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"Every Samurai Longs To Be Master Of A Castle"
stryker-55 August 2000
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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Best Shakespeare on Film
Prof_Lostiswitz22 January 2004
As most people know, this is Shakespeare's Macbeth rendered by Kurosawa into Noh format for cinema. Not for nothing is Akira Kurosawa regarded as Japan's greatest director, for this is the best cinematic version of any Shakespeare play (and also one of Kurosawa's best films). Kurosawa had the advantage of working in a different language (Japanese), so he didn't have to agonize over the usual dilemma - whether to use Shakespeare's rotund oratory and blank verse (which is glorious, but goes badly on screen). Kurosawa essentially translates Shakespeare's poetry into visual images, while keeping dialogue to a minimum. He also had the good fortune of accessing two great cultures - European literature and Japanese visual art (he was originally a painter before entering cinema as a set-designer). There are many painterly images reminiscent of Ukiyo-e (e.g. Washizu full of arrows).

The Noh style of acting (like Kabuki, but more refined) seems stilted and exaggerated for the first few minutes; then you realize that is ideally suited to a story like this - more natural acting would seem out of place, as other Macbeth-movies go to prove.

The Japanese title of this film translates as "Cobweb Castle" (or Spider City) and this really should have been the title in English. The film is full of the notion of spiders spinning webs (and plots) in secret. It is worth noting that the witch (or "monster") is first seen with a ghostly spinning-wheel. This symbolizes the thread of fate, but also reflects the cobweb theme.

The story is sometimes slow-moving, but you have to realize that this is a story of insidious slow rot (hence the references to spiders and cobwebs). The decay is punctured by occasional bursts of violent action, as befits the story. The black-and-white picture adds to the creepiness, and the atmosphere is so thick that the movie works more effectively than "Ran" (Kurosawa's more polished Shakespeare-adaptation).

Macbeth is the great-granddaddy of the entire horror genre, and Kurosawa is a worthy descendant.
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A Kurosawa Classic
gftbiloxi1 April 2005
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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Another haunting movie masterpiece from Kurosawa.
Infofreak8 July 2003
In my opinion 'Throne Of Blood' is almost as brilliant as Kurosawa's more celebrated 'Rashomon'. It's almost impossible to fault this brilliant adaptation of Shakespeare's 'Macbeth'. It's the most compelling version of the story I have seen, even better than Polanski's outstanding film of the early 1970s, which until seeing 'Throne Of Blood' was my favourite. Kurosawa is without doubt one of the greatest film makers of all time, and watching this movie is experiencing a master at work. Toshiro Mifune gives another brilliant performance and Isuzu Yamada, who plays his wife (the equivalent of the Lady Macbeth character) is absolutely chilling. The stylized acting combined with the superb cinematography gives this movie a frightening nightmarish feel, yet the characters are always human. This makes it a very powerful and haunting movie. I don't seem to see 'Throne Of Blood' mentioned a lot as one of Kurosawa's best, but I was incredibly impressed by it, and it comes with my highest recommendation. This is a brilliant movie and to call it a masterpiece is no exaggeration.
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more should watch this
malkane31616 May 2004
As much as I praise Mifune, it may well be Yamada who stands out in Kurosawa's version of Macbeth. Her Lady Macbeth is one of the most terrifying things I have ever seen, a forerunner to Sadako. Dressed in Noh make-up, slow moving like the world's most effective predator, unblinking, she is, without a doubt, the true lady Macbeth. She turns Mifune towards murder, and, although she is seen going mad at the end, we do not see her die. The tragedy of the tale is heightened by the fact that we are told at the start what will happen. Every shot Kurosawa composes is memorable. The arrow through the neck, the thread spinning witch in the forest, Mifune turning his back on his master, all are haunting and unforgettable. This film cannot be praised enough, and although it is not a horror movie, it puts all modern horror movies to shame with its deadly atmosphere. Great Quotes: Asaji. ‘Every samurai longs to be the master of a castle'. 10 out of ten.
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Excellent Combination of Shakespeare & Kurosawa
Snow Leopard25 April 2002
Directors don't come much better than Kurosawa, writers don't come much better than Shakespeare, and movies don't come much better than this excellent combination of the two. Add Mifune's acting, plus a good supporting cast (including a really good performance by Isuzu Yamada), and you have a top-quality, classic film. In retelling the story of "Macbeth" with characters from medieval Japan, Kurosawa does honor to the original and creates a fine achievement in its own right.

Much of the time, when Shakespeare plots are transferred to different settings, what results is only a shadow of the original, because too many directors have only a limited grasp of what Shakespeare's deep masterpieces are all about. That is not at all the case here - Kurosawa shows a great appreciation for the themes and potential of the Macbeth story, and adds plenty of masterful touches of his own, creating a distinctive, memorable atmosphere and characters that come to life in their own right in addition to serving as worthy parallels to the Macbeth characters. There are many fine details that enhance both the medieval Japanese setting and also the important themes of the story itself.

Whether you like Shakespeare, Kurosawa, or both, "Throne of Blood" is an excellent movie that should not disappoint.
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Shakespeare meets Kurosowa (round 1)
OttoVonB25 May 2002
The Scottish Play gets a very Oriental makeover in this combination of samurai film and Noh theater from master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. As a fan of both AK and Shakespeare I owed it to myself to give this a go, particularly as this play has drawn many gifted filmmakers over the years, always to interesting results.

