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Another epic journey from the master director
The_Void11 July 2005
Legendary director Akira Kurosawa has made a lot of great films, many of which have gone on to inspire whole areas of cinema. While Hidden Fortress doesn't represent his best, most influential or most important work; it's definitely an important movie in film history in it's own right, and besides that, it's a damn good movie to boot. I was most surprised at the amount of comic relief present in the movie. When watching a Kurosawa film, I always expect it to be a serious affair; so the comedy in this movie made for a surprise, which was, on the whole, a good surprise as like most things in Kurosawa's films; it works. The film has become most famous recently for the many parallels that it has with the masterpiece 'Star Wars', and it has become well documented that this film was a major influence on said movie, which is shown most clearly by the fact that a lot of the story is shown through the eyes of two bumbling people that aren't all that relevant to the central plot, and the style of editing; which George Lucas adopted many times in his epic trilogy.

The plot follows a princess who must be escorted across enemy lines by her general. Two greedy peasants join the escort on the promise of a reward of gold. Like Star Wars, the plot here is relatively simple; and it's the way that the story is portrayed, not the story itself, that makes this movie great. Despite it's simplicity, Kurosawa gives it the style of an epic; and it really feels like one. Kurosawa regular, Toshirô Mifune heads a great ensemble cast; all of which do well in their roles. Kurosawa had a great talent for pulling great performances out of everyone in his films, and he shows that talent excellently here. The cinematography is excellent, and the master director has managed to capture some truly stunning landscapes, which serve in adding beauty to the picture. This film is, of course, in black and white; and that is Kurosawa at his best in my opinion. While I loved 'Ran' and it's vibrant colours, black and white allows Kurosawa to blend atmosphere into his films, and they're always the better for it. On the whole, Kurosawa is a genius - and this is one of his best films.
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A different kind of Kurosawa film
PureCinema26 December 1998
Those who think that Kurosawa could only direct dramatic films need to see The Hidden Fortress. It is an exiting, funny, and extremely entertaining adventure film. George Lucas cites The Hidden Fortress as the prime inspiration for the Star Wars films.

Two cowardly soldiers Tahei (Minoru Chiaki) and Matashichi (Kamatari Fujiwara) flee from a battle. The two then set up camp for the night, but soon they discover a bar of gold next to their camp. The two begin fighting over it, but before they can decide who gets it, a mysterious man called Rokurota (Toshiro Mifune) appears. He asks the two to help him transport a wagon full of gold and the Lady Yukihime (Misa Uehara) across enemy lines so that they can establish their kingdom again.

This film is a blast and is filled with plenty of action and humor. A departure from Kurosawa's usual dramatic films, but excellent cinema nonetheless.
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The Director that could do no wrong
unbend_54404 April 2004
The Hidden Fortress is the Kurosawa film with the lightest tone. It's almost the most mainstream and entertaining. So for those who may have found other Kurosawa films to be too deep and poetic (if this applies to you, you're a fool) you'll be more likely to enjoy this. Even though there's a lot of comedy, mostly provided by the peasants, The Hidden Fortress still has all the power and uniqueness that all Kurosawa films have.

There are some amazing locations used. The rock slide provided for some real amusement. Toshiro Mifune gives a much more toned down and subtle performance than we normally see from him. What Mifune offers in Hidden Fortress is true screen presence. Without even saying a word he has your full attention. I love how Kurosawa plays the characters as well. The Princess is not a damsel in distress. In any American or British film of the 50s, she would have been nothing more than that. In this she's quiet for most of the movie, but then she'll come out of nowhere and show more power and confidence than The General. The peasant characters of Tahei and Matakishi are more than comic relief. They are primarily used for a laugh, but I thought there characters were unique as well. The story is told from their point of view, and they are essentially heroes, yet they do nothing but complain. They're greedy and selfish. These aren't characteristics that would normally be used for heroes, but Kurosawa makes them likeable to the audience. Some people have said this movie needed more action. I think the action it has is more than enough. The chase scene that leads into The General's encounter with his nemesis remains one of the best sequences Kurosawa ever Directed. The choreography in the swordfight holds up against most of The Seven Samurai's fight scenes, and it still tops the type of fights that have become tedious and repetitive in modern day movies. That fight is a great example of how to nail the Hero vs. Villain energy. Akira Kurosawa can do no wrong.
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Hide a stone among stones and a man among men
tieman6424 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Set during the Sengoku period (1460s-1600s), Akira Kurosawa's "The Hidden Fortress" stars Minoru Chiaki and Kamatari Fujiwara as Tahei and Matashichi, a pair of squabbling peasants. The duo roam the Japanese countryside, doing their best to avoid bands of marauding soldiers.

