Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island (1956)

samurai iii duel at ganryu island poster 1956 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Favorite of the trilogy

Doesn't stand independent

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Samurai III:  Duel at Ganryu Island

Studio:  Toho

Genre(s):  Drama/Martial Arts

Release Date(s):  January 3, 1956

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

samurai iii duel at ganryu island musashi sasaki koji tsuruta toshiro mifune

So…I want to take a year off…kind of find myself. You cool with that?

Miyamoto Musashi (Toshiro Mifune) is seeking a new path for his life after fighting and honing his skill, but his past continues to dog him.  Challenged by Sasaki Kojirō (Kōji Tsuruta), Musashi realizes it could very well be his last.  While preparing for the fight, he finds himself in a village ravaged by brigands and once again facing a decision between Otsu (Kaoru Yachigusa) and Akemi (Mariko Okada).  Sasaki is awaiting Miyamoto and only one will be victorious.

Directed by Hiroshi Inagaki, Samurai III:  Duel at Ganryu Island (宮本武蔵完結編 決闘巌流島 or Miyamoto Musashi kanketsuhen: kettō Ganryūjima) is the final part of the Samurai Trilogy.  Following Samurai II:  Duel at Ichijoji Temple in 1955, the film continues the adaptation of the 1935 Eiji Yoshikawa novel Musashi which is a loose telling of the life of Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645).  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #16).

Of the Samurai films, Samurai III:  Duel at Ganryu Island is my favorite.  I feel it is the most attainable and rounded of the trilogy, but that is partially because the other two films build to Samurai III.  The character has gone through his life and changed his view…and now it is an ending.

samurai iii duel at ganryu island akemi mariko okada

…and Akemi finishes up her very unlikable path

The story is much simpler than the previous film.  While Musashi was the one climbing and straining for excellence, Sasaki Kojiro is now the one who wants to be “the best”.  It implies that it will always be a fight and someone will always pay.  Musashi’s trip to the countryside provides a wrap-up for his romance story (and proves once and for all how unlikable Akemi is), but it also gives his character the experience at a normal life that he admittedly gave up.

Toshiro Mifune is given a real gift in this movie.  He has essentially six hours to build a character and develop him…something most films don’t allow.  You get the full spectrum of Musashi’s life and he changes straight up to the ending.  I like Kōji Tsuruta’s character and that even he seems trapped by the fight he’s been dreaming up forever by the time it occurs.  Kaoru Yachigusa continues to be rather bland as the woman continuing to go after Musashi and Mariko Okada feels like her character finally crosses over to complete villain despite the film’s attempt to make her sympathetic.

samurai iii duel at ganryu island ending toshiro mifune koji tsuruta

It all comes down to this!

The movie also benefits more from the color simply because of the last sequence on the beach which is shot in great fashion.  The showdown on the island really feels like it has been built up and it does feel like a payout simply because of how it is shot.

The Samurai Trilogy isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t as action based as many samurai and martial arts films that have crossed over.  It does tell an interesting story about a man who has to choose his path and how his view on his decision changes over time.  It is a journey of a man, and it is a journey worth following.

Related Links:

Samurai I:  Musashi Miyamoto (1954)

Samurai II:  Duel at Ichijoji Temple (1955)

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.

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