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Classic Kurosawa [1949] [DVD]

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Box set containing five films from acclaimed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. In 'Throne of Blood' (1957) a samurai warrior (Toshiro Mifune) is urged to murder his lord (Takashi Shimura) and his best friend (Minoru Chiaki) by a forest spirit and an ambitious wife (Isuzu Yamada). 'Red Beard' (1965) was the final collaboration between Kurosawa and Mifune. It is set in a rural hospital at the end of the Tokugawa period in the 1860s - a time when Japan was being opened to western influences. Domineering Dr Niide (Mifune), known as 'Red Beard', is responsible for training new doctors, among them the lazy and socially ambitious Yasumoto (Yuzo Kayama). However, through a series of lessons in human sufferings, Yasumoto is eventually transformed into a caring doctor. In 'Stray Dog' (1949), when young detective Murakami (Mifune) has his gun stolen, his desperate wish to retrieve it sends him deep into Tokyo's criminal underworld. Meanwhile the gun is passed from the pickpocket who stole it to a young gangster and is then used in the killing of an innocent woman. Murakami's guilt and remorse over this death leads him to ask senior detective Sato (Shimura) for help, and together the two of them do everything they can to find the gun before the killer strikes again. 'Ikiru' (1952) is a classic humanist tale of a dying man's discovery of a zest for life and desire to do some good after thirty years of dedicated work for the civil service. Takashi Shimura plays the civil servant Watanabe, Chief of the Citizen's Section of the Town Hall, who discovers he has only six months to live. He uses his influence to cut through bureaucratic red tape and give the go-ahead to the construction of a children's park in a poor area. Finally, in 'I Live in Fear' (1955), at the height of the Cold War, ageing Japanese foundry owner Kiichi Nakajima (Mifune) decides that he and his entire family must emigrate to Brazil in order to find safety from potential nuclear attack. The rest of the family, unwilling to sell up and move, attempt to have Kiichi declared mentally incompetent.

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