SELECTED COMMENTS FROM THE AUSTRALIAN PRESS ON THE SAMURAI
The following are transcripts of material from my scrapbooks. The originals are impossible to photocopy or scan successfully simply because they are in scrapbooks. Curiously, the Japanese press has very little on the series. There were two studies of the programme done for broadcasting trade magazines, a couple of newspaper articles on Ose of the publicity puff type and some interviews with him in two weekly magazines while the show was still on the air (in one he denies being a Korean!). But nothing in the way of reviews or comments that I could find. Longer articles and interviews are indicated in the bibliography at the end but not transcribed here.
Bulletin,9 January 1965
"Accepting that Amos n' Andy could bring any man hurrying home from his golf, the following 30 minutes might leave him as stunned and as baffled as any encounter with the Rev. Peter Grey. To the best of my knowledge after a single viewing, it's one of those medieval Samurai sagas almost as dear to Japanese hearts as Westerns and along the same simple hero-villain lines. Only more so, as the hero, a dashing young swordsman named Shintaro, has thirteen members of a murderous secret society to chop up in, I guess, as many episodes.
"Viewed as combination of wonderful Old Japan settings, a glimpse into the fearful side of the Japanese mind, and sheer comedy, The Samurai becomes quite a show. The villains wear black and, in American voices ,woefully dubbed, laugh ha, ha, ha, as in East Lynne. The wide-eyed hero waddles. His eyes narrow as obvious assassins prance from tree trunk to wall behind him, bearing a startling line of weapons from star-shaped throwing blades to black magic. All are expert acrobats. If your son plays Samurais and Kyoogas [sicl, bowing a lot and throwing flip flops, this is where it all began."
TV Times, 13 January 1965: "Looking in with the viewer" - F.C. Kennedy
"Rough and ready though it may be, The Samurai (TCN-9 weekdays), Australia's first Japanese thriller series, has a certain touch of sheer artistry which lifts it above the 'quickies' made in other countries.
"In essence, the series which chronicles the adventures of a Japanese swordsman, karate and judo expert, who declared war on organised crime three centuries ago, differs little from the Western concept of a six-gun crusader or Robin Hood or any of the assorted do-gooders who infest TV, but the ingrained love of beautiful settings which characterises Japanese film-producers makes The Samurai a joy to the eye - even when dubbed in American voices that grate on the ear."
Australian Women's Weekly 17 January 1966 - "Television - Patricia Kent"
"Hidden among the mediocre programmes of afternoon television is a little gem you mustn't miss. It is "Samurai" screened on Channel 9 at 3.30pm from Monday to Friday. It's a Japanese series of adventures which tells the story of Shintaro, master swordsman and agent of the government, and his unending battle against the Ninja, a malevolent secret society whose members have magical powers. "Samurai" is set in the Japan of three centuries ago when the natural and supernatural were woven together in the lives of the people. The Ninjas, for instance, can make themselves disappear, or assume another man's face, or even divide themselves into several people.
"One of the enchanting things about this programme is the photography - zooming closeups, unusual angles, sudden shifts of mood and atmosphere. Only one thing jars. The voices are dubbed and it's odd to hear 17th century Japanese warriors talking with a ripe American Mid-western accent. I would like to see "Samurai" changed to a better timeslot - say 6pm when everyone is home.
TV Week, 13 February 1965
"Could you please publish an article on The Samurai or at least a picture of its hero, Shintaro, a warrior whose face and bravery I have fallen in love with. I am certainly not alone in considering The Samurai the finest example of this type of programme so far seen on Sydney television. I hope the series will continue for a long while." - Elizabeth P., Marrickville.
Australian Women's Weekly, 31 March 1965 "Flynn of the Orient" - Sheila Sibley
"Sayonara, Shintaro! Five o'clock is not what it was now that The Samurai has been replaced on TCN-9 by Casey Jones. Casey is a good, honest, clean-living all-American engine-driver (Walt Disney mass-produces the type - a breed that is upright, earnest, predictable and as flavourless as your 71st hot dog), but Shintaro! Ah, there was a man! The Errol Flynn of the Orient. True, he didn't have a vast range of facial expressions, but you laughed with delight when he gave you a smile and trembled with fear at his frown. Shintaro and his Samurai sword had to take on eight armed men before the odds could be considered even. If there's more than one Shintaro in Japan, beats me how we ever won the war. The magic in The Samurai is the real thing - and no fooling around. Devotees will be coming back, though no one knows exactly when."
