6.8/10
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The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail (1945)

Tora no o wo fumu otokotachi (original title)
A Japanese general and his men disguise themselves as monks in order to pass an enemy border patrol.

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Cast

Cast overview:
Denjirô Ôkôchi ...
Susumu Fujita ...
Ken'ichi Enomoto ...
...
...
Akitake Kôno ...
Ise
Yoshio Kosugi ...
Hanshirô Iwai ...
Yoshitsune (as Shubo Nishina)
Dekao Yokoo ...
Hidachibo
Yasuo Hisamatsu ...
Kajiwara's Messenger
Sôji Kiyokawa ...
Togashi's Messenger
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Storyline

In 1185, the Heike family fights against the Minamoto family. After a bloody naval battle in the Pacific Ocean, Yoshitsune Minamoto defeats the enemy and the survivals commit suicide. When the triumphant Yoshitsune arrives in Kyoto, his brother, the Shogun Yoritomo, is lured and orders his men to arrest Yoshitsune. However, Yoshitsune escapes with six loyal samurais led by Benkei and they head to the country of his only friend Idehira Fukiwara. Nearby the border, after crossing the forest disguised as monks, their smiley conveyor Suruga discloses that they are Yoshitsune and the six samurais and advises that the fearful Kagiwara and his soldiers are waiting for them in the border to arrest them. Yoshitsune disguises as a carrier and Benkei has to convince Kagiwara that they are six monks traveling to collect donation to build a large temple in Kyoto. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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28 February 1960 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail  »

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1.37 : 1
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The set for the film was visited by many American soldiers, including famous American director John Ford, who was now a Navy lieutenant commander. See more »

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Featured in Great Performances: Kurosawa (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

 
"Don't try to be the hero; this equals going to Hell"
13 September 2008 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

Perhaps it was too ambitious of me to sample one of Akira Kurosawa's earliest pictures, considering my extremely limited experience with his work {this would make only my fourth viewing from the director}. Often, delving into a well-known filmmaker's more obscure works is a job primarily for the aficionados and the completists, as they possess the knowledge to properly appreciate each film's importance in the development of the director's skills as an artist. Then again, perhaps being in the dark about Kurosawa's favourite themes and techniques gives me an opportunity to judge the film purely on its own individual merits, as though I'd been watching back in 1945. If this is the case, then I'm afraid that my assessment isn't entirely positive. 'Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail (1945)' shows plenty of promise on occasion, but that it was filmed on a shoestring budget is instantly recognisable, and every technique in Kurosawa's film-making book seems so utterly workmanlike and uninspired that you can see where this film is going from the outset.

The film was adapted from an 1840 play, "Kanjinchō," by Gohei Namiki, which was itself based on the Noh play "Ataka," from an unknown playwright. Indeed, the film itself feels exactly like a play, unfolding almost entirely in four separate locations, decorated like simple stage sets, with actors delivering their lines as Kurosawa's camera idly sits around and watches. As opposed to films like Sidney Lumet's '12 Angry Men (1957),' which undoubtedly derived strength from their likeness to theatre, 'Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail' simply appears static, such that the narrative feels hardly to be moving along at all. This makes the brief 60 minute running-time seem much longer, and yet, paradoxically, the ill-developed story also feels truncated and incomplete. But there are strengths, of course: Kurosawa is able to develop some solid suspense in the battle-of-wills between Benkei (Denjirô Ôkôchi) and Togashi (Susumu Fujita), commander of the border guards. Takeo Ito also photographs some nice scenery, particularly the final shot of the Sun over the Japanese wilderness.

At least as far as the film's performances are concerned, Kurosawa's unevenness somehow works as a positive. Whereas every other character is relatively somber, excepting the occasional eruption of jolly laughter, the rubber-faced Porter (Kenichi Enomoto) positively exudes an extraordinary nervous energy. His hilariously-annoying cackle, exaggerated facial expressions and wide-eyed double-takes are at odds with everything else in the tone of Kurosawa's film, and yet his presence is indispensable. Denjirô Ôkôchi displays plenty of charisma as the apparent leader of the "monks," and, thankfully, the English subtitles meant that I didn't have to decipher his consistently-mumbled lines. At first, I found Kurosawa's choice of music – a selection of surprisingly merry and adventurous ballads – to be intrusive and out-of-place, but then I recognised their derivation from Western cinema, particularly the films of John Ford {whom Kurosawa ardently admired}, and I was better able to appreciate the tone that was being attempted. 'Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail' is certainly the weakest of the director's films I've seen to date, but might nonetheless warrant a rewatch somewhere down the track, when I'll know better.


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