If you know Kurosawa's Seven Samurai or Yojombo, your expectations going into Throne of Blood will probably let you down at first. The energy and visual flair are there, but expressed very differently: a suffocating formality and simmering rage replaces the vitality and dynamism of those other films. Lost in a thick, perpetual fog, Kurosawa's characters stumble around like broken puppets, heavily made up in Noh theater makeup that is at first hard to adjust to. it creates a useful distance, and underlines the power of the cruel hand of Fate, moving its victims across an apocalyptic landscape to a shockingly violent conclusion, one you would do well not to preview online before viewing the film.

Of his three adaptations - Ran being a masterful retelling of King Lear and The Bad Sleep Well using elements of Hamlet - this is the least accessible, but also the most visionary and unique. Oddly enough, it has similarities to Orson Welles' earlier adaptation made half a world away. Both films focus on tribal symbolism, are doused in fog and could never conceivably have had the same impact in color.

If you're interested in either Japanese cinema or Shakespeare, this should definitely be near the top of your list. As an entry-point to Kurosawa's catalog, you'd probably be better off with some less weighty fare.
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Another ambitious film from Akira Kurosawa.
Anonymous_Maxine7 August 2001
Throne of Blood is, in fact, ambitious as a film as well as in its meaning. It suggests that ambition, when based on whimsical motivation, can sometimes lead to the destruction of very close relationships, and even one's own ruination. Throne of Blood begins with a series of messengers bringing news to their daimyo about an invasion of North Castle by the Fujimaki, which is led by an enemy samurai named Inui. The invasion is broken and then bravely retaliated against by two armies which are led by two samurai, Washizu and Miki. As they are returning to the daimyo, they come across a ghostly spirit in the woods, who predicts leadership positions to be attained by each of them that very day. These predictions come true to the last detail, which sets off a destructive chain of events.

Miki becomes the leader of Fort One, as predicted, and Washizu becomes the leader of the North Castle, as predicted, but it is also predicted that Miki's son will rule North Castle after Washizu, which causes problems later in the film. Despite their good fortune, Miki and especially Washizu must keep their encounter with the fortune-telling spirit in the woods a secret because, if word gets out, Washizu is likely to become endangered because people will want him dead out of suspicion that he will try to kill Yoshiteru, Miki's son, to keep him from taking over Washizu's position. In an effort to prevent any of this, Washizu decides to name Yoshiteru as his heir, but Asaji, his wife, forbids this, saying that she is pregnant. It is Asaji who pressures Washizu into having Miki killed so that he can be the sole ruler of all of the provinces, but when this happens, the other castles turn against him and seek to avenge the leaders who have been killed under his orders. In the end, he is killed by his own army, which has lost all faith in him and has also turned against him.

There was a very interesting use of symbolism in Throne of Blood that is worth pointing out here. From literally the beginning to the end of the film, the setting is covered in thick fog. One scene that comes to mind that quite clearly communicates the meaning of this fog is early in the film, just after Washizu and Miki saw the spirit in the woods, and had their futures revealed to them. As they are riding out of the woods and back to the castle, they begin to cross large, flat plains that are covered in this stiflingly thick fog. There is literally a couple of minutes of footage of them riding their horses into the fog, then back toward the camera, then into the fog in another direction, and then back toward the camera, and so on. This fog seems to symbolize a natural inability to see ahead, or to see the future, as it were. This technique is especially effective this early in the film because much of the two men's decisions later in the film are founded on what the spirit told them, yet the fog symbolizes a type of foreshadowing that suggests that this premonition cannot be correct.

Throne of Blood is also structured in a very unique way. The film starts off showing a desolated castle, as well as its surroundings, in which there is a sizeable gravestone marking a burial site. While this is being shown, there is a song being sung by an unseen choir about a brave warrior who once ruled this now-deserted castle, but who was `murdered by ambition.' At the end of the film, we see this same montage, and the same song is heard, and this is where we learn that the gravestone marks Washizu's burial site.

Kurosawa used different camera techniques to communicate parts of the story or to emphasize it in various ways much more than he did in other films, like Ran, Kagemusha, and High and Low. One particularly noteworthy example occurred late in the film, as Washizu is standing over his army. Washizu stands on an elevated walkway, and his army is crowded on the ground below, looking up at him. There is a low angle shot from amidst the men, and while Washizu is small in the shot itself, he is high above the other men, looking down at them, and they are all looking up at him in unison. However, it would seem that, rather than use this shot to convey a sense of superiority or of dominance, Kurosawa probably meant to emphasize his position of power, because this is the scene in which his army turns against him and he is shot with dozens of their arrows. The low angle shot would contradict Washizu's descent into madness if it was meant to show superiority, but to emphasize his position of power at this point in the film, it makes his downfall much more dramatic.

