The Hidden Fortress

  • 1958
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Action, Adventure

Akira Kurosawa's THE HIDDEN FORTRESS is a paradigm of the modern adventure epic--a marvelously entertaining blend of a simple but strong plot, exhilarating action scenes, tongue-in-cheek humor, and a solid philosophical underpinning. Toshiro Mifune gives a towering performance as a general in 16th-Century feudal Japan who aids a dethroned princess whose...read more

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Reviewed by Michael Scheinfeld
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Akira Kurosawa's THE HIDDEN FORTRESS is a paradigm of the modern adventure epic--a marvelously entertaining blend of a simple but strong plot, exhilarating action scenes, tongue-in-cheek humor, and a solid philosophical underpinning. Toshiro Mifune gives a towering performance as a general

in 16th-Century feudal Japan who aids a dethroned princess whose clan has been defeated in a civil war. With the aid of two buffoonish farmers, the general escorts the princess through hostile territory and transports 170 pounds of gold bars to a hidden fortress in the woods. Originally released

in the US in a truncated 90-minute print, the film was not shown outside of Japan in a full-length version until 1983, at which time George Lucas admitted that it was one of his main inspirations for STAR WARS (1977), particularly in the characters of the bumbling, bickering farmers, who were

copied in metal to make R2-D2 and C-3PO, as well as in the basic premise of escorting a feisty princess through enemy territory. The film was Kurosawa's first (of many) to be shot in a widescreen format, and his use of the expansive rectangular frame is masterly. He immediately establishes a

surreal comic nightmare mood where violence could explode at any moment, starting with the very first shot that follows the farmers from behind in one long take as they stand at the edges of the frame and trudge across a foggy forest and argue; suddenly, a bloody soldier stumbles into the frame

out of nowhere and six horsemen come thundering in behind him and stab him to death. The kinetic action scenes, featuring hordes of extras and massive battles are superbly shot and edited, yet for all of the excitement, the film also has a deeply spiritual and philosophical side, exemplified by

the spectacular fire-worshipping sequence, in which the participants dance wildly around a bonfire and sing "This floating world's a dream, so burn in mad abandon."

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Akira Kurosawa's THE HIDDEN FORTRESS is a paradigm of the modern adventure epic--a marvelously entertaining blend of a simple but strong plot, exhilarating action scenes, tongue-in-cheek humor, and a solid philosophical underpinning. Toshiro Mifune gives a… (more)

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