Woke up feeling a little under the weather, so I decided to stay in and take it easy. Fortunately, I brought plenty of DVDs back from Florida to keep me company—including Sleepy Eyes of Death 4: Sword of Seduction.
I’d read that the series started to find its own unique voice with this installment, breaking away from the standard chanbara formulas and finally exploring Nemuri Kyoshiro’s tragic origins (they don’t call him the Son of the Black Mass for nothing). It certainly delivers a far more lurid and interesting plot than the cynical samurai’s cinematic debut: opium smugglers, fugitive Christians, fallen priests, deformed noblewomen, and a long-lost relative are only the beginning of our hero’s troubles. Of course, the real draw for me was the triumphant return of Tomisaburo Wakayama’s Chen Sun, now sporting a ridiculous hairdo and wielding a quarterstaff (the actor’s real-life weapon of choice). Once again, the proud monk shirks his duties as a bodyguard in order to seek an honorable duel with his eternal rival/BFF, and once again, their climactic clash is an absolute showstopper, though this time its overly abrupt conclusion leaves something to be desired. Still, Sword of Seduction is a fun and stylish jidaigeki classic—thanks in no small part to the direction of Kazuo Ikehiro, who also helmed a few of my favorite Zatoichi films.
[Originally written April 22, 2017.]