This is usually not the case with Akira Kurosawa, but Throne of Blood reflects more of a formalistic style of direction. For example, his use of high and low angle shots, as well as the extensive symbolic use of the fog, suggest more formalism here than realism. Besides that, and probably more obviously, is the way that the strange spirit in the woods was presented. She was in a radiantly lit hut in the middle of the dark woods, and Washizu's encounter with several other spirits later in the film was presented among an extensive use of cutting and editing. The extensive use of very long takes and slow action seen in Ran and Kagemusha is definitely seen here, but not nearly as much. There are scenes in which these long takes are seen, but in addition to them there can be found many more short takes and highly edited sequences, which were largely absent from the previous films. But having done this with the same skill, Kurosawa has fashioned another samurai masterpiece.
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not Kurosawa's best, but a dark overtone and a terrific performance by Mifune as a bloodthirsty madman makes it worth your while
TheUnknown837-115 May 2009
Akira Kurosawa is one of the most celebrated and renowned of all filmmakers not only because he created some of the world's greatest visionary masterpieces such "Seven Samurai" (1954), "Rashomon" (1950), and "Yojimbo" (1961) but because he had the nerve to draw in on formulas and elements from all around the world and not just those of his native Japan. He is considered the most Western of all Japanese filmmakers, having owed a lot of his influence to men such as John Ford. But there also came times when Kurosawa would tend to the realm of William Shakespeare and the influential plays that he created so many years before.

The Shakespearian play "Macbeth" is considered one of the playwright's classics, so it wasn't a surprise when Akira Kurosawa decided to film his own adaptation of the story and blend it with his own shocking twists and ideas. His 1957 film "Throne of Blood", while not entirely faithful to Shakespeare's play and not alluding to any of the original dialogue is ranked one of the greatest "Macbeth" adaptations of all time. And remember, this is a story that has been modified and reconstructed over and over again through the centuries.

The basic plot remains the same. Toshiro Mifune stars as the Japanese equivalent to Macbeth: a war hero-turned-ruler who, upon being egged by his vindictive and cynical wife (Isuzu Yamada) and being told a strange prophecy about his future, plots to murder his own master and anybody who stands in his way. Once the murder is committed, peace does not follow, but rather a long chain of bloody killings until the position Mifune holds is exactly what the title personifies.

Although I strongly feel that Kurosawa did a better treatment of the Shakespeare play "King Lear" with "Ran" (1985) and that this film does not rank on top with some of his others, "Throne of Blood" is still a very good and very visionary and creative opus. And part of the reason why I like it is because of its inherently dark nature. Unlike "Yojimbo" (1961) which made a sort of glory out of violence, "Throne of Blood" has an atmosphere of terror and intensity around it. Right from the beginning, when we hear Masaru Sato's chilling opening score, we know this is going to be a dark film. Toshiro Mifune was perfect casting as the bloodthirsty Washizu. Although he is far less evil that Macbeth from the play, Washizu is in his own way, more intimidating due to his viciousness and again, those eyes. Mifune maintains the impression of a madman throughout the course of the film and gives us the impression of a wild animal hungry for human flesh and blood. I was also very fond of the performance by Isuzu Yamada as Lady Macbeth's equivalent. Although her performance is mainly a one-note ordeal, it still works out well and there was something about her that reminded me not of a snake like one would expect, but a rat. I do not know if Kurosawa did this intentionally, but when she walks, the lower garments of her robe rubs against the floor with a kind of squeal-like wisp. And like a rat, she spreads her disease: the thirst for blood.

"Throne of Blood" is not a perfect film, however. The music score by Masaru Sato, save for the opening theme and a few cues here and there, is rather forgettable. Some of the supporting cast members, such as those by Akira Kubo and Takashi Shimura seem very underdeveloped. However, any weaknesses that become noticeable are soon forgiven when Kurosawa's original and terrific ending scene comes into frame which was a major improvement over the disappointing climax from the play.

So overall, Kurosawa's "Throne of Blood" is again, not his best film, but certainly a very unique and entertaining one and a great vision of the Japanese perception of Shakespeare's classic.
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Macbeth's Version in Japanese Fields - Another Masterpiece of Akira Kurosawa
claudio_carvalho7 September 2005
In the Sixteenth Century in Japan, the brave generals Taketori Washizu (Toshirô Mifune) and Yoshiaki Miki (Minoru Chiaki) are invited to visit their lord in his castle after a battle wined by them against a traitor general. In the way to the castle, they meet in the forest an evil spirit that foresees their future from the bottom of their hearts, with Washizu being the lord of an important mansion in the fields of their lord, Miki the commander of the First Fortress and Miki's son the successor of Washizu. When they meet their master, the first part of the prophecy comes true for Washizu and Miki. However, the wife of Washizu poisons his heart with calumnies and malicious feelings against the lord and Miki. Washizu kills them both, becoming the new lord of the Spider's Web Castle, but tormented by his guilty and afraid of his future.

"Kumonosu Jô" is another masterpiece of Akira Kurosawa, indeed a version of Shakespeare's Macbeth play brilliantly transposed to the scenario of the feudalistic Japan of the Sixteenth Century. The shootings and the cinematography are very impressive even in the present days, and the performances are outstanding, highlighting Toshirô Mifune in the role of a strong warrior in the battlefields, but weak in front of his venomous and ambitious wife. The sequence with the arrows in the end of the story is amazingly perfect. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "Trono Manchado de Sangue" ("Throne Stained by Blood")
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Kurosawa's masterful retelling of Shakespeare's Macbeth
PureCinema26 December 1998
Akira Kurosawa would end up using Shakespearean influence on two of his films. Throne of Blood is Kurosawa's adaptation of Shakespeare's play, Macbeth, but in a feudal Japanese setting.