Australian Women's Weekly, 26 May 1965 "Television - Nan Musgrove"
"The Samurai is the first Japanese TV series to hit Australian TV, and "hit" is the right word to use about it. It had a remarkable success here. Set in medieval Japan, it tells of the trials and triumphs of Shintaro, Master Swordsman, a kind of Japanese Zorro, against the Kooga [sic] Society of Ninja…Shintaro, who wears his coarse black hair in a well-tamed pony-tail. sees that they are unsuccessful, and does so in what is without doubt the best photographed series on TV. The settings are beautiful and the action is fast. The sword and the knife play are expert and the Ninjas are terrific. It is worth watching them throw their funny little star-shaped knives that go whicker-whicker through the air and to see them run…Ninjas run standing upright, in short dolly steps, flashing along like a jet…The new series, said to be better than the old one, starts on May 24 at 5.30pm…
TV Week, 11 Sept. 1965
"I understand The Samurai very well. I think Koichi Ose is handsome. He's the sweetest film star I have ever seen." - Elsie Wylie, Narrabeen
TV Times, 27 October 1965
"I don't know why TCN-9 puts on such a silly show as The Samurai. Shintaro, when confronted by 20 highly-trained swordsmen, kills every single one of them. When I point this out to my friends, all they say is, "Oh, he is an expert swordsman." Even so, I don't see how he could possibly do this. And no one, not even a Ninja could jump on to the roof of a building in a single bound. I can't see what is real about The Samurai." - Joanne Murphy, Roseville.
"Brickbats to The Samurai. I think it's the weakest show on TV.I'M sure everyone will agree with me when I say it's because of the poor acting." - David Standing, Panania.
TV Times,10 November 1965
"The ideas of J. Murphy and D. Standing about The Samurai are all wrong. Firstly a ninja could do many things a samurai could not do but a samurai had much time to devote to swordsmanship. Although many were good, ninja were far from being the best swordsmen in 17th and 19th century Japan. Ninja trained their minds and bodies vigorously and they were capable of many astounding physical feats and many of those seemingly impossible achievements performed with the aid of hypnosis. As for the 'poor acting' this effect is given because of the translated English dialogue." - I. Dalgiesh, Ryde.
Daily Mirror, 14 December 1965
HEAD CANES THE SAMURAI "TV SADISM & CRUELTY"
The headmaster of Sydney's newest private boys' preparatory school has banned "Shintaro cards and any association with that cult."
Shintaro, played by Koichi Ose, is the hero of The Samurai, a Japanese-produced TV series currently popular with boys throughout Sydney. The headmaster, Mr Rex Morgan, told parents at the Pittwater House preparatory school speech night last night.
"I question the mental health of a nation which permits its schoolchildren to be exposed to the current cult of Japanese sadism and cruelty in the guise of a TV hero. 1 should have thought we had enough of this sort of thing during the war without glorifying such attitudes by the present tv representation and its perpetuation by the sale of sweetmeats containing swap cards."
Mr Morgan said that to him this was further indication of the lack of principles of some retailers and advertisers. It was essential that children be "fortified with minds able to resist such undermining and able to discriminate between right and wrong, between good and bad, between the worthwhile and the fruitless."
Mr Morgan said he had been criticised for being a "right-wing reactionary". He said, "If right-wing reactionary means putting back into life some of the old-fashioned virtues such as good manners, respect for parents, recognition for elders and betters, accepting that Jack is not as good as his master, then I ask you parents to subscribe to the same philosophy. I shall react more and more sharply against the sick and soft and unmanly attitudes which so many people are affecting these days."
Daily Mirror, 23 December 1965
"I strongly protest the statement attributing sadism to the TV series The Samurai by Mr R.H.Morgan, headmaster, Pittwater Preparatory School. That one of this city's supposedly foremost educators should be so bigoted and twisted about the triumph of rights over wrongs, good manners and kindliness as portrayed in the series, bespeaks of a completely closed mind.
"His statement, 'This type of programme is producing sick, soft and unmanly attitudes in Australian society' obviously applies not to Australians but to himself. I am father of three boys from 4 to 7 ½
years. The three of them watch the show as well as myself. All of us are attracted by the beauty of the art direction, camera work and general presentation of the series which is a fairly honest portrayal of life in early Japan.
"To see my boys running, jumping and only very occasionally standing still in emulation of the physical feats of the good or bad, seems quite the reverse of soft and unmanly. This seems to be the season when headmasters blame the children whom they are supposed to be leading for the faults into which their own generation has led the young.