"Hidden's" first act watches as Tahei and Matashichi are manipulated by Rokurota Makabe (Toshiro Mifune), a cunning samurai general. Promising the greedy peasants mountains of gold, he uses them as camouflage in his attempts to transport a princess (Misa Uehara) across enemy lines.

"What you make of another's kindness is up to you," Kurosawa has character's say. Kindness is something the film's princess learns, as she witnesses first-hand the sacrifices of her bodyguard, General Makabe, and the suffering of the peasants who live outside her castle walls. Kindness is also something General Rokurota must grapple with. He's a rival warrior with whom General Makabe fights an extended battle. During this battle, Makabe's objective is not to kill, but to frustrate, to deflect, to guide his belligerent opponent away from a fixation upon military solutions.

"The Hidden Fortress" is one of Kurosawa's more playful films. Part comedy, part adventure, part action epic, the film boasts glorious widescreen photography, a jaunty plot, some fine compositional work and the shortest short shorts ever worn by a princess. Aesthetically, the film's the bridge between Eisenstein, Ford and later imitators like Lucas and Leone. Indeed, George Lucas would lift chunks of "Hidden Fortress" for the plot of his "Star Wars", especially Kurosawa's notion of a tough, imperious princess.

Though a bit long-winded, a number of Kurosawa's action sequences still pack a punch. One sequence in particular recalls Eisenstein's Odessa Steps sequence in "Battleship Potemkin". Elsewhere Kurosawa stages a sequence in which General Makabe – cool, tough and resourceful - pursues enemy scouts all the way back to their base, a scene which would influence the speeder bike chase in George Lucas' "Return of the Jedi". Lucas would help a financially-strapped Kurosawa get his 1980 film, "The Shadow Warrior", produced. Indeed, Lucas would be indirectly responsible for two of Kurosawa's greatest epics ("The Shadow Warrior" and "Ran"). Every good apprentice lends their master a helping hand.

8/10 – See "Throne of Blood" and "Twilight Samurai".
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Toho Vision
tedg12 June 2002
Any Kurosawa film is worth watching, but the focus of interest shifts from project to project. This time around, his concern is the new aspect ratio of 'cinemascope' copied and renamed by Toho. Kurosawa is first a visual storyteller who scripts in pictures, each one dramatically framed. All his life until here, that frame was the same, but all of a sudden it changed.

It is a matter of there being three territories where there was formally one. The new territories are on the left and right, which in the original cinerama were actually two additional cameras. One really needs to study his framing in the old format to understand how significant this challenge was. He was master -- indeed largely the creator -- of a visual grammar and the rules had changed.

As with all his scripts, the story reflects his own challenges. So we have a story about three territories and a journey that spans them all. The 'middle' territory is under attack, and our characters must leave their fortress and go all the way from left to right to survive. (Notice the symbols he uses for these three klans.) The two hapless peasants represent to the story what actors represent to the 'real' enterprise of film-making: relatively ignorant, gold-chasers, likely to turn on each other, and liable to go where they are not supposed to. The story is told from their perspective. The gold in the story is hidden in sticks. The gold in the film is hidden in similar harvesting of nature by the eye.

(Mifune's pride and Kurosawa's control were much like that shown here between Mifune's samurai and the peasants. Mifune would eventually run away from Kurosawa's -- probably much needed -- overbearing command. Mifune would end up wealthy and celebrated in Japan. Kurosawa not so.)

At the end of the story, the peasant-actors are on a grand stair that mirrors a similar stair we saw earlier which was the scene of a huge conflict (in turn mirroring the battle on Eisenstein's Odessa steps in 'Potemkin'). But this second time, we are at peace, the frame is serene. Kurosawa has wrestled this new eye and mastered it.

Kurosawa did not respond to the wide format like his American peers who preferred awesome panoramas. His approach to framing had always been layered, usually three layers of activity in fore, middle and background. Here, he was able to relax the axis so that the layers did not have be so much on top of one another. And he reinvented his strategy of panning of motion: compare a running sequence here to the famous woodcutter's running in the beginning of 'Rashomon.' Look at how he panned the General's attack on horseback. He still does diagonals, but fewer, less steep and with less static import. He now has more natural horizontals in his greytone/greystone arrangements so has to create more artificial verticals.

