The Bushido Blade (1981) Poster

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haildevilman7 June 2006
Great cast. Too bad the rest of it couldn't match up.

Richard Boone plays a growling Cmmdr. Perry in his last role. And REALLY chews it up.

Frank (Coronet Blue) Converse (The real star) attempts to be an action hero. Not enough action though. And He's a little wooden.

Any Asian actor with a name dropped by for a cameo. Seeing the late, great Toshiro Mifune reprise most of his previous samurai roles was nice. And Sonny Chiba's warrior cliché is something I never get tired of. Then there's Mako as the cliché' wise man.

Laura (GODDESS) Gemser showing up made it worth the price of a rental. (To me anyway. She is GORGEOUS.) Seeing a young Mike Starr was kind of cool. He was obviously meant to be comedy relief.

James Earl Jones role should have been larger. Is this film still cut? An adventure story about finding a stolen sword could have and should have been a lot better.

And that minstrel show on the ship might anger a few people...even if it is based on facts of the times.

Not a waste...not unmissable either.
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Made With The Best Of Intentions
bkoganbing8 December 2007
Bushido Blade is a film that kind of got lost with all the hoopla surrounding the Shogun TV mini-series. Commodore Perry's opening of Japan deserved a better treatment than what it got here.

No reflection on the cast, they certainly try hard enough. And the making of the film is a service of sorts because America is woefully ignorant about Japan other than knowing that they were our opponents in World War II.

Making his farewell appearance on the screen is Richard Boone as the crusty Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry. From what little I know of Perry, Boone seems to have captured him very well. Perry was the younger brother of Oliver Hazard Perry who was the commander of the Great Lakes Navy that beat the British and kept them from invading us through Canada. Younger brother Cal (family and friends used Perry's middle name when addressing him)served in the United States Navy for over 30 years and the opening of Japan was the capstone of a great career.

Bushido Blade is a fictional sideline to the true events surrounding the treaty Perry signed with the Shogun. There was a faction in Japan who wanted to keep the country's isolationist policy going and were quite willing to do anything in that endeavor. They steal a ceremonial samurai sword that is to be presented to President Franklin Pierce by Perry. As this is a question of honor, the Japanese balk at signing the treaty at the last minute.

The Japanese insist on themselves recovering the sword, but Perry unofficially sends Marine Captain Frank Converse, Boatswain Mike Starr, and young Naval Midshipman Timothy Patrick Murphy on his own mission. The three get split up during an attack. The bulk of the film is the separate experiences of all three.

Frank Converse is a fine actor, but I couldn't quite believe him as an instant Samurai. When he has to battle the champion Samurai he gets a bit of help to say the least. Skill with a Samurai sword is not something one learns on the job or on the fly and by rights he should never have survived.

Young Timothy Patrick Murphy cuts a fine romantic figure as his odyssey includes a small romantic interlude with a young Japanese girl who is intrigued by this occidental who speaks her language. Murphy reminded me just a bit of Tyrone Power in Son of Fury. It was sad indeed that he died so young of AIDS, he had a great career ahead of him.

Such fine Japanese players as Toshiro Mifune, Tetsuro Tamba, and Mako fill their roles well. I very much enjoyed James Earl Jones who played a whaling harpooner who was a prisoner. Before the treaty was signed with Japan, sailors from the west who had the misfortune to be shipwrecked in Japan could expect never to see home again.

The Bushido Blade is an average film about a key incident in both American and Japanese history. It could have used a lot more of everything, direction, production values, editing. But the players did their best with it.

A good triple feature one day might be watching The Barbarian and the Geisha even with a woefully miscast John Wayne, The Bushido Blade, and the best film on 19th century Japan after the opening, The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise. It's a chance to see the Japanese as more than our enemies in World War II or having their city's destroyed by some prehistoric beast.
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Epic Japanese/US dealing with Commodore Matthew C. Perry and a group of sailors to retrieve a stolen blade
ma-cortes25 November 2015
The picture develops the true tale of commandant Perry (Richard Boone's final show) -along with his underlings- who during the nineteenth century is sent by the US President to Japan to serve as the first U.S. As in 1852 , Perry was assigned a mission by American President Millard Fillmore to force the opening of Japanese ports to American trade , through the use of gunboat diplomacy if necessary Consul-General to that country . Perry (considered father of the Steam Navy) finally reached Uraga at the entrance to Edo Bay in Japan on July 8 , 1853 . In the meantime , the Japanese government was paralyzed due to the incapacitation by illness of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyoshi and by political indecision on how to handle the unprecedented threat to the nation's capital . Later on , a steel samurai blade that was to be given by the Japanese high authority (Toshiro Mifune) to the American ambassador from the Emperor of Japan is stolen . After that , American sailors : Bos'n Cave Johnson (Mike Starr), Midshipman Robin Burr (Timothy Patrick Murphy) , Captain Lawrence (Frank Converse) and Japanese samurai (Sonny Chiba) are sent to find it . They discover enormous hostility to foreigners, as well as dangers and risks . There Robin finds romance with a gorgeous girl and Captain Lawrence meets a samurai woman (Laura Gemser) . Meanwhile , they confront the Shogun army , and Lord Yamato (Tetsurô Tanba) . The Japanese attackers follow the Bushido code , it means honor but also revenge , bloodshed and violent death! . The Bushido blade cuts to the heart of courage .