"If Mr Morgan could open his mind sufficiently to study a little of the history of another country like Japan, he would find portrayed in The Samurai a spirit of fine discipline, physical and mental, and honour far above anything he could teach. I had considered sending my children to Pittwater House which I believed was staffed by forward thinking people. But after reading Mr Morgan's attack, I most certainly will not." - John Z. Huie, Seaforth
"I agree with headmaster Mr R. Morgan when he stated The Samurai depicted sadism and cruelty. A mother of 7, I am shocked that this sort of glorifying is permitted on Australian TV.I can't understand why people let their children watch this terrifying show." - Mrs M.Quinn, Lalor Park
"I have nothing but the greatest admiration for headmaster, Mr R.Morgan, for banning Shintaro cards and anything associated with such a fiendishly sadistic cult. Are we to emulate the Nazis in our obsession with cruelty? I admire Mr Morgan for upholding oldfashioned virtues. We need them back with us. Broadminded has now become a matter of doing what one likes." - Geraldine Sinclair, Carlton
Daily Mirror, 30 December 1965
DON'T BRRED HATE IN OUR CHILDREN
"Regarding Mr R. Morgan's outrageous and most uncalled-for remarks about kendo (Japanese swordsmanship),I would like to add this.
"Kendo is one of the world's most skilful arts, so old that its beginnings cannot be traced. This very dangerous and colourful discipline of valour and skill cannot be equalled by any other form of sport in. the world. I suggest Mr Morgan return to school and learn a little more about his facts before he starts his I-HATE-JAPS campaign on our children. Kendo is neither cruel nor sadistic. One does not need any kind of skill to be either of these. If Mr Morgan is so concerned about his pupils' manners, he should turn to the Japanese in this regard. They are well known for their good manners. I have two sons and will make sure they never attend Mr Morgan's school. My boys are being brought up to respect the customs of others and to educate themselves by taking an interest in them." ~ Mrs Wendy Mangham, Canberra
"I, like many of your readers, am disgusted with Mr R.H. Morgan's views. The Samurai is a well-produced show that accurately portrays Japan as it was 500 years ago. This show is not as violent as the American gangster shows one sees too much of nowadays. The war has been over for 20 years. Japan and Australia are good friends. Why should one attack the fine product of a country whose history goes back more than 1000 years, whose highly civilised people are proud of their history and traditions. Let the children play the samurai game to their heart's content. And by doing so they may grow up respecting other races and not hating them as the ignorant and bigoted do." - Miss A.M.Carlsen, East Lakes
The Australian, 30th December 1965
"Despite the views of Mr R.H. Morgan (Australian,14th Dec.) Sydney preparatory school headmaster concerning 'the current cult of Japanese sadism that is The Samurai TV programme , I for one regard the programme as being preferable to most other adventure tales shown on TV. For atmosphere, action and beauty of production it is superb; unlike Red Indian, army or cowboy programmes sadism is constantly abstracted by stylised form of presentation.
"From my position as parent I feel the programme does a lot to develop the imagination, sensibility and emotional maturity of a child. The child's attention is also drawn to the fact that feelings as well as actions can be expressed by movements of the body and limbs. If in play the child chooses to dance about like the active, skilful and noble Shintaro fighting the forces of evil - instead of lying about with his high calibre toy, taking pot-shots at passers-by, I can only be impressed.
"And if the child prefers to imitate this Japanese hero rather than the available lifeless Western ones, then he too must only be impressed. Surely Mr Morgan's judgements are based upon some unstated criticisms which go beyond his remarks on sadism or his statement 'I should have thought we would have had enough of this sort of thing during the war."' - Mr H.S. Howard, Wahroonga
Sydney Morning Herald, 16 December 1965
LOOK OUT - THE NINJA ARE COMING BUT RELAX SHINTARO IS COMING TOO! [Extracts]
Just after the war,20 years ago, it would have been harakiri to suggest that a Japanese warrior could be hailed as a hero in Australia. But now in 1965 'Shintaro says, "See you at the Stadium"' and for a week from Boxing Day entrepreneur David Blank expects to do record box-office business from Australian Shintaro and Ninja fans.
Shintaro, better known as Japanese movie star Koichi Ose, is the samurai hero of the sword-and-sorcery television series that has been thrilling juvenile viewers on Australian channels for a year. Ninja are baddies, spooky black clad medieval menaces whom he combats.
