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on 5 June 2013
Some films offer the Wow Factor first time round. Some get into your bloodstream only on repeated viewing. Only the very best films manage to do both, and this is one.

I have loved this film at the first, second, third and fourth times of watching. The story is 'basic' as George Lucas rightly observes - in his short but illuminating interview which is the BFI DVD's sole Extra he makes the clear point that there are only a mere handful of stories to tell - but that's not what's important.

So what makes it great? First and foremost Kurosawa's wide-angle visual imagination is as stunning as Toshiro Mifune's acting. What could be more memorable, for example, as the panoramic shot early on where a huge band of naked, shave-headed slaves being whipped one way, runs into a similar band being whipped the other? The aftermath of war has rarely been portrayed with such astute, black humour. Indeed a kind of grim, death's-head comedy underlies the whole film, allied of course to the fairy-tale delicacy of the story-telling.

And how wonderful to have a historical epic like this - with its samurai duels, adventures and folk festivals - told from the perspective of the little people at the bottom (the two peasants) rather than the princesses and generals. The magic is, that it simultaneously shows how the ivory-tower Princess herself learns about ordinary life, and learns to love it: the whirling dance of the fire-festival, where she dances incognito amongst her people, is perhaps the most moving event of the whole film, as well as its plot pivot.

This is a marvel, beautifully paced with fast action sequences (in John Ford style) alternating with short, beautiful lyrical interludes. It's part Shakespearean romance, part Samurai epic, and part Japanese Ealing Comedy! At all events, once seen it will never be forgotten.
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on 27 July 2000
Hidden Fortress is an outstanding example of Akira Kurosawa's film-making style, clear and simple. Although not as well known as the classics 'Seven Samurai' or 'Yojimbo', this film deserves to be rated among his finest. The narrative is both quick and engaging never allowing your attention to wander. This was Kurosawa's first widescreen film and he seems to revel in the new width of his canvas, without over indulging in the space. The performances are excellent with Toshiro Mifune in one of his finest roles, the two bickering slaves are wonderful. This film was in fact the inspiration for Star Wars and these two slaves are easily recognisable as the droids from George Lucas' Sci-Fi tale. I would recommend this film to any fan of Mifune's or Kurosawa's work as they are at their best in this picture. If you not aware of either of this pairing, do not allow that to put you off. Buy it, sit back and enjoy what is a delightful adventure that will hold you from beginning to end.
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on 30 May 2015
Very enjoyable journey, with engaging characters, humour, stunning scenery, & limited but impressive action sequences. I am a big fan of Kurosawa's samurai masterpieces, but Hidden Fortress feels refreshingly open & free compared to the dynastic & military struggles seen in many of his other works. Hidden Fortress is also interesting as one of the key inspirations for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
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on 21 December 2004
Having watched many of Kurosawa's films, I was interested in Hidden Fortress, because I had heard that George Lucus borrowed its plot for the original Star Wars film.
I bought the film hastily, but have not regretted it at all.
It is a little light-hearted than his other films such as Rashomon and Seven Samurai, but this makes it all the more enjoyable, as does the fact that is hard to see where the film is going to lead you.
The 2.35:1 effect works brill on a widescreen TV, capturing Mount Fuji in all its glory.
As with many Kurosawa films, Toshiro Mifune is a central character, but its the two peasants that steal the show.
Buy it, watch it, and see for yourself what made George Lucus make Star Wars.
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on 5 February 2002
From its opening battle scenes with two lucky buffoons escaping certain death, through the Princess-who-must-be-saved-at-all-costs and the strange other-reality of a tavern on the road to redemption, the entire opus of the original Stars Wars episode is here to be seen in its archaic japanese form. For those of you who think that Seven Samurai ripped off The Magnificent Seven, or Yojimbo, A Fistful of Dollars--here is proof of Jap perfidiousness. For all the rest of us--is there any memorable fantasy film from Hollywood that didn't rip off the Japanese master, Kurosawa? Now you know why Lucas and Spielberg financed Ran and Kagemusha: abject shame.
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on 29 March 2004
One of the funniest films I have ever seen -an absolute delight from start to finish, and which influenced George Lucas' StarWars. The 'heroes' of the film are two peasants, unheroic, greedy and selfish. And yet they have our strong sympathies throughout. They find gold in a stick & from this point onwards they are hooked and come across the Toshiro Mifune character. Thus a brilliant three-act is born that continues throughout the film. Nevertheless the film still belongs to the two peasants, the ultimate bufoons, & one of the greatest double acts in history of comedy. If you enjoy Japanese & slapstick humour, you will absolutely love this film. It also has (in my opinion) one of the greatest fight scenes in cinematic history -which has to be seen to be believed & without the aid of special effects. A definate must see.
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on 21 January 2016
I've reviewed this previously.....I still like the dvd, which arrived early and in perfect condition. The subtitles remain poorly translated. The connection to Star Wars is tenuous, but if the two peasants were translated to robots and the whole set up moved to Scy-Fy, yes I can see the relation.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 January 2014
This 1958 'period' film directed (and co-written) by Akira Kurosawa is something of an archetype of much of the man's film-making, a 'style' probably most famously encapsulated in Seven Samurai, being again a mix of spectacular epic, intimate personal and droll comedy. At nearly two and a half hours duration, the film also faces the challenge of maintaining audience engagement and, whilst (for me) the film's second quarter loses it slightly, there is so much cinematic detail (visual, aural, character) here to wonder at, that The Hidden Fortress just about manages it. A good example of this 'detail' is its opening, in which we stumble across two peasants Minoru Chiaki's Tahei and Kamatari Fujiwara's Mataschichi ('retreating' in the face of a recent battle in which the Akizuki clan have defeated their Yamana rivals), Mataschichi exclaiming, 'We both smell of death'. This beginning, featuring Ichio Yamazaki's evocative black-and-white photography, and Masaru Sato's 'intermittent' soundtrack (which is outstanding throughout), and Tahei bursting into manic laughter is redolent in style of the later work of Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone, and The Hidden Fortress, being a film of duels and search for 'treasure', reinforces this parallel repeatedly.

