The Hidden Fortress (1958)
Genre: Period Samurai Action Adventure (Japan)
Starring: Toshirô Mifune (Samurai Rebellion; Rashomon), Misa Uehara
Overview: Three men find gold near a hidden fortress. Their plan to cross enemy lines to deliver it home is rife with peril and double-cross.
Acting: The two oafish peasant characters, I'm told, were Lucas' inspiration for R2D2 and C-3PO. I see the similarity. Overall I would have thought this to be a touch melodramatic as most other Kurosawa films, but the Generals play good straight men. Yes, the others are a little out there but it's to be expected, even welcomed. Oh and Kurosawa, come on.
Cinematography: Vast mountainous panoramas and steep climbs across unyielding terrain, bonfire festivals and scores of armies, banners and one-on-one duels, The visual spectacle of this film is as good as any other of this director's work. Nice to watch.
Script: The dialogue of this is progressive while still being set solidly in the traditional past. There's both heavy moments of comic relief and deep dramatic dialogue. The plot is quickly laid out, leaving the dialogue to focus on characterization: the conniving greedy peasants and the deeper quest of the General.
Plot: Not as good as his other classic tales, this story nonetheless was inspiration to Star Wars, with the fortress itself represented by the Death Star. Neat huh? Lucas is no mooch though, the similarities end there. It's a good story overall, just nothing to get super excited about.
Mood: This is where Korusawa excels with all his historic accuracy and samurai war settings. This is the reason to watch him, this is his reason for making film. He puts you there, thick in the fog, surrounded by overwhelming armies of foes, underdog against all odds, with just enough Deux Ex Machina living in the characters to pull through (or do they?).
Overall Rating: 80% (A Hidden Classic)
Aftertaste: The 11th on the 1001 Movies list that I've seen, and I was really looking forward to this. Recently I polled people at my office, to settle a bet. I said that most people did in fact know who Kurosawa was, and those who didn't were uncultured dummies. Turns out I had to apologize to the first person I called a dummy because only around 10% of the people I work with know who this 'Top Ten Best' Director is. Does that mean I've grown too elite, or does it mean I need to work around people who are more cultured?