on 13 May 2004
When I read some reviews below I was thinking long time befor I decided to buy this DVD but finally I did. BFI has relased new print of 'Yojimbo' couple months ago and its really great edition, transfered in widescreen with digitaly remastered and clear picture. I've bought and I'm very proud of it in my collection.
The film is one of the Kurosawa's finest masterieces beside 'Rashomon' or 'The Seven Samurai' or 'Red Beard', and perfomance of Toshiro Mifune is perhaps best in his excellent career. Highly recommend.
on 4 August 2005
The beginning of this tale, when our hero tosses a stick into the air to see which way it lands to choose his path, is just one of the many elements which makes this such an amazing story and one my favorites of Kurosawa's many masterpieces. What the bodyguard chooses to do first with his newfound independence is quite surprising and ambitious, like piecing together an amazingly complex jigsaw puzzle made of human nature, or staging a performance of an epic masterpiece with no previous management, production, or directing skills. But I guess he may as well tackle a mountain, since there is not much use starting small with his skills and personality. As he orchestrates the deception, our hero is much like a master puppeteer with exquisite timing and talent to incite the mayhem to achieve his goal.
While the basic theme of this story is not unique - the result of greed, manipulation of others, and the changing of the world (tradition vs. progression) - many factors add an interesting and unusual charm to this film. There are plots within plots, surprising deception, perfectly paced mounting tension, unpredictable plot twists, stories within stories, distinctive and amusing characters (the big guy with his huge mallet is a lot of fun), the seemingly never-ending face offs, backstabbing, character flaws; and our hero continually placed in the perfect position to observe, listen, and evaluate. Also, the bodyguard's impeccable timing in manipulation of both sides is nice, fulfilling our expectations and keeping the story moving along. What if bodyguards were really like this? (mischievous, brilliant, manipulative) The famous people of the world would be in terrible trouble.
The humor in this story is wonderful, even the macabre humor of the dog carrying the human hand in its mouth while trotting along to fairly spunky music. I also love the funnier fight sequences, which seem to come right out of clown school and resemble football skirmishes instead of battles. In several of the scenes, it appears that the swordsmen are miming roasting marshmallows instead of fighting with their weapons. Nice addition of lightness to a serious tale. Our hero sticking around after he has discontinued his services purely for "the entertainment" also accentuates the humor aspect of this movie.
The mix of character types is also interesting including a dominatrix, a prodigal son, a damsel in distress, several amusing drunks, and many bumbling idiots. The ease in which our hero is able to manipulate these human beings is extremely unbelievable; however, many aspects of this film fall into that category and it is still a wonderful story. This is one of those rare instances in which certain trite, far-fetched, and predictable elements are actually good and serve to enhance the story.
The nature symbolism is a nice addition to this film including the cleansing rain allowing us to shift gears from Act I to Act II, and the dust storm, which precedes the more unpredictable part of the story serving to unsettle and disorient us.
Finally, the shadowy, light dancing, night fires scene is amazing, intensifying the town's debauchery and our hero finally stepping up to get involved in the action before ultimately getting caught in his own web. This scene is perfect, like an expertly lighted stage drawing us into Act III.
I have only described a few of the wonderful features of this film. There are many others, which warrant several viewings to truly appreciate the complexities of this story. For those who enjoy this movie, I also recommend the sequel, Sanjuro, which is equally well done.
J.H. Sweet, author of The Fairy Chronicles, and Kurosawa fan.
on 5 November 2000
This samurai classic will be recognisible to fans of FISTFULL OF DOLLARS and more recently LAST MAN STANDING,but the mood and humor of the original are sadly lacking in its later incarnations. Mifune is magnificent as the "samurai with no name",playing off the warring factions of the town against each other,each competing for his sevices. The film spawned an equally excellent sequel SANJURO(1962) Five stars all round
on 16 November 2000
Undoubtably one of cinema's greatest works and the inspiration not just for Leone's 'A Fistful of Dollars' but a whole host of action films in years to come, none of which came close to topping this. A shame, then, that the film has been so poorly transfered to DVD - not only is it non-anamorphic (forgiveable, perhaps), but the picture is muddy and soft (unforgiveable) and, frankly, inferior to both of the VHS copies I already own. The film deserves so much better. On the plus side, the commentary track by Philip Kemp is consistently informative, and gets the disk 2 stars, but only just.
on 26 September 2003
Akira Kurosawa is easily one of the greatest storytellers of the twentieth century. His influence can be spotted in dozens of other films, often his scripts were taken lock, stock and barrel into another genre. This particular film, "The Bodyguard", was remade into a film that made Clint Eastwood a star - A Fistful of Dollars. But to be honest, I think Kurosawa's film was better, and here's why.
Unlike his maniacal role in Seven Samurai, in this film Toshiro Mifune's character is calm, wry, cynical and scheming. As a solitary Samurai swordsman wandering into a village he manages to manipulate both groups of criminals against each other while taking money (and sometimes returning it) from each in turn. But in the end, it's a matter of sword against .44, old against new. Sergio Leone never managed to copy that element into his remake of a few years later.