Japanese children are ninja mad these days - and so are Australian youngsters. In Sydney Samurai and Ninja have replaced cowboys and Indians even spacemen and combat troops …Ose took his star quality with him when he switched to a modern style series called Licence Number 333 in which he hunts down villains in a supercolossal Jaguar sports car and keeps a stranglehold on Japanese TV ratings. When he arrives at the Sydney Stadium, however, Ose will be in his Shintaro role.
The cast of Ninja will be swelled by Seiichi Sugano and H. Kasahara, Japanese who teach
the ancient combat technique at Ryde - 'kendo', the art of using the sword in self-defence and 'aikido' the unarmed method of defeating the sword. Sugano and Kasahara are not professional actors but you don't have to be an actor to be a Ninja - you just have to be a superman. The Ninja are real historical figures, secret agents employed by regional feudal lords in Japan. Their art is 1000 years old and they flourished most prolifically in the 16th and 17th centuries. So superb was their physical training and so complete their mastery of the technique of disguise and murder that the Ninja were widely regarded as supernatural beings. They were supreme experts of judo, karate and swordsmanship and knew most things there were to know about poisoning. The best of them could run 100 miles in a day, high jump 7 feet. Their use of gadgetry makes James Bond's armourer look like a dabbler. They could walk across ceilings (with the aid of spike-studded gauntlets) live underwater (breathing through bamboo tubes),walk on water (using paddle shoes), scale sheer castle walls (with rope and grappling hook), blind an enemy by dashing acid-filled eggshells in his eyes, and disappear in a puff of smoke (by igniting a variety of chemical powders and pushing off while his pursuers were still groping around in the murk).
VALOUR AND COURTESY
Rex Morgan, headmaster of Pittwater House Preparatory School, spoke against the Shintaro cult earlier this week but he "couldn't have known what he was talking about," says David Blank yesterday. Mr Blank who has, admittedly, a pro-Shintaro bias, says that kendo and aikido stress courtesy and valour.
The impending visit of Shintaro and the Ninja may alarm some Australian parents. Others might rejoice. There is, doubtless ,the odd child whose disappearance in a puff of stroke would occasion little family regret. In any case, watch out for that dark amorphous shape clinging to your kitchen ceiling. It will be neither bird nor plane nor superman but young Ron temporarily Ninja-mad."
Sunday Telegraph, 19th December 1965
FROM A 'SLEEPER' COMES A NEW CONQUERING HERO: VICTORY - THROUGH THE TV GUIDE - Frank Morgan [extracts]
With one man, very little money and a couple of television cameras, Japan has achieved a victory over Australia that eluded her militarists two decades ago. Sydney has been conquered, other capitals are sure to fall. It has been a surprising, even an astounding victory.
And the man responsible for it is a young Japanese with a girlish pony-tail, a long black dress, a long silver sword, accusing eyes and a tremendous occupation with 'doing the right thing'. In short ,Shintaro the Samurai has taken Sydney by storm. He arrives here next week for a two week season at the Sydney Stadium.
He is revered by hundreds of thousands of Sydney children and has a strange attraction for Sydney adults, too. Almost as many parents as children have made advance bookings to see Shintaro at the Stadium and Sydneysiders are joining new clubs to learn the martial arts that Shintaro employs in his never-ending battles with the dreaded Black Ninja.
'Never-ending' is the word. The Samurai TV series, which began as a 'sleeper' on Channel 9's children's shows 12 months ago, is now being repeated for the THIRD time, is still winning new fans and has drawn more support from the viewing public than any other show in the station's history - including the phenomenal Mouseketeers.
What, may you ask if you are not a Shintaro fan, is all the fuss about?
Well, about two years ago, a Japanese television company got an idea for making a 'goodies and baddies' series with local colour. They turned to the history of feudal Japan when the country was ruled section by section by feudal lords ... The show was a smash hit in Japan and resulted in Ose becoming one of Japan's most famous film stars. Japan exported the series ... Elsewhere in the world, The Samurai began appearing on TV screens with dialogue dubbed in a score of languages. For some reason or other the show became a big hit wherever it was shown. Czechoslovakia, behind the Iron Curtain, showed the series and now want Ose to make a series of personal appearances there, just as he is about to do in Sydney…
Daily Telegraph 28 Dec. 1965
SHINTARO CUT IT SHORT
Within its severe limitations, this stage adaption of TV phenomenon just manages to support its awkward mixture of illusion and reality. The surprising pleasure is that its producers have made an artful endeavour to substantiate the flesh-and-blood appearance of Shintaro. That they have done this in a creaking, melodramatic production which sometimes becomes a disconcerting succession of Oriental-type cabaret acts, is not entirely overlooked by the children who yesterday shuffled about restlessly for the Ninja to strike again But there is enough tricky action - exploding flash powder, swordplay, ju jitsu and simulated killing - to satisfy their eager curiosity, if only a few of their fondly held illusions. Entertaining as the show is, it is no more than a pale semblance of its TV parent. Shintaro, in the presence of Japanese actor Ose Koichi, is the principal attraction of the whole show but disappointingly makes three brief appearances during the whole 90 minute show.
