Sleepy Eyes Of Death: The Mask of the Princess – Sneaky, Sneaky

Country: Japan
Genre: Action/ Drama/ Swordplay
Director: Akira Inoue
Year: 1966

Rating: ★★½☆☆


Fans of the Sleepy Eyes Of Death series will realize that The Mask of the Princess is a direct sequel to 1964s Sword of Seduction. In that film, Nemuri Kyoshiro (Raizô Ichikawa) humiliated the daughter of the Shogun. Now, she has hordes of ninja hunting him down with the aim of killing him as cruelly as possible.

Now, that’s a pretty thin basis for a movie, but I still found The Mask of the Princess moderately entertaining. I suspect that’s because I’m a biased audience.

First of all, I love the world of the Sleepy Eyes Of Death series. Second, Kyoshiro and the Princess are wonderful characters. Kyoshiro repeatedly tells whoever will listen that he’s a rogue and a dirtbag, but in fact, he’s simply a frustrated idealist. As Kyoshiro, Raizô Ichikawa has a sly way with a line. The Princess is memorably nutty. She has been driven mad by the combination of disfigurement and unbridled power. The third aspect of the picture I enjoyed, which I credit to screenwriter Seiji Hoshikawa (working from a story by Renzaburô Shibata), is how the Princess attempts to assassinate Kyoshiro. It’s always through subterfuge. Some of her tricks were quite clever and amusing.

But still, the film suffers from having no thematic underpinnings to speak of. And since the filmmakers are relying almost solely on cleverness to entertain, when the film’s pacing flags, or a less than stellar plot point is revealed, interest dies.

The Sleepy Eyes Of Death series is so full blooded and three dimensional in general that the shallowness of The Mask of the Princess has to count as a disappointment. That’s why I’m not giving it a full recommendation.

Still, I would be less than honest if I told you I didn’t enjoy it.

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