Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji is an odd movie – not amazing, but not bad either. It’s directed by Tomu Uchida, who is not well-known in the west. Yasujirō Ozu and Akira Kurosawa were great admirers of his work. This particular film is unusual in Japanese cinema. Released in 1955, when the film scene in Japan was already changing due to the Western influences creeping in, it combines elements from traditional Japanese filmmaking and the then-developing modern style.
Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji is set in Edo period, which spanned roughly the 16th to 18th centuries. It’s a mix between a samurai movie and a road movie, with some comedy thrown in. The story centres on a samurai and his two servants. The samurai, Sakawa Kojūrō (Teruo Shimada), is a nice guy but a terrible drunk, someone who should stay away from alcohol. His spearcarrier, Genpachi (Chiezō Kataoka), and servant, Genta (Daisuke Katō), are along to back him up.
There’s not a huge amount of plot: The trio are on a journey and they come across characters from Japanese society, such as an orphan boy who wants to be a spearcarrier, prostitutes, policemen, travelling musicians and other samurai. The title refers to the big fight at the end, which is very interestingly shot, with viewpoints from a lot of different angles. The pace is relatively slow up to that point, adding to the shock of the final scene.
It’s the kind of Japanese film where you can see echoes of other, better-known films, especially Kurosawa’s work. If you want to delve deeper into Japanese cinema than the famous features, its not a bad movie to check out. Ozu was a technical advisor on the film.
The disc features a commentary track by Jasper Sharp plus several featurettes, all of which were taken from the French home video release. It comes with a booklet with new writing by the critic James Oliver.