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Kakushi Toride no San-Akunin
The Hidden Fortress, 1958

directed by
Akira Kurosawa

This is one of my, admittedly many, favorites. A rattling good story, very well told. Much comedy of the farcical type, but also quite sophisticated. The most interesting female in all of Kurosawa's work; at least, that's what I think. Everybody will tell you this is what Star Wars is based on. Yeah, but skip Star Wars; this one is much better. (I saw only the last Star Wars, naturally based on a different plot, and it bored the hell out of me. You'd hardly recognize it anyway, the sets are much different to start with.)

Actually, the story when you tell it in a few lines sounds like a bunch of clichés. So why bother? This was Kurosawa's last film for Toho, they say, but I can't really agree. Technically, later films were produced by Kurosawa Productions, sure; that's just like, in the same period, Zanuck Productions for 20th Century Fox — what's the big deal?

The big deal is, rather, this is Kurosawa's first CinemaScope film and he never looked back till Dodesukaden. You might well wonder what Seven Samurai would have looked like, had it been done in wide-screen. Same thing for B/W: Kurosawa kept making color movies until 1970, with that same Dodesukaden. Even Billy Wilder and Otto Preminger had given that up long since by then (only Pim de la Parra had not; but then, he's color blind. So maybe were Wilder and Preminger?) My point is, fabulous as all those earlier movies look in B/W, can you not feel sorry they weren't made in color when you look at them now, having seen his later work? You think this is nonsense, huh? Consider: so a Rembrandt carbon sketch for his Night Watch looks fabulous — until you see the oil painting. But in one way you're right: this sort of wondering will get you nowhere.

Anyway, no hifalutin words. This movie is meant to be enjoyed, so enjoy it. Already.

Toho Co. Ltd.
Produced by Toho
Japan 1958

139 minutes, B/W, TohoScope





art director

sound recording
music by
Masumi Fujimoto
Akira Kurosawa
Ahinobe Hashimoto
Ryuzo Kikushima
Hideo Oguni
Akira Kurosawa
Kazuo Yamasaki
Ichiro Onohara
Yoshiro Muraki
Kohei Ezaki
Fumio Yanoguchi
Masaru Sato
General Rokurota Makabe
The Princess Yukihime
General Izumi Nagakura
General Hyoe Tadokoro
Toshiro Mifune
Misa Uehara
Takashi Shimura
Susumu Fujita
Eiko Miyoshi
Minoru Chiaki
Kamatari Fujiwara
Toshiko Higuchi
Kichijiro Ueda
Koji Mitsui

The Hidden Fortress
One of the main inspirations for "Star Wars," this Kurosawa epic is set in feudal Japan, where wily general Toshiro Mifune must escort a deposed princess and her clan's fortune through enemy territory, with some unwilling help from two bungling thieves.
TohoScope, Perspecta stereophonic sound.

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