Kurosawa's tale is a simple one as Tahei and Mataschichi (having escaped imprisonment by the marauding Yamana, via some magnificently spectacular action sequences) happen across, first, signs of 'lost' Akizuki gold and then Toshiro Mifune's implacably authoritative and mysterious stranger, (unbeknown to them, Akizuki General) Rokurota Makabe. Makabe is keeping hidden the defeated Akizuki Princess Yukihime (Misa Uehara), in order to smuggle her across the border into safer territory. The Hidden Fortress' narrative thereafter focuses entirely on this hapless four's (later five as they pick up a 'renegade' Akizuki woman under threat from the Yamana) attempts to reach 'safe haven'. Typical of Kurosawa, his focus is as much on the 'low-life' pair of peasants, with their constant attempts at trickery, escape (with the gold) or (in the searing heat) bickering between themselves, as on the more 'honoured' individuals, thereby in the process turning Tahei and Mataschichi into the film's heroes.

As you might expect, Mifune is again impressive as the devoted Makabe and, from a relatively restrained first hour or so, comes into his own, 'action-wise', via a spectacular horseback chase sequence followed by an exquisite lance duel with Susumu Fujita's rival General Hyoe Tadokoro, which, with its extended duration, high angled shots and repeated facial close-ups, also bears an uncanny resemblance to Leone's duel sequences. Uehara is probably is little too exaggerated to entirely convince as the stubborn princess, whilst Takashi Shimura provides a nice cameo as Akizuki General Izumi Nakakura. It is, though Chiaki and Fujiwara who really steal the acting (and character) honours, whether they be greedily 'returning for more gold', exploring other options (to save their skins), 'We'll turn informers', or gazing (and grinning) with muted lasciviousness at the princess's sleeping body.

For me, Kurosawa's film becomes increasingly engaging as it progesses, with another spectacular scene at a 'fire festival' (which leads to another amusing sequence as Tahei and Mataschichi attempt to salvage 'their' gold). And although the film's final narrative twist does stretch credibility a little, Kurosawa returns (full circle) to the film's idiosyncratic pairing to provide a nicely poignant conclusion.
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Great film great sword play brilliant story and great scenery a very good film highly recommended.
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on 26 January 2013
A lot of talk has been about how George Lucas used the plot for this film in his first Star Wars film. The only thing I could really find in common was the bickering relationship between the two peasants from whose point of view the story is told and the two bickering droids in Star Wars.

Kurosawa masterfully tells the story of civil war in Japan with Toshiro Mifune as the heroic soldier who travels with the princess through enemy territory toward home. On the way, the princess is exposed to layers of society she would normally be protected from and so learns to be more compassionate about the people she is to rule.

A beautiful film.
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