Three Outlaw Samurai is a ‘60s samurai movie that’s actually an offshoot of a television series that was successful at the time, for which it was an origin story. It’s a pretty basic action-samurai movie but it’s Hideo Gosha time as a director. A ronin who is wandering the earth called Sheba runs into a group of peasants who have kidnapped this fascistic magistrate’s daughter, in the hopes that if they can keep her hidden, her father will reduce their taxes. Sheba takes up the battle, and some of the magistrate’s guard rebels against their boss and joins him (hence the title).
It was Gosha’s first film as a director, and incredibly accomplished for a first try. That’s pretty impressive, and there are some great action sequences. There are some interesting political elements to the plot, the class struggle of peasants against the ruling class as is often the case in these films, although the characters are pretty cardboard. The action, however, is definitely strong. It’s well mad, with some great shots and incredibly impressive black-and-white photography. It makes very good use of its 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and of the main actor, Tetsuro Tamba. The battle scenes make you feel like you’re in the middle of it, hard to achieve for an initial effort. Of course, it’s not in the same league as Seven Samurai or Yojimbo.
In very untypical faction for a Criterion Collection disc, there is only the trailer and a booklet with an essay by Bilge Ebri.