Obligatory Star Wars comment:

I am sure Lucas' film school professors would have explained the relationship of story and visual challenge this way. So that is the real template Lucas took in conceiving his project. His goal was a similar marriage of the visual (space) with story (Joseph Campbell inspired myth). His hidden gold is that miraculous alchemical element in Jedi blood.
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Akira Kurosawa's splendid story of a general escorting a princess across enemy territory from warring feudal lords
ma-cortes10 October 2018
An inspiration for ¨Star Wars¨series and deserving of its magnificent reputation and winning several awards such as : Fipresci prize , Blue Ribbon , Festival Berlin Golden Bear , and Kinema Junpo to best film . Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece about a princess , a laconic general samurai and two roguish , oafish hustlers . Set in Japan , XVI century , amid Civil wars , when Yamana and Akirakis clans were battling . It concerns two wandering , botchering peasants , a valiant general and a beautiful princess , Misa Uchara, escape throughout the dangerous countryside in seventeen century Japan and they find themselves various locations run by two parties commanded by feudal lords and their hired thugs . On their way they meet mysterious roles , slaves, battles and many other things . It is full of injustices , inequity , violence and killings , due to the hordes of violent soldiers , murderers that inhabit it.

This is a magnificent picture by Akira Kurosawa starred by his ordinary actor Toshiro Mifune , being an international breakthrough one . Steeped in japanese style and transports us to Medieval Japan and the world of Samurai . The impressive flick blends drama , humor , violent fights , emotion , slaughters with high body-count and results to be pretty entertaining as well as thought provoking .The film confirmed Kurosawa's greatest strength and his innovative handling of genre . It is incredibly detailed vision in its own right , as the impact of the action and combats on this trail-blazing adventure film opened the floodgates for the huge numbers of samurai films that made fortunes for their producers in the sixties and early seventies . Dramatically staged sword-plays occur on and off throughout the plot . Very good acting by Toshiro Mifune as a general Samurái who attempts to protect and save his princess. This one made an international star out of Toshiro Mifune . Kurosawa's treatment is in part eclectic , there are reminiscences of Nicholas Ray's Johnny Guitar , John Ford Westerns , Serguei M Eisenstein's Potenkim (1925) and part truly idiosyncratic as the Shakespearean relations between heroes and clowns . Akira also uses a traditional style including the concept , symbols , plotting and utilization of Noh theatre music . It inspired Mel Gibson's Braveheart and George Lucas for Star Wars , 1977, and especially the two bungling peasants , Tahei and Mataschichi , similar roles to R2D2 , C3Po and a princess , Leia-lookalike , as well as Owi Van Kenobi like the brave general . It was clearly a big step from this to the delights of Yojimbo and Sanjuro . Being well shot in stereo and TohoScope , a CinemaScope version , and with a brilliant black and white cinematography .

This fiercely-charging , uncompromising pictures was compellingly directed by Akira Kurosawa and being exhibited with subtitles or dubbed .After working in a wide range of genres, Kurosawa made this awesome film . The previous years saw the low-key , touching Living (1952) , the epic The seven samurais (1954), the barbaric , fascinating Shakespeare adaptation Throne of blood (1957) , a Macbeth's version , a masterful rendition that transports the story to Medieval Japan , and a fun pair of samurai movies Yojimbo (1961) and Sanjuro (1962) , and Rashomon , often credited as the reason the Academy created the "Best Foreign Film" category. When this film was released internationally to rave reviews, many speculated that Akira Kurosawa was influenced by Citizen Kane (1941) in the element of flashbacks that ultimately provide conflicting accounts of events. However, Kurosawa didn't even see Orson Welles's film until several years after . Rashomon won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival, and first revealed the richness of Japanese cinema to the West. The successful ¨Yojimbo¨ influenced in the known film Leone¨For a fistful of dollars¨is mainly cribbed from this Japanese samurái action classic Yet , there was a quieter side to Kurosawa's nature , expressed most succinctly on Living , The Lower Depths and especially the medical drama Red Beard . After a lean period in the late 1960s and early 1970s, though, Kurosawa attempted suicide . Other important movies were : The idiot based on Feodor Dostowieski , Drunken Angel , Scandal , A quiet duel , Tiger's tale , High and low . He survived, and made a small, personal, low-budget picture with Dodes'ka-den (1970), a larger-scale Russian co-production Dersu Uzala (1975) an epic tale of adventure in turn-of-the-century Siberia and , with the help of admirers Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas, the samurai tale Kagemusha (1980), which Kurosawa described as a dry run for Ran (1985), an epic adaptation of Shakespeare's "King Lear" . He continued to work into his eighties with the more personal Akira Kurosawa's Dreams (1990), and Madadayo (1993) and Rhapsody in August . Kurosawa's films have always been more popular in the West than in his native Japan, where reviewers have viewed his adaptations of Western genres and authors with suspicion , but he's revered by American and European film-makers, one of his least well-known films but most agreeable pictures is The Bad Sleep Well , a transposition of an Ed McBain detective novel , being remade many his pictures such as The seven samurais (1954), as The magnificent seven (1960),The Hidden Fortress (1958), as Star Wars (1977)as Yojimbo (1961) as For a fistful of dollars by Sergio Leone (1964), in fact Kurosawa's style was the biggest single influence on the Spaghetti Western sub-genre ; as his Samurai 'Western's were copied not only in America but also in Italy .
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Waiting for Rokurota
slimjack27 July 2003
The Hidden Fortress is a fine movie that deserves better than to be remembered as the inspiration for Star Wars. Two more dissimilar movies would hard to be imagined. The peasants bear a striking resemblance to Vladimir and Estragon in their infighting, negotiable affection for each other and their seeming inability to make any real progress toward any goal whatsoever. They are truly a venal pair, loveable only in their humanity and humor.

