Akira Kurosawa's producers asked him to resurrect the lead character of his 1961 hit Yojimbo and he duly complied, though with a very different take on the jidaigeki (samurai period-drama) genre. The role of Sanjuro is again taken by the splendid Toshiro Mifune, but this isn't a straightforward sequel: it's set in an earlier time and is (mostly) played for laughs.
While resting at a shrine, the ronin (masterless samurai) Sanjuro (Mifune) overhears nine young samurai discussing plans to tackle the corruption they believe emanates from the lord chamberlain, Mutsuta (Yûnosuke Itô).
The older, wiser Sanjuro interrupts to suggest that they are gunning for the wrong culprit. The young men are outraged at the uninvited interjection, but Sanjuro is quickly proved correct - and they enlist his help.
However, not only does the ronin have to confront the cynicism and power of the ruling elite, he also has to deal with the immense incompetence of the nine would-be usurpers.
Kurosawa presents Sanjuro as an anti-hero, very much at odds with his usual samurai leads, and before the movie reaches its violent climax, there are satirical pokes at Japanese conformity and running gags about chiding wives and hiding soldiers.
In Japanese with English subtitles.
(1962) Cert: PG