Bushido: Code of the Forgotten Eight
There is hardly a moment during the whole of the movie that is not exquisitely realized. Whether Ishii is showing rows of naked women attending a banquet, elaborately coiffured prostitutes sitting behind lattice windows to attract clients, the silhouettes of nude women fighting a lone man before an indigo sky, or some other captivating image, the director reveals an aesthetic sensitivity that elevates his work above most exploitation films. Bohachi Bushido might be vicious and leering, but, with its sumptuous sets and costumes, its often weird lighting, its skilled cinematography, and its focus on both the charms of the human form and the cruel nature of the human condition, it is imbued with such beauty that even the ferocious violence and the brutal sexuality with which it is filled are given a sort of ethereal grace. Scenes of murder and torture, though disturbing, are, at the same time, elegant and pleasing. Oddly, their very beauty makes them even more disturbing that they would otherwise have been.
I might now add that when I say that the film is violent and leering, I do mean it. In scene after scene after scene, Ishii revels in exposing the jiggling breasts and bouncing buttocks of virtually every woman who appears in his movie. Whether these women are prostitutes servicing their clients, sword-armed killers attacking or doing battle with some man or another, apparently innocent victims being assaulted by libidinous gangsters, or simply female lackeys sitting about, they are almost invariably naked (I suppose that it is more comfortable to eat or lounge around in the nude and more effective to fight in the nude than it is to do such things dressed). What is more, the director does not just keep his actresses uncovered, he makes sure that the cameras filming them linger on their breasts and buttocks as much as is possible.
Bohachi Bushido's violence is just as intense as is its sexuality. The protagonist engages in one confrontation after another. Sometimes, he kills defenseless men or women. At other times, he duels some single opponent or another, and, frequently, he takes on whole armies of foes. Whatever the fight Shiro finds himself in, he inevitably severs heads and limbs, after which geysers of blood spray from these wounds. The movie's fights are extreme. They are also invariably well choreographed and exciting to watch.
I will hardly claim that Bohachi Bushido is not an exploitation film. I will, however, say that it is a well made and engaging one. It is certainly well worth watching.
Review by Keith Allen
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