Daibutsu, Kamakura

Daibutsu, Kamakura
Daibutsu in Kamakura, June 2010. There were thousands of school kids visiting that day. It was still great fun.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Hidden Fortress

A general and a princess must dodge enemy clans while smuggling the royal treasure out of hostile territory with two bumbling, conniving peasants at their sides; it's a spirited adventure that only Akira Kurosawa could create. Acknowledged as a primary influence on George Lucas' Star Wars, The Hidden Fortress delivers Kurosawa's inimitably deft blend of wry humor, breathtaking action and humanist compassion on an epic scale. The Criterion Collection is proud to present this landmark motion picture in a stunning, newly-restored Tohoscope edition.

Kakushi-toride no san-akunin or The Hidden Fortress. This is another Akira Kurosawa film starring Toshiro Mifune and released in 1958. This movie is filmed in some of the most impressive natural locations with stunning backdrops of stark cliffs and rocky canyons. This is classic Toshiro Mifune in a classic, old samurai movie from the fifties. General Rokurota Makabe (Mifune) protects the damsel, but not the damsel in distress, but a strong and intense princess, as they try to escape across the enemies border.

Misa Uehara, who plays the princess Yuki, is not typical of female characters in classic samurai films. She plays a strong and demanding leader of her clan. While I was impressed with this unusually strong female character, at the same time, some of Uehara's performance got on my nerves. Often throughout the film, Yukihime would stand stiffly with her feet spread wide and holding a thin bamboo stick between her two hands. She held this bamboo stick in this manner for most of the film which had me wishing I could tell her to "get rid of that damn stick already." Oh well.

I think the best aspect of the movie is the two bumbling, conniving peasants, Tahei and Matakishi. They are hilarious and really make the movie. But they are not just there for some comic relief because the story is really told from their point of view. There is not a lot of action in this movie but it is not supposed to be an action movie. However, this movie did have one of the most impressive duels I have seen in any samurai movie. It's not a sword duel however but an incredible duel between Makabe and his nemesis using spears. Great duel.

This movie actually was an influence for George Lucas for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, especially in how the telling of the story is from the points of view of the film's lowliest characters, C-3PO and R2-D2, taken from the character Tahei and Matakishi. The strong princess Yuki being the influence for the strong Princess Leia. I am not sure who General Rokurota Makabe is the influence for. When you talk about "classic" samurai films, The Hidden Fortress is a classic of classics and a must see for anyone who is a fan of traditional samurai film.


  1. I love when Yuki demanded to know why was she supposed to commit suicide. People assume everyone did what they were expected to do. I like that Kurosawa made her a strong character. But let's face it that opening reaction shot to the action off camera was brilliant. You can totally see where Lucas got the idea for the opening of A New Hope. Between the comic relief of the two bumbling thieves and Mifune's grunts I absolutely loved this film enough to add it to my collection.

  2. This one of my favorite Kurosawa films. However, I think Kagemusha was his best work on the Sengoku era. Hidden Fortress is a gem and never a dull moment. Also just received Toshiie to Matsu. So far, it is good and enjoyable.

  3. The two bumbling peasants made this a great film.

    I just finished watching Samurai Assassin and LOVED IT. This is an awesome film. For a story so well known, the plot twist at the end was totally unexpected.

  4. I'm almost ashamed to say it, but the only Kurosawa film I've seen is 7 Samurai, which I loved. I guess I just don't take the time to watch films much these days. The Hidden Fortress has been on my movie list for a long time. Your write up gives me the urge to finally go rent it!