The Hidden Fortress

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The Hidden Fortress
The Hidden Fortress poster.jpg
Original Japanese poster
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Produced by Sanezumi Fujimoto
Akira Kurosawa
Written by Shinobu Hashimoto
Ryuzo Kikushima
Akira Kurosawa
Hideo Oguni
Starring Toshiro Mifune
Misa Uehara
Minoru Chiaki
Kamatari Fujiwara
Music by Masaru Sato
Cinematography Kazuo Yamasaki
Editing by Akira Kurosawa
Studio Toho Studios
Distributed by Toho Company Ltd.
Release dates December 28, 1958 (Japan)
January 23, 1962 (USA)[1]
Running time 139 minutes; 90 minutes (1962 USA release)[1]
Country Japan
Language Japanese

The Hidden Fortress (隠し砦の三悪人 Kakushi toride no san akunin?, literally, "The Three Villains of the Hidden Fortress") is a 1958 jidaigeki[2] film directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune as General Makabe Rokurōta (真壁 六郎太?) and Misa Uehara as Princess Yuki.

Plot[edit]

The film begins with two bedraggled peasants, Tahei and Matashichi (Minoru Chiaki and Kamatari Fujiwara). Through conversation, they reveal that they had intended to fight alongside the Yamana clan, but turned up too late, were taken for soldiers of the defeated Akizuki clan, and forced to bury the dead. After quarreling and splitting up, the two are both captured again and forced to dig for gold in the Akizuki castle with other prisoners.

After an uprising, Tahei and Matashichi escape. Near a river they find gold marked with the crescent of the Akizuki clan. They thereafter travel with the General of the defeated Akizuki clan, Makabe Rokurōta (Toshiro Mifune), while escorting Princess Yuki Akizuki (Misa Uehara) and what remains of her family's gold to a secret territory. In order to keep her identity secret, Yuki poses as a mute.

During the mission, the peasants impede it and sometimes try to seize the gold. They are later joined by a farmer’s daughter (Toshiko Higuchi), whom they acquire from a slave-trader. Eventually, they are captured and held by Rokurōta's rival, who later unexpectedly sides with the Princess and Rokurōta.

The peasants stumble upon the gold, but are later captured, whereupon Rokurōta explains Yuki's true identity, and states that all of the gold has been used to restore her family's domain. The peasants are then dispatched, taking a single ryō. In the final scene, Tahei gives this to Matashichi to protect; but Matashichi allows Tahei to keep it.

Production[edit]

This was Kurosawa's first feature filmed in a widescreen format, Tohoscope, which he continued to use for the next decade. Hidden Fortress was originally presented with Perspecta directional sound, which was re-created for the Criterion DVD release.

In box-office terms, The Hidden Fortress was Kurosawa’s most successful film, until the 1961 release of Yojimbo.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

Writing for The Criterion Collection in 1987, David Ehrenstein called it "one of the greatest action-adventure films ever made" and a "fast-paced, witty and visually stunning" samurai film ."[3] According to Ehrenstein:[3]

"The battle on the steps in Chapter 2 (anticipating the climax of Ran) is as visually overwhelming as any of the similar scenes in Griffith's Intolerance. The use of composition in depth in the fortress scene in Chapter 4 is likewise as arresting as the best of Eisenstein or David Lean. Toshiro Mifune's muscular demonstrations of heroic derring-do in the horse-charge scene (Chapter 11) and the scrupulously choreographed sword fight climax that follows it (Chapter 12) is in the finest tradition of Douglas Fairbanks. Overall, there’s a sense of sheer "movieness" to The Hidden Fortress that places it plainly in the ranks of such grand adventure entertainments as Gunga Din, The Thief of Baghdad, and Fritz Lang's celebrated diptych The Tiger of Eschnapur and The Hindu Tomb.

Writing for The Criterion Collection in 2001, Armond White said "The Hidden Fortress holds a place in cinema history comparable to John Ford's Stagecoach: It lays out the plot and characters of an on-the-road epic of self-discovery and heroic action. In a now-familiar fashion, Rokurōta and Princess Yuki fight their way to allied territory, accompanied by a scheming, greedy comic duo who get surprised by their own good fortune. Kurosawa always balances valor and greed, seriousness and humor, while depicting the misfortunes of war."[2]

Upon the film's UK re-release in 2002, Jamie Russell, reviewing the film for the BBC, said it "effortlessly intertwines action, drama, and comedy", calling it "both cracking entertainment and a wonderful piece of cinema."[4]

Awards[edit]

Berlin International Film Festival: Silver Bear for Best Director[5]

Influence[edit]

George Lucas has acknowledged heavy influence of The Hidden Fortress on Star Wars,[6] particularly in the technique of telling the story from the perspective of the film's lowliest characters, C-3PO and R2-D2.[7][8] Lucas' original plot outline for Star Wars also had a strong resemblance to the plot of The Hidden Fortress.[9]

Remake[edit]

A loose remake entitled Kakushi Toride no San-Akunin: The Last Princess was directed by Shinji Higuchi and released on May 10, 2008.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Crowther, Bosley (January 24, 1962). "Hidden Fortress From Japan: Kurosawa Resorts to Hollywood Effects". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-08-09. 
  2. ^ a b c White, Armond (May 21, 2001). "The Hidden Fortress". Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2012-08-09. 
  3. ^ a b Ehrenstein, David (October 12, 1987). "The Hidden Fortress". Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2012-08-09. 
  4. ^ Russell, Jamie (31 January 2002). "The Hidden Fortress (Kakushi Toride No San Akumin) (1958)". BBC. Retrieved 2012-08-09. 
  5. ^ "Berlinale: Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2010-01-09. 
  6. ^ "The Secret History of Star Wars". Michael Kamiski, 2007, pg 48. Retrieved 2011-01-31. 
  7. ^ Star Wars DVD audio commentary
  8. ^ "The Secret History of Star Wars". Michael Kamiski, 2007, pg 47. Retrieved 2011-01-31. 
  9. ^ Tom Stempel; Philip Dunne (2000). Framework: A History of Screenwriting in the American Film (3 ed.). Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. p. 154 & 204. ISBN 0815606540. Retrieved 27 March 2012. 

External links[edit]