I saw The Hidden Fortress on the Criterion DVD. Beautiful print but no commentary outside of a brief interview with George Lucas distancing himself from the film's alleged influence on Star Wars. It would have been nice to hear interviews with surviving cast and crew or a knowledgeable historian. Criterion also made a terrible choice in not translating more of the credits. Only Kurosawa and Mifuni had the honor of an English translation. Surely Misa Uehara, Minoru Chaiki and Kamatari Fujiwara deserve to have their names known to we who lack basic Japanese. The Princess and the peasants help make this movie what it is. I gripe too much though. Without Criterion (and Netflix)I would not have been able to see this movie at all.

Again, The Hidden Fortress is a great movie that also happens to be great fun. Highly recommended
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Another Masterpiece by Master Akira Kurosawa
claudio_carvalho12 August 2005
In the Sixteenth Century, in Japan, Tahei (Minoru Chiaki) and Matakishi (Kamatari Fujiwara), two rascals and greedy peasants, are trying to return to the city of Akizuki through Hayakawa, after an unsuccessful attempt of making money with the war between the clans of Yamana and Akizuki. While warming themselves in a fire, they find gold with the symbol MT. Suribachi of the Akizuki hidden in the firewood, and they decide to search for other branches. Tahei and Matakishi meet General Rokurota Makabe (Toshirô Mifune), who is secretly protecting Princess Yukihime (Misa Uehara), and without knowing their identities, they accept to escort and help them in the transportation of the gold through the enemy lines to Akizuki.

"Kakushi toride no san akunin" is a delightful movie, indeed another masterpiece of master Akira Kurosawa. The screenplay is amazingly wonderful, having action, comedy and code of honor. Toshirô Mifune is perfect in the role of the samurai that is assigned to protect his princess no matter the cost of the life of his young sister; Minoru Chiaki and Kamatari Fujiwara are hilarious in the role of two greedy rascals, ready to betrayal, cheat and risk their miserable lives for gold, and responsible for the funniest moments along the story; the very gorgeous Misa Uehara is stunning in the role of a princess, showing personality and a very noble behavior. Summarizing, it is a perfect movie, with fantastic locations and costumes and magnificent choreography of fights. I intended to use the saying "Hide stones among stones, men among men" said by Makabe to the peasants as the title of my review, but I noted that another IMDb user had the same idea. I read on the cover of the DVD that George Lucas inspired his franchising "Star Wars" in this movie. This was the first time that I watched "Kakushi toride no san akunin", which was unknown for me, and I really recommend it to any audience. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "A Fortaleza Escondida" ("The Hidden Fortress")
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The Hidden Fortress, Star Wars Connection
docraven8 May 2001
I'm not sure that it is helpful knowing that George Lucas found inspiration for his `Star Wars' films in Kurosawa's historical epic, `The Hidden Fortress' (1958). Oh, there are a number of matters of content that seem quite similar. Though Kurosawa's story takes place in sixteenth century Japan and Lucas sets his in space in the future, the basic struggles are the same-the restoration of power to a princess and her clan. Some would compare Toshiro Mifune's General Rokurota Makabe to Harrison Ford's Hans Solo in `Star Wars' (1977), though there may be more commonality shared with Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker. And the two peasant farmers, pawns in the turmoil of sixteenth century Japanese civil wars, are easily identified as precursors of the `Star Wars' droids, R2-D2 and C3PO.

