The Hidden Fortress
|The Hidden Fortress|
Original Japanese poster from 1968 re-release
|Directed by||Akira Kurosawa|
|Music by||Masaru Sato|
|Edited by||Akira Kurosawa|
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 adventure film directed by Akira Kurosawa. It narrates the story of two peasants who agree to escort a man and a woman across enemy lines in return for gold without knowing that he is a general and the woman is a princess. The film stars Toshiro Mifune as General Makabe Rokurōta (真壁 六郎太) and Misa Uehara as Princess Yuki while the role of the peasants, Tahei and Matashichi, are portrayed by Minoru Chiaki and Kamatari Fujiwara respectively.
Two bedraggled peasants, Tahei and Matashichi, intend to join the feudal Yamana clan in battle, but having arrived too late, are taken for soldiers of the defeated Akizuki clan, and forced to bury the dead. After quarreling and splitting up, the two are both again captured separately and forced to dig for gold in the Akizuki castle with other prisoners. After a prisoner uprising, Tahei and Matashichi escape.
Near a river they find gold marked with the crescent of the Akizuki clan. Planning to evade the Yamana soldiers who are preventing refugees and defeated Akizuki clansmen from crossing the frontier to Hayakawa, the peasants encounter a mysterious man who takes them to a hidden Akizuki fortress. Unbeknownst to them, the man is a general of the defeated Akizuki clan, Makabe Rokurōta. Although Rokurōta was planning on killing the peasants, on hearing their plan, he decides it is so ingenious, he will let them live. They will travel to Yamana itself and then pass into Hayakawa through a different border. Rokurōta decides, without revealing anything to the peasants, to move the Akizuki Princess Yuki to Hayakawa, whose lord is an ally of the Akizuki clan.
Rokurōta escorts Princess Yuki and what remains of her family's gold to Hayakawa, with Matashichi and Tahei traveling with them. In order to keep her identity secret, Yuki poses as a mute so that she doesn't inadvertently speak in the usual mode characteristic of a noblewoman. During their travels, the peasants impede their progress and sometimes try to seize the gold. They are later joined by a farmer’s daughter, whom they acquire from an innkeeper.
They avoid being captured on one occasion by Rokurōta killing four soldiers of a Yamana patrol, including two soldiers Rokurōta has to pursue on horseback. However, Rokurōta ends up in a Yamana camp, where the general in charge is Rokurōta's friendly rival, Hyoe Tadokoro. Tadokoro states that he is sorry he didn't face Rokurōta in battle and decides to have a lance duel, which Rokurōta wins, but Rokurōta refuses to kill Tadokoro. Rokurōta tells Tadokoro they'll meet again and then leaves the camp on horseback to get back to the Princess.
Eventually, they are captured by Yamana soldiers close to a post on the Hayakawa border and held prisoner to be executed. In the confusion, Matashichi and Tahei are able to hide and avoid being taken prisoner. Tadokoro comes to identify the prisoners before the soldiers take them to be executed. Tadokoro shows a large face scar and explains it is a result of a beating ordered by the Yamana lord for losing the duel with Rokurōta. The Princess proclaims that, even facing death, she has enjoyed the trip and getting to know humanity's ugliness and beauty closely. The next day as the soldiers start marching the prisoners to be executed, Tadokoro suddenly defects to the Akizuki side with the Princess, Rokurōta and the farmer's daughter. The group manages to escape along with the horses carrying the gold.
After the Princess and Rokurōta's escape, Matashichi and Tahei stumble upon the gold which is carried by the horses, but are then arrested by Hayakawa soldiers. The soldiers take the peasants to see the general, whereupon Rokurōta explains Yuki's true identity, and states that all of the gold will be used to restore her family's domain. The peasants are then released, taking a single ryō. Finally, Tahei gives this to Matashichi to protect; but Matashichi allows Tahei to keep it.