The film begins with Taketoki Washizu (Toshiro Mifune) and Yoshaki Miki (Minoru Chiaki) winning a fierce battle for their lord. Afterwards, they are invited to the lord's castle. On their way there, they come across a spirit in the forest. the spirit tells Washizu that he will soon become in command of a castle but that he will not rule long, and Yoshaki's son will soon takeover. Washizu is soon convinced that these predictions will come true, and becomes consumed with greed and evil in order to make sure that they do indeed come true.

In this film Kurosawa uses a more still and quiet filming style than was used in his previous films (with the exception of Ikiru). A style that he continued to use for the rest of his career. The Shakespearean influence is obviously there, not only in story, but the film itself has a very theatre-esque feeling to it.
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A warlord consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife murders enemies and takes the rule for himself
ma-cortes14 October 2018
Prestigious recounting marked by evocative production design , unflinching violence, intense drama and fatalistic atmosphere . It is an incredibly detailed vision in its own right . Akira Kurosawa masterful retelling of Macbeth transports the tale to Medieval Japan and the world of Samurai . As it is so steeped in Japanese style that it bears little resemblance to the Shakespearean Macbeth original . It deals with two war-hardened generals Washizu , Toshiro Mifune , and Miki , Chiaki, who after securing an important victory on the battlefield return home, they are to rewarded by their overlord after having put down a rebellion , as they are promoted because of their breathtaking victory. Then they come across a spirit-alike seer and tell them of their future . But they find themselves lost on woods on their way to their castle . Then they meet at a maze-like the mysterious old woman, a spirit-like who prophesizes that Mifune will soon rule , but his realm will be short . The witch is missed as crazy but her prophesies come to pass . The tough general egged by his scheming as well as ambitious wife lady Adaji , Yamada , works to fullfill a prophecy that he would become lord of spider's cobweb castle but with unexpected consequences . As Washizu takes action winding up to its inevitable result .

Big budgeted production , with lavish setting , lots of mood , impressive battles , sad atmosphere, though it holds limited likeness to the Shakespearean play , due to Samurai and Japan style . Classic tragedy is performed with a celebrated lead acting by Toshiro Mifune, he is the tragic lord as a demonic leader of a feudal society who is prophecised to have a short reign . Mifune gives an extraordinary acting as the angry lord who receives a prophecy by a witch , as he one day will become the main ruler, while Miki'son will someday govern as Great Lord as well . It contains stunning fight scenes , fine performances, overwhelming sets , intense drama in which all of the fire , ambition, and doom of the Shakespearean text come brilliantly to life.

The motion picture titled Cobweb castle or The castle of the Spider's web was stunningly directed by Akita Kurosawa . He was a master filmmaker who made a lot of masterpieces . He realized several films about Samurai world such as Ran , Kagemusha , Yojimbo , 7 Samurai , The hidden fortress , Rashomon . And influenced in American and European cinema . As Rashomon inspired The outrage by Martin Ritt , Basic by John MacTiernan and Yojimbo inspired Sergio Leone's For a fisful of dollars . And he directed other versions based on Dostowieski's The Idiot, and Ran based on Shakespeare's King Lear. Other notorious films by Kurosawa were Doden Kaden , High and low, Sanjuro, The bad sleep well, Red beard, Scandal , A quiet duel , On wonderful Sunday, The lower depths, I live in fear, Ikuru . With the help of admirers Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas, he made the samurai tale Kagemusha (1980), which Kurosawa described as a dry run for Ran (1985), an epic adaptation of Shakespeare's "King Lear" . His last films were a larger-scale Russian co-production Dersu Uzala (1975) , it is an epic tale and nature ode as well as adventure in turn-of-the-century Siberia , the colorful : Dreams in which plays Martin Scorsese , and finally , Rapsody in August 1991 about Hiroshima atomic bombings .

Other films based on Macbeth are the followings : Macbeth 1948 starred and directed by Orson Welles with Daniel O'Herlihy , Roddy McDowall, Jeanette Nolan , Macbeth 1971 by Roman Polanski with John Finch, Francesca Annis , Martin Shaw, Macbeth 1976 with Eric Porter, Janet Suzman , Macbeth 1990 with Michael Jayston, Leigh Hunt , Macbeth 2015 by Justin Kurzel with Michael Fassbinder, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine , Sean Harris.
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Kumonosu-jô: Passable stuff
Platypuschow17 September 2018
Throne of Blood was met with critical acclaim and has been in the IMDB top 250 movies several times. Though I don't personally agree with it's place there, it's hard to dispute it's quality.

The film is a Japanese Toho made (Kurosawa directed) adaptation of William Shakespeares Macbeth. Though many of us have a slight bias against the tale due to it being forced down our throats in school it's hard to argue with its quality.

Sure Toho have tweaked it but you can clearly identify the original story and it's made masterfully as most Toho movies are.

It demonstrates once again that at the time the acting pool was small and you tend to see the same faces. Once again we see Seven Samurai (1954) stars Toshirô Mifune and the excellent (Though barely in this) Takashi Shimura.

It all looks fantastic though I'm quite surprised the movie wasn't in colour. Truth be told though it didn't need to be and might have taken away from some of the effects had it been.

The gritty tale of greed and betrayal is a well made 2hr epic, but I'm so burnt out on the story I didn't fully appreciate it like I perhaps should.

Regardless it's Toho, it's Kurosawa, and it's worth a watch.

