Saturday, April 28, 2018

Samurai Blues

The Alta Vista TC was letting riders tag along on test runs through the new neighbourhoods. I figured I'd join them, but when I saw the video store at the Kilborn stop I got off and went to look through the stacks. I wasn't disappointed. On my way out I picked up a paper, flipped through to the entertainment section and saw a review of the disk I just rented. What a coincidence :-) 

Samurai Blues

All I've known about The Seven Samurai for most of my life is that it was influential in the making of Star Wars. I noticed Peter had it in stock and decided now was the time to watch. I did. It was great.

Maybe you were expecting a contrarian opinion to show how original I am because saying it was great sticks with the consensus view. It's hard to say anything new about a classic like this given the amount that has been written since its 1954 debut. My advice is: try not to read any of it; just watch. Do your reading after. I will note that the movie's around three-and-a-half hours long, so maybe consider watching over two evenings, or on a long Sunday afternoon. I started watching one evening after a particularly long day at work and began falling asleep around the one-hour mark. I decided to continue another night. Not because it was boring, but because I felt I was missing lots of good stuff - and I was. There's plenty of beautifully interwoven human interest, character studies, action, costumes, scenery and story to more than hold your attention for three-plus hours if you haven't spent the previous eight-plus in the 21st century work world.

There's a built-in five minute intermission around the hour-and-three-quarters mark, and I admit to sneaking off to find the iPad after taking a bathroom break. The internet reminded me that the 1960 western, The Magnificent Seven, was based on it, but wasn't well thought of. All I recall is that James Coburn was in it. I should watch it again to see if I can figure out why he stands out in my mind. But what I couldn't find was a reference to The Blues Brothers.

I guess when it comes to samurai my brain is fixated on John Belushi's Samurai Delicatessen from Saturday Night Live. Ok, maybe it was Samurai Belushi that flipped some brain circuit, but I couldn't stop thinking about parallels to The Blues Brothers. They both star John Belushi, but there's more than that. Let's look at some 'evidence'. 

1. There's a mission to be accomplished: The harvest of a village of farmers must be prevented from being stolen by marauding bandits vs Back taxes that must be paid on an orphanage to keep it from closing. 

2. A group of heroes must be assembled to accomplish the mission: Samurai are sought out and hired while the movie shows something of each's character vs Jake and Elwood's old band is sought out and re-assembled while the movie shows something of each's character. 

3. There're frequent displays of prowess: Fighting with samurai swords vs Playing and singing the blues.

4. There's an epic final deciding battle: The samurai defeat the bandits in a rainy epic battle in the streets of a 1586 Japanese farming village vs Jake and Elwood outwit the police in an epic of automotive carnage in the streets of 1980 Chicago.

5. But the victory is bitter sweet: Many Samurai are killed and the surviving samurai wonder if their victory was worth it for them vs The band winds up in jail. 

I submit the above for your consideration. No, the match isn't perfect, but the similarities are similar.*

John Belushi also stared in Samurai Optometrist and I think I need some new glasses before the next movie rolls :-)


*You're right, the similarities, although similar, are an illusion. Many movies have this structure, but that doesn't imply their heritage can be traced back to The Seven Samurai. All I can say is in my mind, The Blues Brothers popped up for some reason only Sigmund Freud himself can figure out.


  1. The Blues Brothers should ALWAYS pop up.

    I've never seen The Seven Samurai but I did enjoy The Magnificent Seven.