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Japan 1958
Directed by
Akira Kurosawa
139 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

The Hidden Fortress

To any one familiar with Kurosawa's samurai films such as Yojimbo (1961) or The Seven Samurai (1954), this will be familiar stuff, with the director's favourite actor, Toshiro Mifune, as the outside hero and opposed to a couple of ignoble, but all-too-human, hangers-on as the narrative focal point. Kurosawa is well-known for being heavily indebted to John Ford's Western adventures and just as as the two films just cited were in turn the inspiration for A Fistful Of Dollars (1964) and The Magnificent Seven (1960)so this film was the inspiration for Star Wars (Lucas has acknowledged this although also claiming that much of the similarity was coincidental).

Although typically masterfully composed and shot (and using wide-screen photography for the first time in Kurosawa's career) and with a stand-out performance from Mifune, it is overlong even making allowance for the culturally-specific, highly theatrical aspects of the film, noticeable most in the portrayal of the Princess and with Kurosawa giving an excessive amount of screen time to the antics of the two witless off-siders, presumably a familiar convention of Japanese theatre but tiresome nonetheless.




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