The Good:

Looks great

Solid cast

Well written

The Bad:

Overly played out tale

Shimura is wasted

Things I Learnt From This Movie:

Pretending to be a forest is a traditional military strategy

Eyebrows can grow as high as just below the hairline
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I Will Paint This Whole Forest With Blood
ShootingShark6 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
In feudal Japan, Washizu and Miki are warriors and friends. When riding to their Lord's castle to be decorated, a strange woman in the forest predicts future glories for them. When her predictions come true, it is the beginning of an ignominious tragedy that will ultimately end in death for both men ...

Made during his dynamic fifties period, this powerful retelling of William Shakespeare's Macbeth is the best movie version of the classic play (although the Orson Welles and Roman Polanski films are both good too). It sticks pretty close to the original text; the Washizus are the Macbeths, the Mikis are Banquo and Fleance, Tsuzuki is Duncan and Odagura is Siward. Some characters are missing - notably Macduff - and there are some new elements - such as Lady Washizu's pregnancy - but Kurosawa has captured the feel and the atmosphere of the story perfectly, whilst still making his movie visually powerful and arresting. He does this by making it almost a horror movie (the Japanese title translates as Cobweb Castle, a horror film title if ever I heard one); it's packed full of creepy scenes, startling sounds and moments (for example, when Yamada gasps at the murderer's sudden appearance), and is embedded with dread. It's also drenched in grim weather - the ever-present fog is a stunning metaphor for the moral dilemmas which constantly confront Washizu, almost as if the cloudiness of his thoughts have seeped out to surround him. Immediately after meeting the ghost, Kurosawa uses an amazing ten wordless shots - count them, ten - of Mifune and Chiaki riding around lost in the fog. Anyone else would have used one or two, but the ten are astonishing; this director loved bad weather. His use of camera is also brilliant in its simple, powerful elegance with so many clever shots to mention; the ghost's sudden dramatic disappearance, Lady Washizu swallowed by blackness as she fetches the poisoned saki, the famous Banquo's Ghost dinner scene, not to mention the incredible finale as the treasonable Mifune is tortured by a rain of arrows from his own men. This movie isn't as much fun as some of Kurosawa's others - it is Macbeth, after all - but it is stunning throughout, and one of the best screen adaptations of Shakespeare. English title - Throne Of Blood.
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Kurosawa's Macbeth
JoeytheBrit20 November 2008
Secondary school dissection of Romeo & Juliet aside I've never read anything by Shakespeare, and I'm shamefully unfamiliar with much of Kurosawa's work, so it's no surprise, perhaps, that I wasn't as impressed by this as its reputation suggest I should be. This adaptation of the bard's Macbeth is one of Kurosawa's classics but I have to say I found it hard going at times. Definitely a film you have to be in the mood to watch, it's without doubt a technically superb piece of work with some undeniably effective moments (the spooky witch in the woods, the famous rain of arrows, Isuzu Yamada's wonderfully manipulative Lady Asaji) and some overt symbolism that even I could grasp. So, on that level, the film works wonderfully. And yet – I don't know, it just seems so emotionally detached from its characters that Washizu's inexorable descent into madness as he realises the ambitions fired by an encounter with the aforementioned witch in the Cobweb Forest failed to engage me. Assured direction, and superb cinematography make this a film that always has something to occupy the attentive viewer's mind, but the slow, by-the-numbers treatment left me feeling as if I had done a duty rather than indulged in a pleasure.
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beautiful, but sketchy and underwhelming Kurosawa take on Macbeth
OldAle16 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Criterion DVD. Another supposed masterpiece from Japan, another film on both the IMDb top 250 and the TSPDT Top 1000, this is one I've known about for years and just never gotten around to. For those who don't know, it's Kurosawa's "Macbeth" and unlike much of his later epic film-making, this one attempts to distill the complex storyline down to its most basic's as close to horror as it is to an epic.

And it works, but only to me on a rather superficial level. The development and motivations of both Lord and Lady Washizu (Toshirô Mifune and Isuzu Yamada) is only thinly sketched -- true it isn't the most significant part of the Shakepeare original either, but here events move so quickly that I felt the madness was taking hold with no alternating moments of sanity, which I do remember from the play. Washizu gets the prophecy -- is promoted -- takes the Lordship -- pays the penalty -- it's all done in a breathless manner, with many striking scenes including the great final execution -- but to me at least it rang a bit hollow; I felt more of an understanding for the Macbeth of Welles and even Polanski than I did for Kurosawa's warlord. Great music and photography, as always, and the Criterion print is beautiful.
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rmax3048232 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Okay, the warriors Washizu and Miki ride back from a victorious battle through a magic forest and run into a wispy specter that tells them that Washizu will become king while Miki's son will inherit the kingdom. Coaxed by his wife, Washizu assassinates the king and takes his place. Again coaxed by his wife, he has his friend Miki killed as well. Well, Washizu (Toshiro Mifune) has made a lot of enemies by this time and they gang up on him, attack his castle, and kill him -- whereupon Miki's son takes the throne, thus fulfilling the prophecy.

That's it, in brief. Can I skip the rest of the plot? Read Shakespeare's MacBeth for the whole story. It's one of my favorite plays by WS, partly because it's the shortest that he ever wrote.

