An Actor's Revenge is a remake of the 1935 film of the same title (distributed in English-speaking countries as The Revenge of Yukinojō), which also starred Kazuo Hasegawa. The 1963 remake was Hasegawa's 300th role as a film actor. The screenplay, written by Ichikawa's wife, Natto Wada, was based on the adaptation by Daisuke Itō and Teinosuke Kinugasa of a newspaper serial originally written by Otokichi Mikami that was used for the 1935 version. There is an opera, An Actor's Revenge, with music by Minoru Miki and libretto by James Kirkup and a 2008 NHK production of the same story, with Yukinojō and Yamitaro played by Hideaki Takizawa.
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Three men — Sansai Dobe (Ganjirō Nakamura), Kawaguchiya (Saburō Date) and Hiromiya (Eijirō Yanagi) — are responsible for the deaths of seven-year-old Yukitarō’s mother and father. Yukitarō is adopted and brought up by Kikunojō Nakamura (Chūsha Ichikawa), the actor-manager of an Osaka kabuki troupe.
The adult Yukitarō (Kazuo Hasegawa) becomes an onnagata, a male actor who plays female roles. He takes the stage name Yukinojō. Like many of the great onnagata, particularly of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, he wears women’s clothes and uses the language and mannerisms of a woman offstage as well. Many years later, the troupe pays a visit to Edo, where the men responsible for his parents’ deaths now live. Yukinojō brings about their deaths, then, apparently overcome by what he has done, retires from the stage and disappears. No one knows where. The events are coolly observed and sardonically commented on by the Robin-Hood-like thief Yamitarō, also played by Hasegawa.
The Japanese title is Yukinojō henge （雪之丞変化. Yukinojō is the stage-name of the central character, who is an onnagata or oyama — a male kabuki actor who plays women’s roles. Among the senses of henge (whose basic meaning is change of form) are ghost, spectre and apparition. The title is sometimes rendered The Avenging Ghost of Yukinojō. Yukinojō uses his stage-craft to terrify one of his enemies by creating the illusion of a ghost, but there is no supernatural element in the film.
In the kabuki theatre the word henge has the technical sense of costume change. The type of play called a henge-mono（変化もの）is a quick-change piece in which the leading actor plays a number of roles and undergoes many on-stage changes of costume. The title thus has as one of its senses The Many Guises of Yukinojō. The usual English title is from a line of dialogue when the character Yamitarō, having learned that Yukinojō proposes to take revenge on his enemies by elaborate plots rather than killing them at the first opportunity, says to himself ‘As you might expect of an actor’s revenge, it’s going to be a flamboyant performance’ (Yakusha no katakiuchi dakeatte, kotta mon da: 役者の敵討ちだけあって、こったもんだ).
Kazuo Hasegawa as Yukinojō Nakamura and Yamitarō
Fujiko Yamamoto as Ohatsu
Ayako Wakao as Namiji
Raizō Ichikawa as Hirutarō
Shintarō Katsu as Hōjin, the escaped convict
Eiji Funakoshi as Heima Kadokura
Chūsha Ichikawa as Kikunojō Nakamura
Narutoshi Hayashi as Mukuzu
Ganjirō Nakamura as Sansai Dobe
Saburō Date as Kawaguchiya
Eijirō Yanagi as Hiromiya
Jun Hamamura as Isshōsai
Toshio Chiba as Rōnin
Masayoshi Kikuno as Yukinojō’s father
Kōichi Mizuhara as Dobe’s retainer
Shirō Ōtsuji as First Constable
Tokio Oki as Second Constable
Michirō Minami as First Townsman
Yutaka Nakamura as Second Townsman
Chitose Maki as Townswoman
Eigorō Onoe as The Shōgun
The voice-over narration is provided by Tokugawa Musei (徳川夢声), the most famous benshi of the silent era.