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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

THE HIDDEN FORTRESS (1958)

Akira Kurosawa’s film about a Princess on-the-run, her noble protector and the two venal peasants who are more interested in gold than glory, has been overanalyzed and overrated because George Lucas used some of the film’s key elements in the original STAR WARS film.  (You’d barely know it without a plot & character guide in hand.*) Compared to his two preceding pics, THRONE OF BLOOD/’57 and THE LOWER DEPTHS/’57, this is something of a lark, yet the scale of the film hardly suggests comedy. Kurosawa may have been overly concerned in filling the frame on his first WideScreen effort, hitting a low point with a lumpen effort during a Dionysian fire festival, but he shows off his best form in two smashing action sequences (a horse chase & a duel with spears) for perennial lead, Toshiro Mufune. It’s an entertaining work, but Kurosawa would easily best this in YOJIMBO/’61 (which more directly inspired A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS) and it’s wildly underrated sequel SUNJURO/’62.

*One element that really does reflect STAR WARS is the laughably inadequate female lead, Misa Uehara, who soon left the biz.

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