Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto (1954)

samurai i musashi miyamoto poster 1954 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Toshiro Mifune is always good

Just feels like set-up for the next movie

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Samurai I:  Musashi Miyamoto

Studio:  Toho

Genre(s):  Action/Adventure/Drama/Martial Arts

Release Date(s):  September 26, 1954

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

samurai i musashi miyamoto takezo matahachi toshiro mifune rentaro mikuni

We can be heroes…just for a day

Takezo (Toshiro Mifune) and his friend Matahachi (Rentarō Mikuni) head off to war in the hopes of becoming great warriors but find themselves on the losing side of the battle.  Matahachi’s love Otsu (Kaoru Yachigusa) waits for him at home, but Matahachi finds himself bound to Akemi (Mariko Okada) and her mother after they help nurse them back to health.  Takezo is on the run and facing death…but a priest named Takuan Sōhō (Kuroemon Onoe) could provide Takezo with a chance at redemption.

Directed by Hiroshi Inagaki, Samurai I:  Musashi Miyamoto (宮本武蔵 or Miyamoto Musashi) is an adaptation of Eiji Yoshikawa’s 1935 novel seven part novel Musashi based loosely on the life of Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645). The film was released to critical acclaim and received an honorary Academy Award for outstanding foreign film.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #14).

samurai i musashi miyamoto tree takezo toshiro mifune

This isn’t going as I hoped

I had wanted to see the Samurai films for a while and finally tracked them down.  While the story as a whole through the three films is smart and strong, the films as individuals don’t necessarily stand independently.

The story largely feels like set-up for the other two films.  The major players are introduced and you see Takezo slowly changing from a rash individual into a samurai warrior.  It is an interesting character study and goes to show how teaching and personal growth can change a person…but here, Musashi Miyamoto is only finding his footing.

Toshiro Mifune is always good in movies and with three movies and a character in three different places in his life, this movie series is a good set-up for him.  He gets to play a character who has a real arc and he does it well.  He’s got nice back-up with Rentarō Mikuni but the forlorn Otsu played by Kaoru Yachigusa and the extremely unlikable Akemi played by Mariko Okada are a little hard to take.

samurai i musashi miyamoto toshiro otsu bridge kaoru yachigusa

I’m no good for you…return to a life where you’ll most likely have to prostitute yourself

The movie isn’t as bright and colorful as many other movies that were shot in color at this time.  It has a very muted look and in comparison with other epics the fighting is rather minimal.  I almost wish that the movie had been in black-and-white, but the third entry in the series benefited from the color.

Samurai I:  Musashi Miyamoto is a nice start to a film series that is more of a true epic.  It isn’t always easy to follow the series and it is beneficial to watch each entry more than once.  This film ends on what is essentially a cliffhanger and it has you coming back for the sequel.  Samurai I:  Musashi Miyamoto was followed by Samurai II:  Duel at Ichijoji Temple in 1955.

Related Links:

Samurai II:  Duel at Ichijoji Temple (1955)

Samurai III:  Duel at Ganryu Island (1956)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response