But if Kurosawa had any skill as good as his cinematography, it was his casting. The characters in his films aren't just cardboard cut-outs like many of those we see these days; they had pathos and gravitas where necessary, and despite being set in what to most westerners is an alien culture, you can see that there's always a human element to any character, something you can identify with. The town guard is an absolute treasure, as is the sceming boss's wife (ie the one who really had the brains), and Ushi-Tora's eager but dim brother. The innkeeper gets more and more annoyed and rattled as Sanjuro (Mifune) plans his next move to create havoc between the two factions. And watching them face off against each other after the fencing teacher has run for it and Sanjuro hands his money back and sits off to one side to watch is just priceless.
As much a comedy of errors as an action film, I picked this up as soon as I heard the BFI was going to release it, and for anybody who likes foreign films or just likes good films in general, I would advise you to get a copy. And also to watch out for the sequel to this film, "Sanjuro", which is to be released on DVD later in 2003. Don't miss it.
on 18 January 2001
A drifter (Toshiro Mifune) walks into a small town run by two gangster involved in sordid gambling and prostitution. The loner decides enough is enough and takes the law into his own hands. Displaying his skill and quick-timing, with the samurai sword, both members in each gang fear him, but also, both leaders need him. Hence begins the stranger's complex plan, in which he sets the rival factions against each other. Akiro Kurosawa's classic, intelligently staged, Japanese western is memorable and is also majestic viewing. Full of action, drama and dark humour, they are all blended in with stunning results. Yes, like Seven Samurai, it is Kurosawa's celebration, to the westerns of America, and yes, like Seven Samurai was later remade as the Magnificent Seven, Yojimbo was honourably remade by Sergio Leone as 'A Fistful of Dollers', then by Walter Hill as 'Last man standing'
on 7 December 2003
Although it lacks the scope of THE SEVEN SAMURAI, THRONE OF BLOOD, and other more widely known films by the celebrated Akira Kurosawa, the 1961 YOJIMBO (also known as BODYGUARD) is one of the most important films of the second half of the 20th Century--and a film that was deeply influenced by American film. Even so, YOJIMBO stands on its own merits: it's a magnificent piece of cinema that will fascinate even those who normally turn up their noses at "movies with subtitles."
In theory, the film is based on the 1929 Dashiell Hammett novel RED HARVEST--but transports the basic story to a period in Japan when the Samurai class has fallen on hard times and must seek employment as common body guards. Sanjuro Kuwabatake (brilliantly played by Toshiro Mifune, who appeared in several Kurosawa films) is such a one, a scruffy looking and aging warrior who finds himself caught between warring factions of a Japanese village and responds by playing the two against each other.
One of the film's greatest assets is its visual style. Kurosawa is very clearly influenced by the look of the American western here, and most particularly so, in my opinion, by HIGH NOON. Consequently, YOJIMBO leaps the cultural divide with considerable ease--but Kurosawa uses the images of empty streets and the lone warrior to considerably different effect, presenting him as a dangerous figure who emerges from the dust and the wind to rip wide his foes. But the film does not rely on visual style alone: there is plenty of hard substance here, too. The plot is tightly wound, action-intensive, and laced with a dry and very black humor, and the cast is superlative throughout.
As it borrowed from the American movie western, so did it influence American film in return, most obviously in the form of the popular Clint Eastwood "spaghetti westerns" of the 1970s--where it was essentially remade as A FIST FULL OF DOLLARS. But frankly Clint Eastwood never had it so good: with Kurosawa at the helm and Mifune as the lead, Eastwood's "lone stranger" feels mighty tame in comparison.
The Criterion DVD offers the film in original widescreen and in the best possible condition short of a full digital restoration. As noted elsewhere, there are occasional blips and lines--but honestly the film is so driving that you will barely notice them. The subtitles also seem to be a better translation than I've seen in any other version. YOJIMBO was my introduction to Japanese cinema. I urge you to let it be yours as well.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
These 1961 and 1962 Akira Kurosawa Samurai films are presently only available on ‘BLU RAY’ in the States - “Yojimbo” on a single BLU RAY issue - and a further double that combines both movies. But therein lies a problem for UK and European buyers with either release…
Both editions of the US BLU RAY are REGION-A LOCKED - so it WILL NOT PLAY on most UK BLU RAY players unless they're chipped to play 'all' regions (which the vast majority aren't). Don’t confuse BLU RAY players that have multi-region capability on the 'DVD' front – that won’t help.
Until such time as someone on this side of the pond like say the BFI gives these Black and White gems a REGION B release – check your BLU RAY player has the capacity to play REGION A – before you buy the pricey Criterion issues…
on 4 June 2007
I never tire of watching this film. Mifune is here at his best, as the rogue ronin who manages to manipulate effectively and eventually eliminate two different gangs of criminals in a small Japanese village in order to liberate the subdued villagers. Mifune's Yojimbo is a cynical, misanthropic wandering samurai who helps out the villagers for no apparent reason.
It is easy to see how Clint Eastwood modeled some of his gunslinging cowboys on Mifune's incredible rendition.
Once again a great film from akira kurosawa these films have real emotion toshiro mifune is great in this film as he is in most of the films he has done with akira kurosawa. The scenery is amazing the story very strong the different characters are brilliant these films only rely on the actors wich is what I find great it makes it more believable there are no special effects just pure entertainment highly recommended.