Scott Marks 8:30 a.m., Feb. 22
Foolhardy American assault on the Japanese martial-arts tradition. The story concerns the thirty-seven-year feud between rival siblings for possession of two matched swords that have been in the family for generations. One of the brothers is without honor, head of a vast corporation that dwarfs (we are told) General Motors, a man of the future and total nontraditionalist, but for some unclear reason he covets these family heirlooms anyway. The other brother lives as if in the 18th Century, has no visible means of support, but presides over a monastic military compound where he instructs a small army in the use of antique Japanese weapons, in preparation for the day when he must pit his swords and arrows against his brother's machine guns and automatics (when that day comes, he leaves his army wastefully behind and goes alone). Toshiro Mifune lends a certain authority and conviction to this second brother, but the wisecracks of an Ugly American interloper (Scott Glenn) do not adequately address Mifune's patent lunacy. (The best Ugly American moments are at a Japanese dinner of raw, or still wriggling, seafood.) It is already quite preposterous that these martial-arts wizards would recruit the services of a retired American prizefighter from a Los Angeles gym, but it is downright insulting how rapidly he acquires their skills and how prominently he features in the recovery of the swords. Directed by John Frankenheimer. 1982.