|Kaoru Yachigusa as Otsu|
Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple (1955)
d. Hiroshi Inagaki
Criterion Collection #15
Yeah so there is a wikipedia entry for "Samurai cinema." The Samurai trilogy by Hiroshi Inagaki was a critical part of the initial break out of the 1950s (despite the fact that Samurai films date back to 1925.) The three films of the Samurai trilogy were 54, 55 and 56. Kurosawa did Rashoman in 1950, Seven Samurai in 1954, and the Hidden Fortress in 1958. That is quite a run. Toshiro Mifune starred as the main character both in Inagaki's Samurai trilogy and most (all?) of Kurosawa's Samurai films.
The films of the Samurai trilogy are perhaps not as sophisticated as Kurosawa's, but perhaps it is precisely their conventionality that is the key to their long term value. Here we are looking at Samurai films that were hugely influential and successful in Japan itself- with everyone- not just film fanatics. The Samurai trilogy were not brought to the United States until a decade plus later, so Inagaki has nothing on Kurosawa in America.
Episode two of the trilogy finds Musashi Miyamoto as the noted Samurai, juggling the affections of two women: Otsu and Akemi and also trying to best Seijuro Yoshioka and meeting his legendary rival Sasaki Kojiro (who is the focus of the third and concluding film.)
Another fun fact about this time period is that the Japanese used small blocks of wood as their pillows. Yes, they slept on small wooden blocks. The more you know.