Also worth mentioning is the enormous variety that the genre has to offer. Above, I've posted five screenshots from five different films, each carrying a distinct tone. There are many ways to approach a samurai film, more even then those I mention here, and it is fascinating to explore the different modes. The top picture comes from part 2 of Hiroshi Inagaki's Samurai Trilogy. Shot in vibrant color and featuring a sweeping musical score, the melodramatic series displays many of the hallmarks of classical Hollywood cinema- a very different feel from other samurai films of the time. The second screenshot is from Kuroneko, a ghostly, samurai-based, late-60's horror film. The third is from Samurai Rebellion, a deathly serious drama with considerable restraint and much more on its mind than simple swordplay. The fourth picture comes from Kill!, a comedic action-packed romp with satirical elements. And finally, the last shot is from the first installment of the Lone Wolf and Cub series, Sword of Vengeance. Made in the early 70's this cheekily bloody contribution to the genre leaned closer to grindhouse fare, while still retaining an aspect of artistic sophistication.
Despite its noted ties to westerns, the samurai film is a rich, one-of-a-kind genre with something to offer to every fan of cinema, whatever the desired tone of presentation may be.