Richard Boone becomes the first Ambassador from the Western world is this oriental adventure . The film deals with conflicts between the radical conservatism and modernism ; upon relation of the West and East World . In addition , a sweeping , human drama with all the ingredients : adventures , betrayal , romance , inter-racial love story , emotions , breathtaking battles , spellbound scenarios and results to be pretty interesting . Stunning images illuminate the full-blown feats of a bunch of sailors under impressive Japanese sets . It's an acceptable epic in medium budget , including an agreeable statement about honor , tradition and futility of war . Glimmer and colorfully cinematography shot on location in London , England, UK and Tokyo , Japan ; though a perfect remastering is necessary . Evocative and appropriate score , including a catching leitmotif , by Maury Laws . Panned by the critics , the movie was a flop at box office in USA , receiving awful reviews . However , nowadays is best deemed . The motion picture was professionally directed by Tom Kotani , though it has some gaps as well as flaws and uneven pacing .

This costumer picture is based on historic events . As Perry returned in 1854 with ten ships and 1600 men and he carried out the Opening of Japan , as called The Perry Expedition: 1852–1854 . After initial resistance by the Japanese , Perry was permitted to land at Kanagawa, near the site of present-day Yokohama where after negotiations lasting for around a month , the Convention of Kanagawa . Perry signed as American plenipotentiary, and Akira signed for the Japanese side. Perry departed , mistakenly believing the agreement had been made with imperial representatives , not understanding the true position of the Shogun, the de facto ruler of Japan . As Japan was dominated for a dynasty occupied by the Togugawa family from century XVI until 1868 and characterized by ruling ¨Daimios ¨ , confronting occidental people and shunning the opening imposed by Admiral Perry in 1863 ; he was the first foreigner in Japan who undergoes a culture shock . Being dead emperor Komei , succeeded in 1867 , Mutsu Hito , one time crowned as emperor Meiji , he abolished the Shogun . Matsu Hito carried out various changes, as a liberal cabinet , creating a Duma or Parliament and following actual models and modern spirit . Anti-reforms riots to return old values , traditional way of life and code Bushido were realized by the Samurais a type of medieval knight for preventing of occidental life style . These events have been developed in various films as ¨Barbarian and Geisha¨ by John Huston , considering John Wayne is horribly miscast that resulted to be one of the worst of his bad films , ¨The last Samurai¨ by Edward Zwick with Tom Cruise , Ken Watanabe , Billy Connolly , Tony Goldwyn and the magnificent TV series ¨Shogun¨ (1980) with Richard Chamberlain . Although ¨The Bushido blade¨ was derided as an attempt to copy the hit TV mini-series "Shogun", it was actually made in 1980, before "Shogun", though it wasn't released until after that series had aired .
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Historical adventure about Commodore Perry's trip to Japan
BrianDanaCamp19 January 2002
A co-production between Japan and U.S. company Rankin/Bass, THE BUSHIDO BLADE (1979) was an attempt to capitalize on a growing interest in Japanese history which culminated the following year in the successful 'Shogun' TV miniseries and the English-dubbed samurai film, SHOGUN ASSASSIN, a re-edit of two films from the Japanese 'Lone Wolf and Cub' series. THE BUSHIDO BLADE, however, was the wrong film at the right time, despite the fact that it was shot in Japan with a mixed cast of American actors and Japanese stars. A fanciful account of Americans in Japan in 1854, it was ultimately undone by its low budget, lack of excitement, and contrived script.

