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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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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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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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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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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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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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"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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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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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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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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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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Light-hearted romp from a usually serious talent
Leofwine_draca21 September 2012
In an interview, Akira Kurosawa said that he made THE HIDDEN FORTRESS as a deliberate counterpart to the earlier, darker films of his career; he'd just come off the back of his MACBETH adaptation, THRONE OF BLOOD (and, let's face it, things don't get much darker) and he wanted to make a lighter piece of entertainment for a change. THE HIDDEN FORTRESS is certainly that: it's a humour-filled adventure filled with action and spectacle. It's also one of my less favourite Kurosawa movies.

I like darkness. I like dark, violent movies that explore the depths of the human soul. Comedy has never really appealed me to me – my tastes in humour are very subjective – and this film has a lot of comedy. In fact, pretty much every scene featuring the two cowardly peasants is played for laughs, and their appeal quickly wears thin. I began looking forward to the (few) moments they weren't around, and dreading their return to the fray.

Still, the rest of the story is a lot of fun. Toshiro Mifune enjoys himself in a lighter role for a change, and gets to take part in some for-the-time spectacular action scenes; his duel with a rival general is particularly engaging. The scene-stealer of the piece is Misa Uehara, playing a princess who disguises herself as a mute for much of the production. Uehara is exceptional when given the opportunity to throw off the shackles surrounding the roles usually given to women in historical dramas and an intriguing forerunner to the later femme fatales who would populate Japanese samurai cinema come the 1970s.

The story, involving the transportation of some gold across enemy country, is solid, but the plot does take a great deal of time to get moving. I wasn't very involved for the exceptionally long-winded introduction, but things get a lot better in the second half, when the genuine threat of discovery and death adds suspense to keep things moving along nicely. THE HIDDEN FORTRESS may not be an example of Kurosawa at his most profound, but it's a fine example of the director at work in a different, non-serious genre for a change.
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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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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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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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Mediocre for Kurosawa
evanston_dad2 December 2005
Granted, Kurosawa's mediocre is any other director's masterpiece, but still, I thought this 1958 effort fell somewhat short. It doesn't have that incredible narrative crispness that the best Kurosawa has--"Seven Samurai," which is nearly an hour longer, feels about half the length of this film. He uses his big widescreen canvas to good effect, and the film looks great in its sterling black and white photography. But I was, though I hate to admit it, somewhat bored through much of this.

No, the major point of interest in "The Hidden Fortress" for me was its inspiration for "Star Wars." This won't go down as one of my Kurosawa favorites. Leave that spot open for "Seven Samurai." Or maybe "Throne of Blood." Or maybe "Ran"....

Grade: B-
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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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Even a Kurosawa lesser masterpiece is a favorite
wsanders10 December 2004
It's pointed out often that this picture is not one of Kurosawa's masterpieces. That doesn't make it any less watchable. The film was made on a big budget and looks magnificent in the new Criterion DVD release, and Toshiro Mifune is more restrained (and thus all the more magnificent when he appears in the next-to-last scene in the movie). It has a plot, style, and stock characters that will not be unfamilar to Western audiences; of course that was why Kurosawa was so revolutionary, combining eastern and western styles. A good "starter" film, and a good yarn for experienced fans, even older children who speak Japanese or are willing to read the subtitles will enjoy it.
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Nearly a stock Japanese comedy/drama
yeseigo18 September 2004
This is very much minor league Kurosawa. As has been said, Kurosawa made

this as a commercial film, and it shows.

The comic idiots are staples of Japanese comedy and would be instantly

recognisable and appreciated by a Japanese audience. Whether they are funny

or not is a matter of taste - but the comic turns are pretty predictable and follow the audience expectations.

The Princess is a starlet, and the camera does not hesitate to linger on her bare legs This is 1958 Japan - it would be the equivalent of a thong bikini now. No guesses why the she is wearing shorts - historical accuracy my backside!

Great photography, and some scenes do have the master-touch - but it is

constrained by the (Japanese) stock characters that serve to put this in a

Japanese category of 'two bumbling idiots ' movie. Nothing wrong with that, but to the danger of deifying Kurosawa is to see everything he does as touched with genius.

It's primarily a comedy drama for a Japanese audience. They know what to

expect and get it.
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Nowhere near Kurosawa's best actioner, despite Mifune's fine job
rch42720 December 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Frankly, I'm baffled by other reviewers who have given "Hidden Fortress" such high praise. As a long-time fan of Kurosawa, I do not believe that "Hidden Fortress" should even be mentioned in the same breath as "The Seven Samurai", "Throne of Blood" or "Yojimbo". Indeed, other than Mifune's stalwart performance, there is little beyond the cinematography to reveal this as a Kurosawa film at all.

The film's structure is not the trouble; it is a fairly standard action plot revolving around warring clans and defeated soldiers trying to make their way out of enemy territory. As mentioned, the look of the film is typically Kurosawan, with dramatic settings, adventurous camera angles and dramatic vistas. No, the problems with "Hidden Fortress" are with the supporting characters and the plot devices. That, and the fact that it is at least 30 minutes too long.

First, the characters. Ostensibly, the film's main characters are not Mifune, but Minoru Chiaki and Kamatari Fujiwara, playing a couple of ignoble peasants who sold their homes to buy weapons and went to war to make their fortunes. Now defeated, they are trying to make their way home, while endlessly bickering with each other. For a parallel with their performances, look no further than Lou Costello (of Abbott & Costello) and Curly from the Three Stooges. Witless, shrieking when excited or afraid, and as broadly played as would fit on the screen. The other irritant is the character of the princess, who is played with mind-numbing amplitude by Misa Uehara. She seems unable to deliver a line of dialog with any subtlety or grace, instead preferring to stomp and flounce, shouting her lines, like an amateur Katherine Hepburn, "turned up to 11". It is perhaps of little surprise that her acting career spanned just three years.

The other main problem is in the plot devices. >>MINOR SPOILER ALERT<< I lost count of how many times the "good guys" led by Toshiro Mifune, escaped from impossible situations. The most egregious were when they were pursued in the forest by the enemy soldiers. Each of the men were supposedly carrying 200 to 300 pounds of gold on their backs, over mountainous terrain, but they were able to escape from soldiers just a few hundred feet behind them. Despite the hundreds of shots fired at them at close range, and bullets splintering the trees all around them, none of the main party were shot. That brings up another point: this is set during the Muromachi period, when the state of the art in weaponry were smooth-bore flintlock muskets, which took at least a few minutes to reload, yet the volleys come thick and fast from relatively few soldiers, and with amazing accuracy and range (although not accurate enough to hit any of the 4 main characters!) Also, the princess could not stand out more from her surroundings if she were painted pink. With her bizarrely shaped eyebrows, short-shorts and skimpy shirt, she hardly was likely to blend into the crowd as they tried to make their way incognito across enemy territory. Why not put her in a hat and peasant's clothing?

As for the supposed "Star Wars" connection--I find it tenuous at best. The stupid, greedy and untrustworthy pair of sidekicks little resemble R2-D2 or C-3PO, whose worst flaws were fear and occasional distrust. None of the other three main male characters resemble the three male leads from the original "Star Wars" film. A far more accurate comparison would be between Hidden Fortress and Hayao Miyazaki's "Mononoke-Hime", whose princess seems to have been lifted directly from "Hidden Fortress".

Kurosawa made so many great films, it is a shame to see so much unworthy praise heaped on a film that--lacking Mifune's presence and Kurosawa's name, would be regarded as a generic adventure flick.
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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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