Dangerous paid tribute on her site to Japan in light of the natural disasters. So I hereby interrupt this Burt Reynolds tribute to do the same. Ichikawa Raizo stars in the Japanese classic “The Third Shadow” (1963)—you had better turn on the lights.

19 Mar

The Third Shadow (1963) is set circa 1567 in the mountain regions of Hida and stars Ichikawa Raizo as a peasant’s son named “Kyonosuke” who dreams of becoming a samurai.  Kyonosuke gets his wish not because of his abilities or character, but because he looks almost exactly like their lord Yasutaka, allowing Raizo to play one of the Lord’s doubles.  Well, actually triples in this case, as Raizo is the third of three “shadow men,” but is the one who by far looks the most like Lord Yasutaka.

Sure, as a shadow you get to sleep with the Lord’s beautiful concubines and receive numerous other perks, however the job has its drawbacks too.  In order to be convincing as doubles, the shadows must not only act like the Lord, but also maintain their physical resemblance as well (like limping from a sprained ankle).  Also during the constant civil wars that plagued Japan in the 15th and 16th centuries lords went into plenty of battles.  As part of their bravado, Lords often lead troops into savage conflicts resulting in serious wounds.  As a shadow, if the Lord gets a wound, so do you.  When the Lord loses his left eye during a battle, one of the shadows flees, knowing full well what is in store for them, but when he fails to escape he is brutally killed.  The two remaining shadows (including Raizo) are blinded in their left eyes with a burning poker in order to remain good doubles for their Leader.

When the Lord loses an arm in another battle, only Kyonosuke (Raizo) is in a position to help him.  He now understands this will mean one of his own arms will be chopped off, so he decides to kill the Lord and get out of Dodge to continue his pursuit of a samurai career elsewhere.  Unfortunately Kyonosuke (Raizo) doesn’t get far and must replace the Lord so that no one finds out he (the Lord) is missing or dead.  No one other than Kyonosuke (Raizo) himself knows that he, the Lord’s shadow, killed the missing Lord.
The movie so far has been excellent for its adventure and action.  The film takes an interesting turn and develops into an eerie fight for personal identity, similar to Akira Kurosawa’s Kagemusha (1980), when the lord’s imposter (Tatsuya Nakadai) feels he is dying as armies are wiped out before his eyes, even though in fact he has no real connection with those armies.  Raizo wants out but no one believes Kyonosuke’s raving insistence that he is merely a peasant, not the Lord, and he ends up locked up as a madman for the rest of his life, the Lord’s insanity becoming the clan’s most closely guarded secret.  His dream to be a samurai leads to ironic tragedy in this example of the genre roughly translated as “cruel historicals” or zankoku jidai-geki.

The Third Shadow is a nearly unknown masterpiece with amazing use of shadows and darkness as part of its scenes.  Add a plot that is worthy of the cruelties and identity conflicts of Kafka transposed to the samurai era and you have an powerful film.

If you like Asian cinema like I do and can get your hands on the film make sure to see it.  If you can’t get your hands on the film but have a sincere desire to watch it, let me know and we’ll see what we can do for you.


Posted by on March 19, 2011 in Movie Reviews


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7 responses to “Dangerous paid tribute on her site to Japan in light of the natural disasters. So I hereby interrupt this Burt Reynolds tribute to do the same. Ichikawa Raizo stars in the Japanese classic “The Third Shadow” (1963)—you had better turn on the lights.

  1. Will Silver

    March 20, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Wow JP this looks and sounds pretty awesome. I’ve added it to the never-ending list of movies to see.


    • jpfmovies

      March 21, 2011 at 1:27 am

      You should it is an underground film if you are a big fan of Ichikawa Raizo like me. JPFmovies


  2. Takuan

    March 20, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    There is something I have thought about only to myself of which I should advise you. And, while I know that it is only my own questionable and humble opinion, I feel that this is the right moment, and so will write down that which I perceive.

    Total loyalty is first in making your mind correct, disciplining your body, not splitting your thoughts concerning your lord by even a hairsbreadth, and in neither resenting nor blaming others…In employing underlings, do not make distinctions on the basis of personal feelings. Employ men who are good and bind them to you, reflect on your own deficiencies, conduct the government of your province correctly, and put men who are not good at a distance.

    In this way, good men will advance daily, and those who are not will naturally be influenced when they see their lord loving the good. Thus they will leave off evil and turn toward the good themselves.

    In this way, both lord and retainer, upper and lower, will be good men, and when personal desire becomes thin and pride is abandoned, the province’s wealth will be plenty, the people will be well ruled…and superior and menial will work together as hands and feet. The province should then become peaceful on its own. This is the beginning of loyalty….

    It is said that, in all things, if you would know a man’s good and evil points, you should know the retainers and underlings he loves and employs, and the friends with whom he mixes intimately….if the lord and his retainers are good, they will be regarded fondly by all.

    …Shouldn’t you reflect over and over again on the facts that the emperor’s recitation is given like Sarugaku, and that the provincial daimyo first in courtesy are the ones most often brought before the shogun?

    In the song it says:
    It is the very mind itself
    That leads the mind astray;
    Of the mind,
    Do not be mindless.


    • jpfmovies

      March 21, 2011 at 1:25 am

      Takuan you do know it is a movie right?


  3. Jude

    March 24, 2011 at 5:40 am

    Dude, I think I get what Takuan is saying. I had to read it a couple of times and Takuan correct me if I am wrong, but I think you’re saying that this dude wasn’t very loyal to his Lord, and even though he would have lost an arm, his Lord lost his life out of the deal. Am I on the right track? But Dude, you’re talking about some serious loyalty when you talk about letting your arm be sliced off. I mean, I’m not sure I wouldn’t kill you (not you personally Takuan, you’d never try to take off my arm, right?) if you tried to take one of my arms, I mean, I’m kind of attached to them, no pun intended. What I don’t get is why he couldn’t just pull his arm inside his sleeve like those dudes are always doing in these movies. Has anyone else ever noticed that? Why wouldn’t that work? I mean I’m just thinking out loud here but I sort of think I have a point.


  4. Jude

    March 24, 2011 at 5:42 am

    and by the way where is the H-man? stop resting on your laurels, Dude! the Oscars have been over with for weeks now!



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