Samurai staples to see

Before you see Tom "Risky Business" Cruise strap on the kimono for "The Last Samurai," here are a few past samurai flicks worth seeing:

"The 47 Ronin" (1941) A four-hour marathon of a film from 1941, based on historical events that took place in feudal Japan. After their master commits Seppuku (ritual suicide), 47 masterless Ronin must avenge his death. Though requiring patience, the emotional payoff is enormous.

"Seven Samurai" (1954) Acclaimed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's epic film about seven samurai who aid a village of peasants by battling a group of terrorizing bandits. With excellent dialogue and lavish visuals, it is no wonder that it is generally accepted as one of the greatest films ever made.

"Samurai" Trilogy (1954-55-56) One of the world's best actors, Toshiro Mifune, plays samurai warrior Musashi Miyamoto in director Hiroshi Inagaki's three-part series. Inagaki blends romance and action to tell the story of the samurai hero.

"Yojimbo" & "Sanjuro" (1961-62) Akira Kurosawa's two films about the exploits of Sanjuro, played by Kurosawa's long-time collaborator Toshiro Mifune. In "Yojimbo," Sanjuro plays both sides of gang war within a small village (it was later adapted by Sergio Leone into "A Fist Full of Dollars" starring Clint Eastwood) and in "Sanjuro" the Samurai must aid a group of young men in ending the corruption of their town. While "Yojimbo" is one of Kurosawa's most brilliantly shot films, Mifune plays Sanjuro to perfection with cynical comedic wit.

"Black Samurai" (1976) Blaxploitation film from the '70s starring Jim Kelly of "Enter the Dragon" that delivers plenty of dumb fun with ineptly staged fights and outlandish jetpack rides. Kelly plays Robert Sand, an agent of D.R.A.G.O.N., who must rescue a millionaire's daughter who has been kidnapped by a voodoo-worshiping drug ring.

"Ran" (1985) Kurosawa's last epic, an adaptation of Shakespeare's "King Lear," set in feudal Japan. Kurosawa employs elements of Kabuki drama and rich colors to bring a dismal view of the nature of mankind as a misguided and aging Lord is driven to madness as his sons continue to betray him in an effort to gain power.

"Six String Samurai" (1998) An independent film from the late '90s that takes place in an alternate future in which the Soviets have won the Cold War, leaving the United States a nuclear wasteland. Elvis Presley hasn't died, but instead becomes the King of America. After Elvis does die, however, a new King must be named, so our hero Buddy, a truly American samurai with a James Dean flare, must battle crazy Russians with his sword/guitar on a journey to "Lost Vegas." The out-there plot, along with the fights and music, is enough to carry this interesting film.

"Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai" (1999) Writer/Director Jim Jarmusch's take on the noble samurai as Ghost Dog, a reclusive hit man played by Forest Whitaker who follows the ancient code of the Samurai, battles the mob that wants him dead. Whitaker's performance is excellent and Jarmusch explores the philosophical implications of living by the code of the samurai in modern terms.

Source: The Internet Movie Database (www.IMDB.com)

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