I was led to believe Kurosawa's version of the tale deviated considerably from Shakespeare's and that it might be almost unrecognizable, but that's not the case at all. It's far from a filmed play, of course. In the play we only hear about the woods creeping up on the castle. Here we see the Spider Web Forest in full creepy motion. And if MacBeth is finally killed off stage by Duncan, here Washizu winds up with more arrows sticking out of him than a porcupine has quills. And of course Shakespeare's poetry is missing. Or, let's say, whereas Shakespeare's poetry was verbal, Kurosawa's is visual.

And what a visual delight it is too, in inexpensive black and white, full frame. A terrific use of fog, lighting, spare sets, minimalistic acting punctuated by outrageous ham. Toshiro Mifune overacts to the extent that, at certain points, it becomes a miracle that his eyeballs stay in their sockets.

There are, however, some differences. I think the editing might be off, or else I missed the part where Washizu gives the order for Miki to be killed. (They bring Washizu Miki's lopped off head, missing in the play.) If I remember, Madam MacBeth doesn't become pregnant and have a stillborn child either, as Washizu's wife does here. Also, in the play, she dies for reasons unexplained. Here, she seems to just disappear from the story, like the Fool in King Lear, unless I looked away from the screen at the wrong moment and missed some subtitles. (Just listening to it is no help because I only understand a few words of Japanese and all of them are unprintable.) "Is this a dagger that I see before me?" is missing, naturally, but the Banquo's Ghost scene is kept just about intact. It includes the intrusion of Washizu's wife, trying to explain to the guests that her husband sometimes has these fits and spells when he's liquored up. (How many ordinary wives have made the same apologies for their ordinary husbands?) But Washizu's wife does more than try to patch over her husband's gaffes. In the play, she merely propped up her husband when his ambition weakened, urged him to "screw your courage to the sticking place." In Kurosawa's film, she's the INSTIGATOR of the whole thing. She's truly Machiavellian. Next to her, Washizu is a guileless moron who takes too much for granted and is too dumb to concoct her kinds of intrigues. Her emoting throughout is highly stylized and seems somehow artificial to Western eyes, but probably more accessible to those Japanese who are in the noh.

I admit I found myself a little confused now and then. Especially during the first half, I couldn't keep the Lord's Castle, the Garrison, and the First, Second, and Third Fortresses straight. The play dealt mostly with titles -- the Glames or the Glans or whatever they were -- but in the film, the prizes are places as well as titles.

It's a dark film, darker than the play that begat it. The three witches with their bubbling cauldron seem to be figures of fun, but the spectral old man who sings a tale of life is positively depressing, though spookier than the witches. The imagery in this scene is really notable.

I keep hearing that Kurosawa was influenced by John Ford but it's hard to see how. Kurosawa was attracted to umberous, humorless stories. Ford rarely went without a dance or celebration of some sort. And Kurosawa tried suicide, whereas Ford was never in any such danger except for maybe drinking himself to death. I wonder if it had anything to do with Kurosawa's having fought on the losing side of a war and Ford's having been on the winning side.

In any case, don't miss this.
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A thin recasting of Macbeth
bandw26 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Being a native English speaker with no knowledge of Japenese I may be at a disadvantage in commenting on this film. But as one who appreciates the beauty of the language in Shakespeare's "Macbeth" it is difficult not to be disappointed by the mundane subtitles. Instead of poetry we get an uninspired narrative. Compare "Commander of Fort 1" with "thane of Cawdor" and "Cobweb Forest" to "Birnam wood."

There is much sound and fury in Mifune's performance but I found his rantings harsh to the ear. I recognize that what is histrionic to me may be sublime to a Japanese, but I felt the need to turn the volume down as the movie went along. However, I thought that Isuzu Yamada, in the Lady Macbeth role, was impressive; paradoxically her quiet restraint accentuated her dominating authority. The scenes between Yamada and Mifune in the bare room are powerful. But, Yamada seemed so unwavering in her ambition that her total reversal in the "Out, damned spot" scene seemed unmotivated.

There is some engaging black and white photography but often director Kurosawa appears to be too much in love with his own brilliant technique. When Washizu and Miki get lost in the Cobweb Forest they ride in and out of the fog for a good two and a half minutes when thirty seconds would have been enough; the scene where Washizu accompanies the murdered lord's coffin to Miki's castle seems to go on forever. As spectacular as the final scene is where Washizu is inundated with a barrage of a thousand arrows, it was unbelievable that 99% of them missed him by only a few inches. I suppose this was in order to allow him to die a more dramatic prolonged death. A single arrow through the neck might have been more effective.

It may be that a culture gap is greatly responsible for my reaction to this film, but I cannot give it high marks.
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Haunting slug-paced Kurusawa
peapulation1 December 2008
Macbeth is a haunting play, and Kurusawa is always such an interesting character to make Japanese recreations of his work. Of course, in the process, he does change them a bit, creating something that is not Shakespearian anymore: it's Kurusawa. Some themes are altered, mostly thanks to the images that Kurusawa takes his time to study.

Here, however there is a problem. It is quite lengthy. It's almost forgivable, because Kurusawa really sets the dark mood to a point when it becomes unbearable: it's so haunting that you almost feel sick. Mifune is incredible, his performance as Washizu, the loyal warrior who kills the king to take over his throne. It's excellent whether you know Japanese or not. I didn't really like the other performances, however, they were all pretty cartoonish and at that, static and monotoned. Again, I must say, though, that Mifune does a great job because he has got an evil face.

