In Medieval Japan, an elderly warlord retires, handing over his empire to his three sons. However, he vastly underestimates how the new-found power will corrupt them and cause them to turn on each other...and him.
The story follows two greedy peasants in feudal Japan, Tahei and Matashichi, who are returning home from a failed attempt to profit from a war between neighboring clans. En Route they encounter the remnants of the defeated tribe that consists, most notably, of a famous General and a Princess who are hiding out in a fortress in the mountains. General Rokurota Makabe and Princess Yuki need to escape into allied territory with their large supply of gold so that they can rebuild their shattered clan. To do this the Peasants are tricked into helping them, with the promise that they will receive a large share of the gold when the destination is reached. Along the way, the General's prowess is put to the test as he must guide the 4, and later 5 with the inclusion of a freed slave, through close encounters with the pursuing enemy, and out of difficult situations the bumbling peasants manage to get them into. Written by
In an interview for the Criterion collection DVD, George Lucas stated that while this film is a story about a princess and her protectors that this was not the primary element that he employed in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). He stated that he was more concerned with the way that Hidden Fortress is told through the eyes of two lesser characters. In Hidden Fortress it is the two thieves; in Star Wars it is C3PO and R2D2. In both films the comical interplay between the two characters is a major theme. See more »
In the opening sequence the two villagers see a soldier killed by cavalry. Within moments the soldier is stiffened with a hand in the air, despite the fact that it takes hours for rigor mortis to set in. See more »
Get away from me! You stink of dead bodies!
Give it up. We both stink of dead bodies. And it's all your fault!
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I think there are three great thresholds or paradigm shifts in film that have contributed much excitement to film fans, since the great masters have had to cope with the changes and try them out. The first was the advent of sound, the second the introduction of a wider aspect ratio, and the third the use of colour.
All of the Kurosawas I've seen are beautiful poems. That this is Kurosawa's first film in Tohoscope, that is, in a wider aspect ratio than 4:3, is in itself an event. It would be 1970 when he would direct his first colour feature, although there's that effective use of colour in "High and Low" (1963).
He is able to utilize space so well that both are thoroughly magical, and here the complete impotence of our two antiheroes is reflected in the large emptiness surrounding them, that is, loneliness in vastness, as used by Antonioni to great effect in a few year's time.
I like his use of sand (and rock and boulders) in the film, especially since I'm also a big fan of Teshigahara and Imamura. They seem to have a life of their own, the rocks and boulders.
And his portrayal of the violence of the mob towards the beginning of the film; the most exhilarating sequence involving stairs, far outdoing the Odessa steps as the ultimate example of not only violence and aggression but appropriation of class dynamics (it's the mutiny here that falls down from above). And the way he shoots the crowded streets and interiors, something beautiful in itself and worth looking for. And Mifune on horseback, chasing the two Yamana men, both his hands on his sword; an iconic moment that might be equally only by Nakadai's similar moment, with his bow and arrow, in "Ran" (1985). And the rain!
And, and, and...
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