However, when all is said and done, the comparisons are only superficial. It may be more constructive to note some aspects of humor and character that are utilized in general. Kurosawa has always been willing to develop exaggerated characters. The peasant farmers, with their quick shifts between cowardice, bickering , and thievery are good examples of this. Certainly the first two of these traits were incorporated in the character of C3PO (the mechanical humanoid), but R2-D2 shows none of these characteristics. There is, however, an overall sense of humor that permeates both `The Hidden Fortress' and the `Star Wars' films-as well as a strong sense of nobility in the central characters, Rokurota and Skywalker.

That said, `The Hidden Fortress' seems to me to have clearly been made by a superior filmmaker. Both are good at telling the story. The `Star Wars' films rely heavily on special effects, to the extent, I think, that these are the central features of the films. `The Hidden Fortress,' while a relatively light weight work for Kurosawa, involves much more subtle character development achieved by means of acting skill revealed through visual composition and unenhanced camera work.

This was Kurosawa's first use of Tohoscope, a Japanese widescreen process. And he uses the screen frequently to develop character. Over and over again he uses the wide screen to develop and reveal character. The peasant farmers are certainly more complex than the droids, though they are simplistically exaggerated. Kurosawa chose to explore the situation of these piteous beings, buffeted about in the feudal wars of sixteenth century Japan, in visually reinforced wide screen long shots in those final scenes on the plains.

The code of the samurai is central to an understanding of `The Seven Samurai' (1954), `Yojimbo' (1961), and `Sanjuro' (1962), and even `Rashomon' (1954). These are all great films centered around the samurai class in Japan's past. From the ninth century, samurai warriors followed a strict code of ethical behavior known as `bushido,' which remained orally transmitted for generations. Briefly it is a way of life in which the warrior's honor and purpose are tied closely to the needs of his master. In this respect, he was to be selfless. His was not to understand or concern himself with politics-only to defend with honor the family or clan he served. For such a man the ideal was to be without fear-to always move forward in his employer's interest-without fear of death-only fear of dishonor. Toshiro Mifune's character in `The Hidden Fortress' is a military general, but his devotion to the creed and to his princess can be explained relative to this code. His daring, too, extends from that. So, too, his reputation reflects that of an accomplished samurai. An especially strong scene in this regard is the duel scene in which Rokurota's skill and bravery are what are prized and respected by his opponent.

Above all, The Hidden Fortress remains a great adventure permeated with humor and nobility. While the force in the `Star Wars' sense is never mentioned, it remains a tacit part of Rokurota's nobility.
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Yes, yes, I've seen Star Wars. Now see the original.
roadrash9 April 1999
Such a fine film maker can hardly help but make a fine movie like this one. It seemed odd to me only in the fact that the plot seemed so UN-Japan like. The most interesting thinks to look for are the similarities to Sergio Leone films: A man who obviously was greatly influenced by Kurosawa. What Leone may not have known, is that those long shots of unmoving fighting men waiting to make a thrust or cut with a sword is very true to the actual way that Samurai fought. Cowboys on the other hand generally shot from behind trees and rocks. For an interesting comparison, watch "Hidden Fortress" followed by "The Good, The Bad, And the Ugly". It will be be an enlightening experience.
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Kakushi-toride no san-akunin: Mostly enjoyable
Platypuschow25 September 2018
Directed by the legend that was Akira Kurosawa this is another of his samurai epics, but not his finest work.

It tells the story of two peasants who find themselves teaming with a princess and her general who are actively being sought by the military. With copious amounts of gold on the line they are motivated to stick with them despite the dangers.

Well shot, well acted and with all the usual quality you'd expect from a Toho/Kurosawa movie it's an enjoyable journey that runs into more than a few bumps.

The film has an alarming amount of comedy to it which is an odd fit, the content is very tame and the entire movie could pass for a U rating and some of the characters intended to be protagonists are less than likeable.

Toshirô Mifune leads and is great as always, Takashi Shimura is totally wasted, Kamatari Fujiwara plays the fool SO well it's always entertaining and Misa Uehara makes me wish she'd had a better career.

This is certainly a Kurosawa epic and I'd never try to take away from that, I just have a few gropes that I cannot get over.

The Good:

Wells scored

Strong performances

Perfectly directed

The Bad:

Some unlikeable characters

Things I Learnt From This Movie:

Back in those days gold was considerably lighter

A pirouette is a common motion after being shot
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Loneliness In Vastness
kurosawakira11 January 2014
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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Adventure in the days before CGI
cherold14 June 2013
It's been a while since I've watched an older movie, but I recently decided to check out Kurosawa films I haven't seen, and watching this movie is a good reminder that you don't need special effects and flashy cinematographic swoops to make a good movie.

