All Iemon (Koichi Sato) wanted to be is a musician, just like his
father, but financial hardships forced him to become a murderer and a
thief, and he had to witness his father's suicide.
Years later: Iemon
still tries to make a living as a musician and tries to be a good husband to his
wife, former prostitute Oiwa (Saki Takaoka), but somehow he gets sucked
into the power struggle taking place in town presently as he was
temporarily one of the legendary 47 Ronin, though without any real
kind of conviction. Disaster really strikes though when aristocrat Ito
(Renji Ishibashi), a former opponent, wants Iemon to marry his daughter Oume (Keiko Oginome),
and to this end has Oiwa poisoned. Oiwa's death breaks Iemon's heart, but
he still agrees to marry Oume for financial reasons - but in the wedding night, he sees the
spirit of Oiwa, goes crazy and murders his newly-wed wife as well as her
father and family.
Iemon is now on the run from the law, but once the
authorities catch with him, they don't arrest him but persuade
him to go and kill Yokokawa (Shohei Hino), a nobleman who plans revolt.
facing Yokokawa though, Iemon has to realize that the man won't fight for
his life (thus refusing to make his killing an honorable one) but has no desire to
be killed - and he almost manages to talk Iemon out of his mission, too -
until he mentions the child he concieved with one of the local hookers,
with Oiwa ...
The film ends in slaughter: Iemon sees himself fighting
Yokokawa's men - and he dies. However, then Oiwa's spirit appears, keeping Iemon
in the land between life and death, and she sees that Yokokawa gets his
just desserts, before she and Iemon, now reunited forever, leave to
In his yakuza-epics from the 1970's,
director Kinjji Fukasaku has proven himself a master of bringing
complex stories to the screen in a comprehensible way. In this film
however, a blend of two Japanese folk-legends, the Chushingura (= Legend of the 47
Ronin) with the Ghost Story of Yotsuya, he is far less
successful in telling his story in an understandable way to the
uninitiated audiences - to be fai thoughr, both the Chushingura
and the Ghost Story of Yotsuya are well-known enough in
Japan to assume the local audience needs no special introductions to
large junks of the story. As a viewer not especially well-versed in
Japanese legends, Crest of Betrayal might be a little above one's head concerning its plot. What remains however is a well-crafted,
well-played period piece with enough action and tension to keep the viewer
interested in the film even if the narrative eludes him - it just could
have been so much better if one really knew what's going on ...