It's set at the time of Commodore Matthew C. Perry's second trip to Japan, in February 1854, and his attempt to get a signed treaty with the Shogun. The basic plot borrows more than a little from the 1972 samurai western, RED SUN, and has to do with the theft of a sword intended for the U.S. president by a Japanese faction opposed to the treaty. Acting without orders, three Americans--a marine captain and two sailors, one of whom speaks a little Japanese--go off in pursuit of the sword and have numerous encounters in the Japanese countryside before the big confrontation at the castle of Lord Yamato, the nobleman behind the theft of the blade.

Quite improbably, the Americans encounter more than a few Japanese--five in all--who happen to speak adequate English, one of whom, Enjiro (played by Japanese-American actor Mako), is based on an actual historical figure, the fisherman Manjiro, who had been shipwrecked and taken to America some years earlier, but who actually had no interaction with the Americans during Perry's second trip. The other Japanese characters are all rather unlikely candidates to be proficient English speakers in 1854 Japan, but they include some big name actors. Toshiro Mifune (YOJIMBO) plays the Shogun's Commander; Sonny Chiba (THE STREET FIGHTER) plays Prince Ido, a foe of Yamato; and Tetsuro Tamba (YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE) plays Lord Yamato. Laura Gemser seems to have wandered in from Italian exploitation films (the EMANUELLE series) to play a half-Japanese, half-'foreign' English-speaking female samurai who beds the American captain.

The only big names in the American cast are Richard Boone, a one-time TV star ('Have Gun, Will Travel') and character actor in his final film role (as Commodore Perry), and James Earl Jones, who has a cameo as a shipwrecked sailor who's been held by the Japanese for two years. The biggest American part, Captain Hawk, is played by Frank Converse, primarily a TV actor ('NYPD'), who is actually quite good at portraying America's particular 19th century brand of arrogance and self-importance. Timothy Murphy plays the young American lieutenant who becomes enamored of Japanese culture (and falls for a Japanese woman). Mike Starr, later a prominent character actor and comic player (GOODFELLAS, ED WOOD, DUMB AND DUMBER), appears in his first film as burly sailor Cave Johnson, who takes on a sumo wrestler in one of the film's comic sidebars.

Overall, the film is of interest to Japan buffs and samurai fans, but it's bound to be a disappointment to most others because of its hackneyed story, stilted direction and TV-movie style of shooting. The film got very little theatrical release in the U.S. and went straight to television in most areas.
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Potential wasted
BigGuy5 August 2003
I feel absolutely terrible giving a Toshiro Mifune film 4/10, but I could not do otherwise and remain honest. Frankly, the only acting in this movie that didn't leave me cringing was from the three main Japanese actors, (Sonny Chiba, Toshiro Mifune and Mako) and James Earl Jones who only had a tiny part. Frank converse didn't do a terrible job, but it wasn't a very enthusiastic performance. The rest of the actors deserve little more than scorn. Commodore Perry (Richard Boone) left me absolutely cringing every time he opened his mouth.

Frankly there was little, if anything, in this movie to recommend watching it. The culture is portrayed in a caricature manner, if not outright incorrectly. The history is wrong. The acting is terrible. The action scenes are decent, but not worth much.

I wouldn't say avoid this movie at all costs, but don't go out of your way to see it either.
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An Insider's View
honcho13-503-8659072 June 2014
While I was stationed in Japan in the late-70s I got "volunteered" to be in this movie. Those of us who were "chosen" to be in the movie got 50 bucks a day and free room and board at the Sanno Hotel in Tokyo. It was more of an ordeal than anything else. Our part in the movie was shot mostly in Tokyo but also at Shimoda. Richard Boone was always complaining about something. He just never seemed happy. Just a miserable old cuss! Frank Converse didn't say boo to anybody off the set either, just seemed to be a really stuck-up, unhappy guy. I felt sorry for him! Mike Starr was the only one of the actors who associated with us Navy guys. We took him to some choice spots in Tokyo and he was probably the only "gaijin" who had a good time. The director wanted us Navy guys to be in the bathhouse scene, but the Public Affairs Officer from Yokosuka said, "No way!" because there was nudity involved. So they sent us packing back to Yokosuka a couple days early. If my memory serves me correctly, we did all of our shooting in 1978, but the movie didn't come out till 1981 or 82. When I finally saw it, I couldn't believe how bad it was! And even though my name isn't anywhere in the credits, I'm embarrassed that I was ever in anything this horrible! My sincere apologies to anyone who paid to go see it!
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A premature Shogun or Last Samurai at best
viewtifuljoe10108 November 2005
When I heard this movie had both cult classic Sonny Chiba, and the infamous Toshiro Mifune, how could I resist! Not to mention James Earl Jones for a little extra flavour.

