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Throne of Blood (1957)
"Kumonosu-jô" (original title)

 -  Action | Drama  -  22 November 1961 (USA)
8.2
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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 21,642 users  
Reviews: 96 user | 102 critic

A war-hardened general, egged on by his ambitious wife, works to fulfill a prophecy that he would become lord of Spider's Web Castle.

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(screenplay), (screenplay), 3 more credits »
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Title: Throne of Blood (1957)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Isuzu Yamada ...
...
Akira Kubo ...
Hiroshi Tachikawa ...
Kunimaru Tsuzuki (as Yôichi Tachikawa)
Minoru Chiaki ...
Takamaru Sasaki ...
Kuniharu Tsuzuki
Gen Shimizu
Kokuten Kôdô ...
Military Commander
Kichijirô Ueda ...
Washizu's workman
Eiko Miyoshi ...
Old Woman at castle
Chieko Naniwa ...
Nakajirô Tomita ...
Second Military Commander
Yû Fujiki ...
Washizu samurai
Sachio Sakai ...
Washizu samurai
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Storyline

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 <michael@everyman.demon.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Action | Drama

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

22 November 1961 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Throne of Blood  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)| (Perspecta Sound encoding)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Takeshi Katô (Guard killed by Washizu) was worried about the thrust of Toshirô Mifune's sword, so he placed a block of wood in his arm pit. Unfortunately Mifune's thrust split the block and wounded Katô. He is alive in 2014 and still carries a scar. See more »

Goofs

When the witch runs in the forest she can briefly be seen wearing sneakers. See more »

Quotes

Old Ghost Woman: [singing] ambition is false fame and will fall, death will reign, man falls in vain
See more »

Connections

Version of Macbeth (1909) See more »

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User Reviews

"Every Samurai Longs To Be Master Of A Castle"
5 August 2000 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

Washizu is a brave samurai who helps his lord to fight off a violent rebellion. Washizu and his friend Miki are riding through Cobweb Forest when a spirit appears to them and makes predictions which fire their ambitions. When Washizu explains this vision to his wife Asaji, she urges him to murder his lord and rule in his stead. Thus the tragedy begins.

Kurosawa's interpretation of Macbeth is visually fascinating. Swirling mist, colossal trees dripping with rain, rich black volcanic soil and bulky fortress architecture provide the imposing, dread-laden backdrop against which the humans move in superbly stylized patterns. The director chose to shoot the action on Mount Fuji precisely because of the volcanic soil - and even had truckloads brought to the studio for pickup shots.

Westerners unfamiliar with Noh are missing a huge part of the film's meaning. This thousand-year-old theatrical tradition corresponds broadly to our Elizabethan Tragedy, and Kurosawa shows how the two cultural strains, eastern and western, interlock and interact. The one illumines the other.

The Noh stage must have on it three pine branches and a symbolic Shinto temple-arch. In the film, shots are carefully composed to include tangles of branches in the foreground, and the vast entrance gate of Washizu's fortress serves for the temple arch. And yet Kurosawa is not including these details redundantly, for mere form's sake - the ubiquitous branches, framing the human action, remind us all the time of the forest nemesis awaiting Washizu. The arch is Washizu's interface with the world - open in the early stages, but gradually less so as the protagonist retreats into his own diseased inner self.

A Noh play features a "doer" (Shite) and a "companion" (Waku) who plays a subordinate role. Washizu and Asaji are the Shite and Waku respectively. Elements in the Noh include a battle-drama (we get one here) and a so-called "wig drama", in which a female character dominates the action. This is the central portion of the film, in the quiet of the fortress quarters, when Asaji ruthlessly manipulates her husband's ambition. Every Noh play has a ghost which appears to the Shite, and the spirit in the forest fulfils that function. Noh plays are never original works, in that (by a venerable convention) they are re-workings of ancient legends. Kurosawa follows tradition by quarrying his tale from Shakespeare's play.

There is no western term to describe the stylized striking of poses so important in Noh. Our word "dance" is a crude word which approximates to, but does not convey, the grace of the Japanese art-form. Asaji, alone with the blood-stain, gives us a glimpse of this delightful ritual.

Finally, Noh contains an aural richness almost totally absent from western tragedy - the complex rhythms of stamping and percussion which accompany the spoken word. In the film, the rhythmic patterns of horses' hooves on soil, and Washizu's bare feet on the boards of the banquet hall, are meant to reinforce the mood as they creep into our emotions by subliminal insistence.

Isuzu Yamada is terrific as Asaji. Her stillness absolutely oozes determination, contrasting strongly with her husband's hollow bluster.

It seems that Kurosawa cherished the concept of a Noh Macbeth for some years before committing it to celluloid. Apparently the project had to be scrapped in 1952 because Welles' Macbeth was nearing completion, and Kurosawa did not want the two films to suffer by being endlessly compared. This version, then, had to wait until 1957 to be realised.

The director is not afraid to add his own flourishes to the well-known story. We hear of the notorious traitor Fujimaki who disembowelled himself in a room of the fortress. The exact spot is now known as the Forbidden Room, a place of evil omen with its indelible bloodstain on the floor. It is a symbol which encapsulates the spirit of the film, interweaving the related themes of treachery, blood and guilt. In a brilliant transition, we are taken to a change of scene by the ripping down of a banner by galloping horsemen. Washizu at the pinnacle of his arrogance is filmed from below with severe foreshortening, conveying his vainglory more effectively than words ever could. The death scene, with its railing, hysterical protagonist and relentless volleys of arrows (their grouped shafts recalling the fateful forest) has enormous power and lives long in the viewer's memory.


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