Essential Art House: Hidden Fortress

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  • Widely remembered as the film that inspired George Lucas’s Star Wars, The Hidden Fortress is one of Akira Kurosawa’s most popular works, a thrillingly choreographed and cleverly written tale of chivalry and greed in medieval Japan, featuring Toshiro Mifune as a weary general in charge of protecting a princess (Misa Uehara).139 minutes Format: DVD MOVIE Genre: ACTION/ADVENTURE R

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Widely remembered as the film that inspired George Lucas’s Star Wars, The Hidden Fortress is one of Akira Kurosawa’s most popular works, a thrillingly choreographed and cleverly written tale of chivalry and greed in medieval Japan, featuring Toshiro Mifune as a weary general in charge of protecting a princess (Misa Uehara).Amazon.com essential video
In one of the many classic collaborations between director Akira Kurosawa and his leading man Toshirô Mifune, t… More >>

Essential Art House: Hidden Fortress

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5 Comments
  1. This video should delight all but those who shrink at the thought of subtitles. It is a rousing, humorous adventure that also gives westerners a fascinating glimpse into a very alien culture. Early Kurosawa such as “Hidden Fortress” is much better than the pretentious films he made from around 1970 on. Early in his career the director made sure he had a solid story; in his last two decades he padded weak stories with long, boring scenes filled with characters making oh-so-profound statements like, “Life is hell.” Life is not hell, but watching “Ran” is.
    Rating: 4 / 5

  2. This Kurosawa film became popular among STARWARS’ fans after they learned it was the basis of the first STARWARS movie. The latter is by far the better film. The strictly by numbers script has 2 would be mercenaries retreating from a war they thought would bring them fortune. Unfortunately, they fought on the losing side. They are a couple of low comics; the sort that in Shakespeare only high school English tearchers seem to think are funny. These 2 are so low they seem to have permanently scrapped knees. By turning them into androids George Lucas actually gave them personalities. Amidst their misadventures they meet a samurai (Mifune) who is protecting the princess of the defeated army and is trying to get her back to her own country so she can literally raise a new army. He tricks these 2 into helping them. The princess’ acting style is all DEPORTMENT IN ATTITUDE. She seems to be auditioning for the lead in ILSA, SHE WOLF OF THE SS. Along the way they meet a religious dancing sect who dance something that looks like it wants to be a parody of the monkey dance in KING KONG but it doesn’t quite come off. This whole movie doesn’t quite come off & one suspects that Kurosawa’s only interest was in seeing what he could do with the CinemaScope screen. He was able to do a great deal as his later movies show.
    Rating: 2 / 5

  3. The Hidden Fortress is classic Kurosawa, in every way–except for the wild overacting, inane characterizations and lamefooted humor of the peasant pair who form a central element of the film. Had the peasants been just as grubby but more subdued, or given comic material with more edge, skewering the upper classes as well as themselves, or been less in the focus and operated far in the background, this wouldn’t have been a problem. But instead we’re offered a sort of Dumb & Dumber, Beavis & Butthead of Japan, 50 years ago. (And yes, I know that is anachronistic, but it’s all too true.) “Stupidity is funny” wears thin after a short while, and the comic antics are both repetitive and all too easy to forecast. Oh, here comes a rocky upwards incline: let’s watch the pair pull one another down with grotesque facial expressions as they try to scramble up, etc.

    Which is all too bad, because while the rest of the film has its overblown heroics, its far from bad. The interactions between cast members has both tension and grit, while the outdoor settings mark a difference from the usual run of Japanese period films (though Kurosawa addicts like myself will well recall what he could do in Roshomon). Mifune is over the top but splendid, and the direction has energy and focus.

    I’ve seen this film twice in 25 years; most recently, just last night, again. Unfortunately, my initial impressions were only confirmed–and I wish they weren’t.
    Rating: 2 / 5

  4. Although Toshiro Mifune gives once more a fine resital of acting, the story of “Hidden Fortress” is weak and long drawn to more than two hours. The main theme is double: the greed of the poor people in medieval Japan who were herded and crushed by the warlords like ants, and the rare opportunity of a princess to catch a glimpse of the real world of her vassals when she becomes a fugitive. Mifune plays the general Macabe who is a master of the martial arts and the main protector of the princess. The film follows the traditional Kurosawa lines but can not compare with the “Seven Samurai” and the “Throne of Blood”.
    Rating: 3 / 5

  5. Granted, Kurosawa’s mediocre is any other director’s masterpiece, but still, I thought this 1958 effort fell somewhat short. It doesn’t have that incredible narrative crispness that the best Kurosawa has–“Seven Samurai,” which is nearly an hour longer, feels about half the length of this film. No, the major point of interest in “The Hidden Fortress” for me was its inspiration of “Star Wars.” This won’t go down as one of my Kurosawa favorites.

    Grade: B-
    Rating: 3 / 5

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