The movie itself is interesting and rather unusual in terms of the Kurosawa films I've seen. First off, the main protagonists are a pair of greedy, stupid peasants played primarily for comedic effect. The heroic characters are, in this movie, in supporting roles.

It is also unusual in that it has a very strong female character. Kurosawa's movies tend to be very masculine, and this one is as well, but the girl is tough, proud, and noble, and replaces the quiet subservience seen from women in a lot of old Japanese movies with a ferocious appetite for life.

I wouldn't say this ranks with Kurosawa's best films, being a little wandering in story and at times slightly puzzling in intent, but it is quite entertaining.
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A fantastic adventure!!!!!!!!
anton-628 October 2001
It´s the lightest of Kurosawas samurai epics and even if it looks more like a common adventure/comedy then a masterpiece it´s over two hours with great fun.George Lucas has really been inspired by this film when he made star wars(this is as good if not better).Toshiro Mifune is one of my favorite actors and in this he plays brilliant(as always).One of Kurosawas personal favorites.4,5/5
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Feudal Star Wars
Stroheim-324 October 1999
Warning: Spoilers
According to George Lucas, this film was his inspiration for Star Wars. When watching this film, it's easy to see the influence. You have the forerunners of R2-D2 and C-3PO in the form of two greedy slaves who attempt to escape from a conquered province. Along the way they meet a military general who is trying to smuggle the defeated princess out of the province and into safety. Sound familiar?

I think part of the film's greatness is the excitement that it builds up without the typical fight scenes. In fact there are only 2 fights that I can remember, but nevertheless they are fantastic. The tension comes from whether or not our heroes will be captured by the villainous army. And they come so close it makes your pulse rise and your heart beat faster.

In addition the John Ford-type cinemetography excentuating the landscape is beautiful. As in all Kurosawa films, nature becomes a character in itself as important as the actors.

Probably the best part of the movie though is the honor that these warriors possess. They are governed by codes of conduct that Americans haven't seen in YEARS. It's a nice change to see two great generals fight to the death with the loser being spared. And he gets angry about living!!! I only wish there were more movies like this one.
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"Hide stones among stones, men among men" -- General Rokurota Makabe
dobiedigital31 July 2003
The hidden fortress starts with it's two main characters Tahei and Matakashi (played by Minoru Chiaki and Kamatari Fujiwara) walking through a war torn country side. They have just escaped from an internment camp after a recent great battle. The two had been forced to dig graves as prisoners and they are already, at the start of the movie, at wit's end. They soon become frustrated with each other and their situation that they set out in opposite directions, only to be both recaptured shortly thereafter. After a prisoner mass uprising and subsequent exodus, the two find themselves completely unscathed but monumentally stunned amongst the dozens of dead.. and piles of pillaged gold.

Unable to carry much in their escape, their sense of scheming is palpable and a testament to the quality of direction. While walking through the woods they come upon a camping warlord, General Makabe (played by Kurosawa mainstay, Toshiro Mifune), who they enlist to help them steal the gold. Makabe has other ideas. They later meet up with the fiercely sexy Princess Yukihime (Misa Uehara) who playfully defends herself from the two anti-heroes, smacking all insolent fools with a reed and secretly running the show. The two rogues suffer through constant harassment with wide eyed fear and cowardice that Kurosawa somehow makes endearing.

It was said that Kurosawa would spend the mornings of the writing process thinking up impossible situations for the two rogue protagonists and the production crew would have the afternoon to plot out how the two would escape from certain death; The pair survive numerous captures, a prison riot, multiple rock slides (!) and more often than not each other during a sometimes cathartic, sometimes hilarious series of events. The Hidden Fortress is an archetypal dark comedy and could be well adapted in the future because of it's intelligent dynamics and carefree yet succinct episodes (the first Star Wars employs much of the same wide open sense of adventure).

While being one of the lightest of Kurosawa's films, it still has the underlying fatalism and rebelliousness that is inherent of much of interesting Japanese cinema. For examples, see much of mainstream (and probably most non mainstream) anime, as well as the nihilistic cult films of today like the recently Americanized Ringu (The Ring) and Kyua (Cure) by Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation). The Hidden Fortress is worth a viewing by any patient film buff.
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kinume28 August 2003
This is one of the most hilarious movies I have ever seen. There is just too much to write about, so just rent it, or better yet, buy it! Toshiro Mifune's performance as Rokorota alone is worth it. His "duel scene" in which he battles general Hoye is fantastic. I guess George Lucas based Star Wars on this wonderful movie. I've already watched this movie 6 times, Star Wars 3. I just can't recommend it enough. Hidden Fortress & Rashomon are 2 of my favorite Kurasawa/Mifune collaborations. Rent them both & have fun!
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Good Entertainment With Interesting Story & Characters
Snow Leopard18 July 2002
It might not quite compare with Kurosawa's greatest movies, but "The Hidden Fortress" is good entertainment with an interesting story and characters. Toshiro Mifune is enjoyable to watch as always, and although most of the story is played for action and/or humor, it does have a couple of powerful scenes as well. The story of a defeated general trying to lead his princess past the enemy to safety is given plenty of twists and turns that give all of the characters some good moments.