The Age, 7 January 1966
SOLEMN-FACED SYMBOL: Shintaro the Samurai at the Festival Hall
It's odd to think that the Japanese have produced a traditional folk here with such popular appeal for Australia. It approximates the cult-like veneration held for Westerners and Special Agent 007 - all clean-cut Caucasians, mind you, with modern armouries and Anglo-Saxon attitudes.
Undoubtedly, Shintaro, like the Japanese export drive, owes a lot to slick advertising
and public relations but the play certainly delivers the goods, mainly sheer entertainment. It is a fascinating amalgam of 20th century techniques, 11th century mysticism and the Oriental quirk for solid application to the more exotically belligerent sports. Through it all, of course, runs the moralistic thread of good versus evil - and there is no doubt about the outcome.
It is also a splendid vehicle for displaying the spectacular: fire-eating, sword-swallowing, Samurai-duelling and stick-fighting. If the modern touches, such as trampoline acrobatics and electronic music are introduced, they don't detract. It is hard, in fact, to see how any conventional musicians could fill the Festival Hall with such a mass of eerie and evocative sounds without the aid of electricity.
Koichi Ose (the hero Shintaro) is a rather solemn-faced symbol of 'Good over Evil' who dances, leaps and tumbles like a Dervish. His opponents are the Ninja, black-clad Devils endowed with superhuman qualities but prone to using underhand trickery. The overall theme is plenty of frenzied action (all of it most skilful) and a refreshing lack of moralising - and the audience, mainly children, enjoyed it immensely. After all, they didn't go to see a carefully produced Japanese classic authentic in every detail.
Sun, 7 January 1966
SHINTARO MEETS DOTING FANS - Howard Palmer
Koichi Ose has replaced Tom Mix, Superman, Robin Hood and Davy Crockett as the undoubted idol of small children. When Mr Ose, as Shintaro, walked on to the stage at the Festival Hall yesterday afternoon, the building shook. But it was not merely the volume of sound the children made. It was the quality of adoration, something I hadn't heard since I used to make it myself at Saturday arvo pictures. Three times this unconquerable hero came into the story and each time he slayed dragons in the form of the wicked, blackdressed Ninja.
The entry of the first Ninja was spectacular. They appeared down the aisles and slid down ropes from the ceiling. Their fighting gained much applause until their chief arrived and declared his intention to kill Shintaro. This drew boos that scarcely ceased except when Shintaro waved his sword about after he had killed them all. Much magic was performed during the show and none needed more than one chap who brought the dead ninja back to life. At this point they were running out of Ninjas and Melbourne cannot produce endless expendable Ninja like Hollywood can produce ill-fated cowboys.
For the rest, there was fire-eating, sword-swallowing and a princess to be captured and freed and six beautiful girls to dance. But it was Shintaro all the way. One little girl handed him a note. I have the very note. This is what she wrote. "To dear Shintaro, I love you so much. I cannot stop loving you. Love from Jo-Anne Smiley. I am 7 years."
Shintaro, boy, you have it made. No wonder he's going home to learn English.
Listener-In TV, 27-28 January 1966
SHINTARO IS FINE HERO FOR OUR CHILDREN
"After attending Festival hall for The Samurai show, I have nothing but praise for Melbourne's youngsters. Enthusiasm and participation were there in plenty but I did not see one unruly child. Their behaviour was an example to the other audiences in this same hall - the teenagers whose hysterical mobbing of their idols is so distasteful by comparison. This seems to support the opinion The Samurai television serial is harmless to young followers. I have always considered Shintaro a fine hero, brave, loyal to his friends and gentle, except to his enemies, and after seeing Koichi in the flesh and without his makeup, I think teenagers of tomorrow could to a lot worse that make this slightly boyish man with the smiling face their hero."
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