Yes despite having Darth Vader, The Street Fighter, and Sanjuro (Yojimbo), the main character was instead one of the less popular names, Frank Converse, as the Captain who must retrieve the stolen "Bushido Blade". Retrive the sword stolen from non-other then a band of Samurai who are against the modernization of Japan. The treaty that both the American and Japanese must sign is held in the balance of this sword. The Japanese refuse to sign the treaty until the president of the US receives the "Bushido Blade".

Although much of the history is incorrect, it does still show the kind of comparison of the eastern and western culture you'd expect from this kind of film. Its not a bad film, if you liked the Last Samurai or Shogun, then this one would be one to check out, just do yourself a favor and don't compare it to the ladder two.
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hobart-114 January 2016
Hey, who is "An Insider's View?" Author: honcho13-503-865907 from United States 2 June 2014

Contact me - Mark Hobart. Maybe we know each other. I was stationed at Atsugi 1974-79.

Likewise, I played an extra in this movie in 1978. We filmed in Tokyo at a Shrine and at a sound stage in Tokyo. There was a replica of a ship. Richard Boone (Commodore Perry) was a total grouch and very dictatorial towards the director. I recall on the sound stage, he kept messing his lines up and then suddenly started YELLING that he wanted everybody out except those in the scene and the director. I mean, he lost it. By this time, the guy was pretty old and looked even worse. Anyhow, we were there 4 days if I recall. And like the other reviewer wrote, we got about %40 a day and stayed at the Sanno Hotel which at that time was located in Akasaka. Now the Sanno is in Hiroo. The scenes in Japan were in 78, but the movie had a release delay. It was a terrible movie. The production company was "Rankin Bass" and they went bankrupt a few years later. Ironically, I am now living in Japan and do quite a bot of work in TC commercials and other media. I recently starred as Sir Thomas Lipton for Lipton Tea Japan. Two weeks shooting in Darjeeling, India. Here is the link to the varied versions. The 15 and 30 seconds versions were for TV the longer two for various promotions and tea fairs around Japan.
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Okay? Yes. Better than Shogun? No way!
laserwiz10 February 2004
"A swashbuckling Samurai saga that beats SHOGUN!" - Star Bulletin

Now, I bought a copy of this motion picture on video cassette that was released by Thorn-EMI Video, which means that the violence, beheadings, blood, and nudity are all intact as opposed to edited in the TV broadcast version.

The reason why I purchased it: I needed a test tape for VCR repair. For one dollar, you get an old tape where you wouldn't care if the machine decided to eat it!

Anyways, since I bought the tape and have also seen Shogun before, I figured I would give it a whurl. I have watched this movie and I'm glad I only spent one dollar on it!

While the premise of the story is certainly interesting enough, the low budget and TV-like production values doesn't do the premise any justice at all.

The acting feels badly forced at many points, which is also coupled with some rather claustrophobic cinematography, nervous direction, and snapshot editing. (It felt like I was watching a TV show that seemed to almost feel like "Hawaii Five-O" with all the pointless and quick zoom-ins to objects in the frame.)

The pacing felt somewhat uneven, perhaps to where it was trying to rush the story forward to reach the end sooner. This might explain the 92 minutes runtime on something that might have required up to 150 minutes to properly play in order to account for character relation to each other and their settings. In contrast, Paramount wisely produced Shogun as a television miniseries, as the original novel could simply not be condensed to even a four hour epic without losing too much. (Although, the re-editing of the miniseries with only a small helping of new footage in an attempt to make a motion picture out of Shogun was a very bad idea.)

There didn't seem to be very good interplay between the characters. The relationships that you may see develop in this picture tend to develop rather quickly and, therefore, unrealistically. The characters also seem somewhat simple and, in many ways, unbelievable. In concert with the atrocious acting, it made watching the characters about as appealing as watching a bad sci-fi movie without MST3K. In contrast, Shogun had characters that developed intricate interplay over a long period of time. They had shown themselves as complex individuals and continued to develop in the settings and with the other characters throughout the story.

Also, the one thing that caught me totally off-guard was the production company: Rankin-Bass.