Along with all of the action, there are some pretty good characters, with Mifune, as the general, a big part of holding everything together in his interactions with all of the others. The rather spoiled princess learns quite a bit about life, and the two greedy farmers learn - and often quickly forget - some lessons of their own. There are also some good scenes with an enemy general. Most of it works well, and it's an entertaining movie.
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Three Rascals in the Hidden Fortress
sme_no_densetsu14 September 2009
Akira Kurosawa's "The Hidden Fortress" is mostly notable today as one of the key influences on the film "Star Wars". In particular, the pair of lowly peasants who provide the film's point of view were the inspiration for C-3PO & R2-D2. The headstrong princess on the run also invites comparison to Princess Leia, though Lucas insists that that was only a coincidence.

The story here takes shape after down on their luck peasants Tahei & Matakishi cross paths with a mysterious stranger. When they find that he knows about the gold that they've recently stumbled upon their greed leads them to join forces with him in hopes of a big payoff. Along the way they meet a supposedly mute woman who is actually the princess of the defeated Akizuki clan. They then set out to cross enemy lines with a princess and a load of gold in tow.

The cast is uniformly solid with a few familiar faces from other Kurosawa films like "Seven Samurai". Minoru Chiaki & Kamatari Fujiwara play the parts of the peasants with relish and the legendary Toshirô Mifune delivers a fine performance as the crafty General. Misa Uehara stars as the princess and I would have liked to have seen her utilized a bit more but that's a minor point.

The story is an entertaining adventure yarn but if you're looking for something on par with "Seven Samurai", this isn't it. It has a lighter tone and is more accessible, though these facts aren't necessarily detractions from the film. In any case, you still get top-notch direction from Kurosawa which in this case is accompanied by a lively score from Masaru Satô.

While those interested in George Lucas's inspirations for "Star Wars" may get the most out of this film I think that it is a solid tale of adventure in its own right. It may be no match for "Seven Samurai" but, then again, few films are.
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One of the best roles for Mifume
peterinvt31 December 2004
The DVD version of the film has a short talk with George Lucas who used the two primary characters as an inspiration for R2D2 and C3PO in the Star Wars saga. Toshiro Mifume is of course the real star of the film but the story is told from the perspective of the two down and out peasants who've just escaped from a burying detail.

There is a lot of comic relief in the film and sudden twists that gives it a full spectrum of entertainment. One of my favorite scenes is a lengthy duel with spears. Mifume has just a great roll in this film as a general on the run with the sole-survivor of a defeated clan. It is one of his most light-hearted roles with an ever present "can-do" attitude. Another point for the film is that it has a clear storyline and is not overlong. It is a good start for those wanting to see Kurasawa films.
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The movie that George Lucas based Star Wars
Lady_Targaryen13 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
''Kakushi-toride no san-akunin'', better well known as ''The Hidden Fortress'' is the famous movie from Akira Kurosawa that influenced George Lucas when he was making the script for Star Wars' story.( All the the comical interplay between two characters as major theme, is present in both scrips, as well as a hero who is saving a princess)

I think this movie is very funny,specially because of the discussions of both farmers. Toshiro Mifune is also great in the regular role of the tough guy.

Sixteenth Century, Japan. Two greedy peasant farmers,Tahei and Matakishi are refugees, trying to return home after a war. They find gold while warming themselves and they were decided to find even more, when they meet General Rokurota Makabe, who lures them with gold to help him and also a beautiful and mysterious girl, to cross enemy lines. What they are going to discover is that the girl is a princess and the tough guy is her general.

