An elder ronin samurai arrives at a feudal lord's home and requests an honorable place to commit suicide. But when the ronin inquires about a younger samurai who arrived before him things take an unexpected turn.
The mother of a feudal lord's only heir is kidnapped away from her husband by the lord. The husband and his samurai father must decide whether to accept the unjust decision, or risk death to get her back.
Apu is a jobless ex-student dreaming vaguely of a future as a writer. An old college friend talks him into a visit up-country to a village wedding. This changes his life, for when the ... See full summary »
A troupe of travelling players arrive at a small seaport in the south of Japan. Komajuro Arashi, the aging master of the troupe, goes to visit his old flame Oyoshi and their son Kiyoshi, ... See full summary »
A young woman, Karin, has recently returned to the family island after spending some time in a mental hospital. On the island with her is her lonely brother and kind, but increasingly ... See full summary »
Max von Sydow
A transposition of Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' to medieval Japan. After a great military victory, Lords Washizu and Miki are lost in the dense Cobweb Forest, where they meet a mysterious old woman who predicts great things for Washizu and even greater things for Miki's descendants. Once out of the forest, Washizu and Miki are immediately promoted by the Emperor. Washizu, encouraged by his ambitious wife, plots to make even more of the prophecy come true, even if it means killing the Emperor... Written by
Michael Brooke <email@example.com>
In Japan, the title of "Throne of Blood" is "Kumonosu-ju" which translates into "Castle of the Spider's Web." See more »
After Mifune and his friend come to the forest clearing where the spirit dwells, as they get down from their horses, all of Mifune's arrows fall out of his quiver. In the next shot however, the quiver is full of arrows again. See more »
A great deal has been made of the fact that THRONE OF BLOOD (also known as SPIDER'S WEB CASTLE) is drawn from one of Shakespeare's most celebrated plays. This is both a blessing and a curse, for while it gives western audiences a point of reference, it also invites all sorts of comparisons that viewers familiar with the Shakespeare play feel honor-bound to make--and that can get in the way of seeing the film as it is rather than what we expect it to be. And that would be a great pity, because what it is in and of itself is quite fine indeed.
The cast is a very strong ensemble, with frequent Kurosawa star Torshiro Mifune leading the film with a remarkably fine performance as the ambitious warrior Taketori Washizu. To my mind, however, the most memorable performance is offered by Isuzu Yamada as Lady Washizu--who plays the role with a demonic stillness that cracks into physical action only when she is completely sure of herself or in utter desperation. It is one of the most disturbing characterizations I have ever encountered.
As usual in any Kurosawa film, the imagery involved is extremely powerful, and the moody tone of the film quickly draws viewers in--and once ensnared there is no escape; the film holds your attention with considerable ease throughout. Even so, I would not recommend THRONE OF BLOOD to western audiences who have never seen a Kurosawa film, for it is so completely Japanese in aesthetic that some may find it hard to grasp. It is best seen after you are already familiar with both Kurosawa's work and Japanese cinema in general.
The film is available via Criterion DVD, which is quite good, with a nicely restored transfer and bonus features that include the original trailer, a choice of subtitle translations (I prefer the Hoagland translation), and a somewhat awkward but ultimately rewarding commentary track by Michael Jeck. If you're a Kurosawa fan and you've never seen THRONE OF BLOOD, this is your opportunity; if you're looking to replace an existing video with a DVD, this one is likely as good as it gets. Strongly recommended.
Gary F. Taylor aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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