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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When Destiny is as Simple as the Toss of a Stick
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...
Published on 4 Aug 2005 by J. H. Sweet

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45 of 50 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece - poorly transfered
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)...
Published on 16 Nov 2000


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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When Destiny is as Simple as the Toss of a Stick, 4 Aug 2005
By 
J. H. Sweet - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Yojimbo [1961] [DVD] (DVD)
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.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New print is very enjoyable, 13 May 2004
By 
Piotr Sawicki (Poland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Yojimbo [1961] [DVD] (DVD)
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.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hugely influential classic, 18 Jan 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Yojimbo [1961] [DVD] (DVD)
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'
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars outstanding adventure film, 20 July 2000
By A Customer
This is one of the great all time films, in fact to keep me riveted for over two hours in grainy, subtitled, black and white it has to be. The superior inspiration for Sergio Leone's 'For a Fistful of Dollars', which is a classic in its own right. The acting is outstanding with Toshiro Mifune in the lead roll and a well organised supporting cast and the strength of the main character puts Leone's copy to shame. The film keeps moving along at a good pace and there are very few lulls in which you can get distracted. All in all a great film.
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45 of 50 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece - poorly transfered, 16 Nov 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Yojimbo [1961] [DVD] (DVD)
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.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stupid people are dangerous, 15 Mar 2006
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Sanjuro [1962] [DVD] (DVD)
The sequel to Akira Kurosawa's classic "Yojimbo" is very different in tone -- rather than a straightforward grizzled-anti-hero-cleans-up-the-town tale, it's a comic story about the grizzled hero getting stuck on a ship of fools. It's a a solid action/drama flick with plenty of comedy sprinkled in -- a brilliant parody of the sort of films that Kurosawa was famed for.

A gang of idealistic young nobles are gathered in a decaying house, talking about how they are trying to battle local corruption. Suddenly a scruffy warrior (Toshirô Mifune) who calls himself Sanjûrô Tsubaki, appears and tells them who is lying and who isn't -- and that after confiding in the treacherous superintendant, they're being set up for an ambush.

After he saves their butts and drags the none-too-bright young men into hiding, he begins concocting a plan to save one young man's uncle, who is being held as a political hostage. After rescuing the lord's wife and daughter, Sanjuro and his band of fools continue with their plots to save him from the evil superintendant -- and he teaches his bumbling co-conspirators that exalted social position isn't what keeps you alive...

Kurosawa isn't known for having made goofball comedies, and as comedies go, this is a pretty subtle one. But there's a definite comic flair to this film, from the pampered prisoner offering nuggets of wisdom to the silent "happy dance" that all the young noblemen do. At the same time, there's a poignant note to Sanjuro's regrets about the men he's killed -- including men much like himself.

Even steeped in comedy, Kurosawa's creativity is still intact -- to give the feel that people are running, he shows short, rapid shots of several young men running down different streets. There are a few flaws (a lot of people get cut down without a speck of blood) but only a really determined nitpicker would let it bug them. And the finale is a shatteringly brutal scene, reminiscent of a western shoot-out, where you almost expect Sanjuro to put on a white cowboy hat and spit.

Mifune is wonderful as the grubby, grumpy samurai who is like an "unsheathed blade," and who has more brains than his little gang. He gives the character a lazy, languid air, sort of like an unexploded land mine. His followers are well-acted, though they don't have much individual personality. And small supporting roles -- like the kindly, prim noblewoman and the friendly prisoner in his little closet -- are very well-drawn.

Lurking under the comic flourishes is an intelligent film with likable characters, solid writing, and plenty of action. "Sanjuro" is as good as the film before it, though in a slightly different way.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars simply , one of the greatest action films ever made, 5 Nov 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Yojimbo [1961] [DVD] (DVD)
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
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kurosawa does it again, 26 Sep 2003
This review is from: Yojimbo [1961] [DVD] (DVD)
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars as being Japanese, I recommend this the most !, 29 Nov 2009
This review is from: Sanjuro [1962] [DVD] (DVD)
I am happy to know there are many British people who appreciate Kurosawa. I have seen many of his movies, and this is my most favorite. This is very funny high level entertainment, and also contain some messages like `really good sword should be in the case`- do not show your strength or smartness too easily. Also, for Japanese funs, it is so much fun to see many famous actors when they were very young. Many of those young actors became famous later and we have seen them on TV series, films, TV commercials....I feel like buying this DVD to enjoy with my husband in UK and keep it as a life long treasure.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars magnificent and atmospheric Kirosawa at his BEST, 24 Mar 2007
By 
Mr. P. J. R. LEWIS (Llandudno N Wales) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Yojimbo [1961] [DVD] (DVD)
Its no wonder that Sergio Leone used every last detail of Yojimbo to write A Fist Full of Dollars this film is bordering on perfection.

Toshiro Mifune tosses a stick in the air to see in which way to travel and the rest is straight out of legend.

The film has its comic moments,all the baddies look like they have come from a horror movie set,one in particular looks like Lurch from the Adams family but the entire plot down to the finest detail was used by Leone for his first Dollar film.

Mifune sucks on a straw whilst Clint sucks on a cheroot,even Wanderdios the crazy bell ringer is there and the undertaker.

Yojimbo is the film A Fist Full of Dollars should have been.Leones first outing lacks the style and cinematography of the final two but Yojimbo in Japanese ranks alongside Throne of Blood as one of the greatest Japanese films of all time.The atmosphere and comic dialogue is one of a master director at work and the film sets and special effects are trully excellent.

If there is only one Kirosawa film you should see then Yojimbo is it because the atmosphere and acting especially by Mifune are of the highest standard.
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Criterion Collection: Yojimbo [DVD] [1961] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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