Now, Rankin-Bass is a production company that is primarily responsible for children's programming. They had produced the animated version of "The Hobbit," "The Last Unicorn (1980s, ITC)," and "The King and I (1999, Warner Bros)," as well as producing various Christmas specials in the 1960s and 1970s like "Frosty, the Snowman" (Need to get to the north pole before melting), "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" (I don't want to wear a lump of coal on my nose!), "Little Drummer Boy," and "T'was the night before Christmas" (You know, the one with the singing clock to make Santa forgive a city for a letter written by some mouse who used "long words."). To those familiar with the 1980s, Rankin-Bass was also responsible for "Thundercats" and "Silverhawks."

Now, this did give a reason why the movie sucked as a whole: a production company with experience only with children's entertainment cannot hope to produce an R rated picture without creative difficulty.

Now, even though this film was co-produced with a British firm: Trident Films, the producer was Arthur Rankin Jr. himself. Jules Bass apparently did not have any involvement with this production.

Watch out for a cameo by James Earl Jones. Mako, Toshiro Mufune (who played in Shogun as well), and Sonny Chiba are other well regarded actors who starred in this movie.

If anything, try it for a rental and watch for yourself. This is assuming your local video store even has this movie for rent.

This movie does deserve some credit for at least trying to maintain a standard, although I would only give it one and half stars.

I might have given it worse, but watching REAL garbage like "Space Mutiny" and "Strategic Command" does make "Bushido Blade" and even "Xanadu" look decent. - Reinhart
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Somewhat of a let-down
jungpick6 July 2004
I read the premise on the back of the case and thought Bushido Blade would be a great movie. Granted, I knew movies about Japan made in years past could be somewhat contrived, but the description made it sound like a good adventure story in an interesting setting.

Unfortunately, this turned out to be less than that. While always entertaining, everything was a little gratuitous, a little forced, a little affected. The only particularly likable characters were Mifune's, Mako's and Chiba's, and the whole thing sort of just deflated as it went along.

Furthermore, I found myself laughing out loud at the particularly violent moments. Half of it was just at how intense they were, but a lot (if not most) of it was how unintentionally funny they were.

This leaves a lot to be desired. It's not bad by any means, but it has none of the magic that Mifune's other movies do.
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A Very Dull Blade
Mark-12925 January 2005
Way back in 1980, I saw "The Bushido Blade" as a late night premiere on CBS. Much younger then, I was fairly impressed with the romance and action and the film was fondly remembered over the decades.

25 years later, the film comes out in DVD and I had to get it.


My disappointment was palpable. Richard Boone gives a loud, obnoxious performance as Commodore Matthew Perry, top billed James Earl Jones, while in fine voice and shape, only appears for about 2 minutes of screen time. The rugged Frank Converse comes off fairly well, but I can't understand why a Japanese actress was not cast as Tomoe instead of Laura Gemser. Sonny Chiba and Mako make good impressions, but something's not right when Mayumi Asano, playing Yuki, gives the best performance in the film. And this, with virtually no dialog. But, perhaps, that explains it right there.

Poorly written by William Overgard, a Rankin-Bass in-house hack, the story, beginning with an offensive minstrel show, is about the search by American sailors for a stolen ceremonial samurai sword, meant as a gift for the President of the United States in 1854 Japan. The three Americans are aided in their search by noble samurai Chiba and half-caste warrior Gemser. What bothers me most is the lack of any texture in the story. Most scenes take place against utilitarian sets with no detail. The countryside, where most of what passes as action takes place, is flatly filmed. Worst of all, none of the local Japanese have any significant dialog, and surprisingly, have no involvement in the story, but, act only as background color for the three or four major characters. Very strange. I think there are less than 10 speaking roles and half of those are of the "Yes, Sir. No, Sir" variety from extras.

After some disappointing samurai battle action over the sword against a lord and his poorly trained army of just ends. You might be surprised by the suddenness of the fade out, but, that's all there is. I understand there is an alternate version running about 10 minutes longer, but, besides an extended ending, I can't imagine what might be missing or added to improve things. In retrospect, viewing the film after so many years brought back certain story reservations I had even as a youngster. Plot holes abound and the final fate of the sword and it's pursuers is not ironic as intended, but just leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
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bogeszjama31 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Great white men can defeat any number of samurais. And the inferior Japanese women fall in love with them for sure. The plot strongly reminds of Soleil Rouge - stolen sword, Japanese and American hero unites to get it back. The character of the captain is pretty simple: "We need this treaty signed!" and "How can we sign this treaty?!"

I was also surprised seeing not one but two pair if tits in this movie. I don't remember the "movie-action-level" of the eighties but the fighting scenes in this movie are pretty weak, however in some scenes the motion and the costumes seem to be perfect - for example when Tomoe brings the captain some tea at the castle of Yamato.
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