at a period of warring during the time of the arrival of the black ships from the west. Film legend Tatusya Nakadai plays a political and war profiteer for the Tosa loyalists, Hanpeita Takechi. He enlists the poverty stricken ronin, Izo Okada (Shintaro Katsu-also the film's producer, and star of the long running Zatoichi samurai film series), a mad dog fighter and childhood friend of Ryoma Sakamoto (played by former teen idol and brother of former Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, Yujiro Ishihara). Thus takes place in the prologue that occurs before the credits. The credits montage reflects the brutality and violence of the period with a series of disturbing images: a head on stake, a man strung up by his feet, and feral dogs scavenging through a grave. Other key actors in the ensemble include the author Yukio Mishima playing Shimbei Tanaka (who commits seppuku as Mishima would a year later!) and Mistuko Bando as Okada's love interest, the prostitute Onimo. Apparently, this is the third film version of this story (apparently Takashi Miike also made a version-Izo (2004)-which I would like to see), and it casts a somewhat comic portrayal of Okada as a man who savors worldy delights: sake and women, as well as reveling his new found glory as assassin for the Tosa clan in which he bellows, "Tenchu!" (Heavenly punishment!) when he kills. However, he is a mere pawn in schemes of Takechi. As such, his fate will come to no good. It is a stylist triumph for Gosha, who shows his prowess as a director with artful framing of shots in windows, doorways, screens, fans and other inventive techniques. He uses different camera angles to achieve different results: in one scene he uses a crane to show men searching a house in another a handy cam to follow Okada as he races to join a battle he was left out of. The 70s exploitation of violence is previewed in this film where the blood splatters and squirts everywhere in theatrical fashion. Overall, it is a compelling and entertaining retelling of a familar historical story.