In 1860, samurais are divided into many clans: those who concentrate on the art of swordfighting, those who try to participate to the political intrigues of the Shogun and those who are fascinated by violence. Amond those lasts is Rynosuke Tsukue who kills Omatsu's grandfather. During a tornament, moved by his attraction for Bunnojo Utsugi's wife, he kills Bunnojo Utsugi. Violence begins to strike him...
The movie is already worth seeing due to a sccreenplay dealing with the end of the ideals of the bushido with sharpness and realism (i.e. not in the parodic way of the Babycart series) and a huge casting (Mifune, Nakadai, no comment). But the directing which is worth seeing with the remarkable use of close frames and a score of Sato Masaru pretty much close to his work on Le Garde du corps and Sanjuro add to the pleasure of the spectator. The pleasant idea of the movie is Rynosuke's very special sword technique which consists in being very static and wait for the adversary's attack to strike him. This does create the special mood of swordfighting scenes which are resolving after a long time of waiting. The presence of snow in some swordfighting scenes add to the ghostlike aspect of the fighters. But mostly the movie is leading use to a universe with no morality and Rynosuke seems possessed by the evil power of his sword. Shimada (Toshiro Mifune) will say about him: « he's beginning to lose confidence in his sword». The idea of the weapon as the incarnation of the rage of a lonely man only led by his desire of revenge will influence Chang Cheh and Tsui Hark. This aspect is most striking in the final bloodshed which shows us Rynosuke having cut all the links with the real world and guided by its paranoia.