The cinematography is overwhelming. The emptiness of the rooms, the majesty of the noble samurais, and the mystique of the sinister and magical characters and plot developments. The apparitions are quite admirable. The second time he sees the witch, the apparitions become scary. The way people appear and reappear: it's all mad, and you can understand why Washizu has become insane. And in the scene where, during a dinner where Miki was invited, but had been killed, Washizu sees his ghost, and it's an unnatural vision that is edited excellently on the spot. The camera moves around the set as it we were following Washizu's own destructions at the end of all that is evil, and himself.

As I said, the photography is beautiful, and overwhelming. And example of this is when Asaji, now collapsed under the pressure of 'the deed', keeps scrubbing her hands because she can't get rid of the smell of his Lordship's blood off them. It's a very dramatic sequence, made even more dramatic by Mifune's brilliant performance, particularly when he hopelessly calls out her name. It is the prelude of the end here isn't Throne of Blood, whereas in Macbeth by Sakespeare, it's a secondary even that almost comes as a relief to Macbeth.

The film drags on a little too much is a few sequences. The dialog is repetitive, and sometimes that can be frustrating. This happens quite a lot when Washizu and Asaji talk about the reasons why he should kill his Lordship. This is the only point where Kurusawa heavily relies on dialog, and it's a misstep.

WATCH FOR THE MOMENT - Miki's apparition at Wasizu's dinner. His public breakdown. The clear beginning of his insanity and self-destruction. And Kurusawa's brilliant camera-work, aided by a great Mifune.
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dull retelling of Macbeth
maerte7 August 2000
This movie is separated from Kurosawa's masterworks like "Rashomon" and "shichin no samurai" by such a gap that it is difficult to accept that they were produced by the same director.

Of course there is the problem that the story is already known to most watchers. But this id not the real problem. Kurosawa does not succeed in creating any tension and psychological depth. He indulges in battle scenes or in exaggerated acting. The film is moreover devoid of the masterly depiction of architecture which is so typical for many Japanese films. In this respect "Kumonosu jo" may be compared to his later "Kagemusha" and not to his masterworks. Or even the masterworks of Ozu and Mizoguchi. (4/10)
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Macbeth is better in Japanese!
MartinHafer11 June 2005
I must first point out that I must be a total Neanderthal, as I don't particularly like Shakepeare plays or movies. The language is a pain and could use updating. I'm sure literature majors out there are having an apoplexy now that I said that. It's just that in using such stilted language, the plays often become ponderous. This is definitely NOT the case with Akira Kuraswawa's version of Macbeth. Because you really don't translate 17th century English into 17th century Japanese, the more modern language used in the movie makes this Japanese version MORE ACCESSIBLE to the average English-speaking person! Plus, the Japanese imagery (such as the witches now appearing as bleached out demons) is spectacular and exciting to watch. I think Shakespeare himself would have enjoyed the effort, though considering he is currently dead (and it appears this will not change in the near future), it is only a guess on my part. As it is, this is one of Kurosawa's best films and a must-see for film fans.
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By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes. Macbeth has come to Japan and it was somewhat amazing! Throne of Blood is worth checking out!
ironhorse_iv13 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Set in feudal Japan, during the 'Sengoku Jidai' civil war era of 1477, with stylistic elements drawn from Noh drama. Director Akira Kurosawa's radically retelling of author William Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' was wonderful. 'Throne of Blood' (Kumonosu Jō, "Spider Web Castle"), has an intense & spooky atmosphere with great emotional tragic haunting characters. Fame Japanese actor, Toshiro Mifune stars as General Washizu, a Japanese warlord whom receives a prophecy from a strange spirit who foretells his future, in which he was consumed by ambition and spurred to action by greed, murders his lord and takes the throne for himself, only to find out, that he has gone mad, with power. Without spoiling the movie, too much, 'Throne of Blood' is a far more effective haunting story compared to most of the earlier English Macbeth films, not only because it follows many of Aristotle's rules of tragedy, but also, it made great use of the natural looking outside locations, in which the plays, live on, rather than being limited in a fake-looking stage studio. Akira Kurosawa is known for his use of weather, and it somewhat shows here, with all the scenes, filmed in the rainfall, as well, in the fog. It's amazing, that they were, even able to get, pretty good shots, out of it; seeing how they were filming in the harsh volcanic slopes of Mount Fuji & in the creepy forest of Aokigahara AKA the suicide forest. It's also cool to hear that Kurosawa's film crew, brutally, built a real façade castle for this film in this location, giving the film, a feel of isolation. As a result, the film has a definite coldness; as it gives the audience chills, noticing the castle, come out of the fog. Another thing, this movie does so well, is mixing Shakespeare's tale with that of old Japanese folklore. It really does give it, a very unique kinda frightening feel. A good example of this, is how Kurosawa made the three witches or fates, into a Yama-uba, old demonic hag with cannibalistic tendencies. Another is how it relate to real-life history. Indeed, the 'Sengoku Jidai' era was marked by internecine conflicts among rival Japanese clans, due to the absence of a central political power during the Onin War (1467 to 1477). It wasn't until Tokugawa shogunate took power that the kind of treachery, prevarication, and murder that Kurosawa dramatizes in 'Throne of Blood' has ended. I kinda like the ending of this film, showing that the struggle for leadership in the end, leads those, who seek power, closer to the grave. It's way different than the whole political conservatism idea of good vs evil of the original play. Since the Macduff subplot was left out in this version, it lead to somewhat way different, but more thematic end for the Macbeth figure with the shots of walking trees. For a Kurosawa film, the violence is surprising, pretty tame, compare to his other earlier works like 1950's 'Rashomon' & 1954's 'Seven Samurais'. A lot of the harsher violent moments, were mention, after the face, done, off-screen, or mention, through texts in some really badly edited moments. The only thing, I can say, was really intense was the famous arrow scene near the end of the film. It was surprising, done with real arrows. No wonder, why Toshirô Mifune looks like, he was crapping his pants. I like how Kurosawa was able to get Mifune to have a facial express of real-life fear. His acting, throughout, this film, was great, even if he sounds, a bit, over the top angry at times. While, Mifune might had been a little bit overdramatic, the actress, Isuzu Yamada that played his wife, Lady Asaji was not. She was very limited with her facial expressions, lines, and movement in this film. I know, a lot of people like her Noh-like mime performance, here, but I found it, to be, not as villainous as other versions. She barely moves or blinks during the entire first half of the film, and always takes a polite tone with her husband. I guess, it's to show that she can be sinister, without speaking much, but I found her, acting to be too robotic and unhuman to be taken seriously. Her repetitive comments wouldn't convince me, to commit murder and that's the bad thing, to have in a movie, because it's the plot-point that drives the film, forwards. Because of that, this movie really drags at points, during pacing. Even some of the supporting cast members, such as those by Akira Kubo and Takashi Shimura seem very underdeveloped. Yet, I do like the idea of all the actors in the film, being caked with make-up that looks like Noh-looking spiritual masks. I just wish, they add, this much, effect to the dead-lord ghost sequence, during the middle of the film. Another thing, the Japanese music by composer Masaru Sato that went along with this movie was ear-bleeding noise. I really couldn't stay that high pitch flute sound at all. It was really distracting me from the rest of the film, as I had to cover my ears, whenever it came on. It really did ruin parts of the film for me. Yet, the Japanese with English subtitles does not. It was a lot easily to understand this film with the Japanese with English subtitles, than the Old Shakespearian English language, playing on its own. Overall: As good as the aesthetics and philosophy are, in the film. I just wish, some parts of the film like the psychology would be better. Still, I have to say, I kinda enjoyed this film. It was awe inspiring, just need a little more work.
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Timeless action, drama and war epic
kluseba16 June 2019
Throne of Blood is an epic historical drama by renowned director Kurosawa Akira and with charismatic lead actor Mifune Toshiro. The plot revolves around betrayal, conspiracy, greed, honour and megalomania. It is inspired by William Shakespeare's Macbeth intertwined with stylistic elements from Japanese Noh which is a visually appealing but physically static type of traditional musical drama.