- Toshiro Mifune as General Rokurota Makabe (真壁 六郎太, Makabe Rokurota)
- Minoru Chiaki as Tahei (太平)
- Kamatari Fujiwara as Matashichi (又七)
- Susumu Fujita as General Hyoe Tadokoro (田所 兵衛, Tadokoro Hyoe)
- Takashi Shimura as General Izumi Nagakura (長倉 和泉, Nagakura Izumi)
- Misa Uehara as Princess Yuki (雪姫, Yuki-hime)
- Eiko Miyoshi as Yuki's lady-in-waiting
- Toshiko Higuchi as farmer's daughter bought from slave trader
- Yū Fujiki as barrier guard
- Yoshio Tsuchiya as samurai on horse
- Kokuten Kōdō as old man in front of sign
- Kōji Mitsui as pit guard
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 Blu-ray release.
|The Hidden Fortress|
|Soundtrack album by|
|Genre||Feature film soundtrack|
- Fallen Warrior's Death
- Peaceful Mountain Pass Road
- Yamana: Temporary Checkpoint
- War town ~ To the border
- Prisoner's loss of dignity
- Burnt Ruins of Autumn Moon Castle
- Mysterious Mountain Man 1
- Mysterious Mountain Man 2
- Good idea to go cross country
- Shining Extended Staff
- Road to the Hidden Fortress
- Woman on the Summit
- Useless Work
- Spring Woman
- Escaping Woman
- Reward Money
- Rokurota, to the Cave
- Princess Yuki's tears
- Horse and Princess
- Riding in the indicated direction
- Setting off
- Gestured Excuse
- Rokurota's Scouting
- Reliable Ally 1
- Reliable Ally 2
- Over the Black Smoke
- Bolder Trick
- Into the cheap lodgings
- Autumn Moon Woman
- Princess Yuki's Wish
- Adept on Horseback
- Spear March
- Departing Rokurota
- Party's true shape
- Daughter and Rokurota
- Sleeping Princess
- Line of Firefighters
- Surprising Rokurota (unused)
- Introduction to Firefighters
- Highland Hauting
- Going Downhill
- Coming to the same conclusion
- To Hayawaka Territory
- Matashichi and Peace, In the checkpoint
- Firefighter's Song
- Execution Draws Near
- Treasonous Pardon ~ Pass Crossing
- Two Bad men in prison
- Reunion in a Castle
- Castle Town (ambient sounds 1)
- Castle Town (ambient sounds 2)
- Child Song
- Escaping Woman
- Adept on Horseback
- Departing Rokurota (alt take 1)
- Departing Rokurota (alt take 2)
- To Hayawaka Territory
- Reunion in a Castle
The Hidden Fortress was released theatrically in Japan on December 28, 1958. The film was the highest-grossing film for Toho in 1958, ranking as the fourth overall highest-grossing films in Japan that year. In box-office terms, The Hidden Fortress was Kurosawa’s most successful film, until the 1961 release of Yojimbo.
The film was released theatrically in the United States by Toho International Col. with English subtitles. It was screened in San Francisco on November 1959 and received a wider release on October 6, 1960 with a 126-minute running time. The film was re-issued in the United States in 1962 with a 90-minute running time. The film which was compared unfavorably to Rashomon (1950) and Seven Samurai (1954) performed poorly at U. S. box office.
AKIRA KUROSAWA, the Japanese director whose cinema skills have been impressed upon us in many pictures, beginning with "Rashomon", is obviously not above pulling a little wool over his audiences' eyes — a little stooping to Hollywoodisms — in order to make a lively film.
He mentioned that Kurosawa, for all his talent, is as prone to pot boiling as anyone else.
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. According to Ehrenstein:
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 spear duel 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.
David Parkinson of the Empire on a review posted on January 1, 2000, gave the film four out of five stars and wrote "Somewhat overshadowed by the likes of Seven Samurai, this is a vigorously placed, meticulously staged adventure. It's not top drawer, but still ranks among the best of Kurosawa's minor masterpieces."