Ps:I find it odd to see the princess wearing shorts,since at that time I think shorts didn't exist, and if it did, I think women could not use shorts and pants.
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The lightest and funniest of Kurosawa's samurai epics
abadger19 October 1998
Overshadowed by bigger efforts like "the Seven Samurai", its nature distorted by its status as the official "inspiration" for "Star Wars", "the Hidden Fortress" is a unique delight in the Kurosawa canon, balancing wry humor and deep empathy on the line between realism and fairy tale. The film opens and closes with the two bickering farmer/soldiers who inspired R2-D2 and C3P0, but they're nothing like their "Star Wars" descendants -- their swings from slapstick to base treachery make them so weird and un-Hollywood that Lucas' robots seem neutered by comparison. Mandatory viewing, for many reasons.
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A little disappointment
basti-mehling30 January 2004
I must admit that this was the first movie by Kurosawa that disappointed me a little bit, although it has some great scenes (the first ten minutes until the massacre in front of the mines are great and of course the fire-festival scene). The story though was hard to get and the characters (unsually for Kurosawa) rather stereo-types than human beings. Especially the stupid and greedy peasants got on my nerves after a while, acting like clown-children all the time, without any character development. Mifune is great as incarnation of manliness though, and the androgyn princess is also an interesting figure, kind of Japanese styled hunt goddess Diana, sweet and small on the one hand, rude and imperious on the other. Could have been a great movie, since it has everything Kurosawa usually needs to develop his great psychological character studies... I missed something like the great monologue of Mifune in the Seven Samurai, where he is first mocking the farmers for their ridiculousness, but then turning his speech into a stirring accusation against the class of the Samurai, that suppressed the formerly free farmers and made them what they are, small, weak and afraid all the time....Hidden Fortres instead, with its all time noble, strong and good Mifune as opposed to the all time greedy, weak and unloyal farmers seems to give rather a reason for mastery of the one over the other, since it does not try to explain its characters.

As key scene however, the fire dance with its song (a man's life goes with the fire/a worm's life drops into the flames)is so electrifying and has such a tense atmosphere, that it alone compensates for the rather conservative plot development....
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This movie deserves to be mentioned by itself!
Dark Eye13 April 2002
This is another enjoyable outing from one of the world's most beloved film director, Akira Kurosawa. In my opinion its much more like a comedy, yet never ignored the serious aspects of human nature - which is why I enjoyed it so much. But when it comes to slash & hack samurai-themed movies of his, I think the Seven Samurai & Yojimbo is still unbeatable.

Its a bit strange to hear that so many have to mention Star Wars with this film. Okay so Lucas is a rip-off (a pretty good one though) but its free publicity nonetheless!

Also, any comparison between the two is downright stupid because Star Wars is purely a Sci-Fi movie and Lucas' directing skill is ... well, rather abysmal (but not awful, American Graffiti is a great movie - so give this guy some merit). Don't get me wrong, I love Star Wars and I think Lucas is a brilliant storyteller. However, Kurosawa is in an entirely different class, and like other greats such as Hitchcock and Godard, he is incomparable. I would list him in the top 10 most influential film director of all time. He inspired and influenced other heavyweight directors such as Scorsese, Spielberg, Herzog, John Sturges (The Magnificent Seven). Oh, and yes ... Lucas too, for those of you who are hardcore Star Wars fans.
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"Hide a stone among stones and a man among men."
elvircorhodzic2 February 2017
THE HIDDEN FORTRESS is an adventure drama with elements of comedy, which examines human courage, loyalty and greed.

A country is torn apart in a war between two rival clans. A two poor farmers are trying to use a state of the war in order to profit. Their attempts are usually unsuccessful. After one attempt, the two of them barely save lives. However, they accidentally find a couple of bars of gold, which are marked with symbols of the defeated clan. One general (of dubious identity) is interested in gold also. He promises them a share in the wealth if they help him to escape to a free territory. A mute girl will join them ....

Mr. Kurosawa has presented a medieval clash in Japan through a joint adventure between two greedy and unstable, but hilarious characters and two strong characters which manifest courage and loyalty at the same time. The war topics, except at the beginning of the film, are in the background. A dismal and cruel landscape corresponds to human greed and slyness.

The story is quite tense and exciting. The focus is on two unlikable characters, whose cowardice is almost tragicomic. The true heroes are a kind of "support" in this story.

Minoru Chiaki (Tahei) and Kamatari Fujiwara (Matashichi) were simply excellent. The rwo paupers, which with their greed and cowardice drive everyone crazy in a tragicomic way. They are constantly in conflict and they give a certain comic dimension in this film. Toshiro Mifune as general Rokurota Makabe is extremely strong, loyal and brave character, who gradually revives his heroic figure. Misa Uehara as Princess Yuki has offered an impressive performance. A bit arrogant princess is doing well in the role of the mute girl. This crazy adventure has changed her character.

This is one fast, funny and visually impressive adventure where Mr. Kurosawa made an excellent balance between courage and cowardice, or between tragedy and comedy.
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