The movie tells the story of friends and generals Washizu and Miki who are foretold a bright future by a mysterious spirit in a misty forest. Initially skeptical, the prophecies of the spirit happen to be true when Washizu is named Lord of the Northern Garrison and Miki Commander of the First Fortress. However, Washizu's cold-blooded wife Asaji manipulates her husband into forcing his luck instead of waiting for it to fall into his hands. They plot to assassinate Lord Tsuzuki and then kill Miki but their gloomy plans soon backfire and spiral out of control.

The movie convinces with gorgeous settings such as gigantic Spider's Web Castle. The acting performances are really intense and especially Yamada Isuzu convinces as sinister femme fatale. The plot is filled with interesting conspiracies, intrigues and twists. The film's pace is relatively steady after a slow but necessary introduction. The final quarter of the movie is particularly intense and ends in a brutal tragedy. The movie has aged rather well thanks to its timeless plot.

This movie isn't among Kurosawa Akira's greatest films like Seven Samurai and The Hidden Fortress but is still in the upper middle section of his impressive works. This dynamic historical drama is a clever take on William Shakespeare's timeless Macbeth and convinces thanks to stunning settings, gloomy atmosphere and intense acting performances. If you like elegant action films, intense dramas or epic war movies, you will certainly appreciate Throne of Blood. This entertaining movie has aged quite well and would serve as an appropriate introduction to the works of both Kurosawa Akira and Mifune Toshiro.
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billcr1222 February 2018
Akira Kurosawa was most well known for The Seven Samurai, which was made in America as The Magnificent Seven. I have seen both and they are good films. This movie is from 1957 and is in black and white. The non color aspect gives it a very haunting look. The story comes from Macbeth. An ambitious soldier wishes to take over a castle and will do anything to succeed. He has an equally ambitious wife who also is without scruples. The message is as old as mankind; be careful what you wish for, or, karma can be one hell of a bitch. The cinematography is brilliant, as the horses gallop into the foggy Japanese equivalent of Shakespeare's moors. The bard's tragedies hold up well.
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Come on.... Its a Kurosawa!
eagleknight9817 July 2005
A nice classic from the legendary director Kurosawa, who had never let me down with his movies. And this is no exception.

Its a story about ambition, blended with loyalty, contaminated with betrayal that is vented by guilt. All this was portrayed in two good friends whose fate is about to change .... by an evil will.

It is one of those ghost stories with a noble message that your grandma used to recite for you before going to sleep! Mifune did a nice job being on the dark side ... yet his moments of guilt do co-inside with the nice young man that we knew in Seven Samurai.

Perhapse what makes this movie a classic is the story itself, less on the direction or the very negligible battle scenes.

Overall: It is another movie that is absolutely worth watching .. Only Once!
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