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."
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."
Revered now as an inspiration for George Lucas, Kurosawa's amiable, forthright epic romance happens on a scorched, rugged landscape which looks quiet a lot like an alien planet. At other times, the movie plays like nothing so much as a roistering comedy western. But it has a cleverly contrived relationship between the principals, including a fantastically brash and virile Toshiro Mifune. The comedy co-exists with a dark view of live's brevity, and Kurosawa devises exhilarating setpieces and captivating images. Arthouse classics aren't usually as welcoming and entertaining as this.
The film won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the 9th Berlin International Film Festival in 1959. Kinema Junpo awarded Shinobu Hashimoto the award for Best Screenwriter for his work on the film and for Tadashi Imai's Night Drum and Yoshitaro Nomura's Harikomi.
George Lucas has acknowledged the heavy influence of The Hidden Fortress on Star Wars, particularly in the technique of telling the story from the perspective of the film's lowliest characters, C-3PO and R2-D2. Lucas's original plot outline for Star Wars also had a strong resemblance to the plot of The Hidden Fortress, which would be reused for The Phantom Menace.
A number of plot elements from The Hidden Fortress are used in the 2006 video game Final Fantasy XII. The Japanese-inspired video game Shogo: Mobile Armor Division (1998) features a level called "The Hidden Fortress", one of many tributes (including a level called "High and Low") to Kurosawa in the game.
A loose remake entitled Kakushi Toride no San-Akunin: The Last Princess was directed by Shinji Higuchi and released on May 10, 2008.
- Galbraith IV 2008, p. 151.
- Galbraith IV 2008, p. 152.
- White, Armond (May 21, 2001). "The Hidden Fortress". Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2012-08-09.
- Stuart Galbraith IV (March 18, 2014). "The Hidden Fortress (Criterion Collection) (Blu-ray)". DVD Talk. Retrieved May 7, 2020.
- World of Soundtrack (3 May 2009). "Masaru Sato — The Hidden Fortress". Retrieved 7 January 2020.
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- NYTimes (24 January 1962). "Screen:'Hidden Fortress' from Japan:Kurosawa Resorts to Hollywood Effects Also Pulls Little Wool Over Viewers' Eyes". nytimes.com. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
- Ehrenstein, David (October 12, 1987). "The Hidden Fortress". Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2012-08-09.
- Empire (1 January 2000). "The Hidden Fortress review by The Empire". empireonline.com. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
- Russell, Jamie (31 January 2002). "The Hidden Fortress (Kakushi Toride No San Akumin) (1958)". BBC. Retrieved 2012-08-09.
- The Guardian (1 February 2002). "The Hidden Fortress: The comedy co-exists with a dark view of live's brevity, and Kurosawa devises exhilarating setpieces and captivating images". theguardian.com. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
- Variety. "Variety reviews The Hidden Fortress". variety.com. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
- Rotten Tomatoes. "The Hidden Fortress Review". rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved 7 January 2020.
- "Berlinale: Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- Kamiski, Michael (2007). The Secret History of Star Wars (PDF). p. 48. Retrieved 2011-01-31.
- Star Wars DVD audio commentary
- Kamiski, Michael (2007). The Secret History of Star Wars (PDF). p. 47. Retrieved 2011-01-31.
- Stempel, Tom; Dunne, Philip (2000). Framework: A History of Screenwriting in the American Film (3rd ed.). Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. p. 154 & 204. ISBN 0815606540. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
- "Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age - Review". Archived from the original on August 26, 2017. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
- "Final Fantasy 12 the Zodiac Age review - A chance to revisit a much-overlooked classic". July 23, 2017. Archived from the original on August 26, 2017. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
- Galbraith IV, Stuart (2008). The Toho Studios Story: A History and Complete Filmography. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 1461673747. Retrieved October 29, 2013.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
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