The Hidden Fortress

The Hidden Fortress ★★★★★

Finally watched Hidden Fortress last night. I’d put this off for years thinking it was something that it wasn’t. It’s a delightful fairytale adventure stretched gloriously wide across the screen. It’s Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, but our heroes are two buffoons who seem to be repositories for all the weakest of our human vices. There’s also one seemingly heroic general covers who two biggie vices missing in the farmers: Pride and Unquestioned Loyalty. The plot is driven by their need and greed to carry a load of gold, but the Princess is the real treasure.

The venal farmers are constantly trying to steal the gold, but the real thieves here are George Lucas, and Sergio Leone — who should pay royalties on this one like he had for ripping off Yujimbo for Fist Full of Dollars (though I’d argue AK owes royalties to Dashiell Hammett for ripping off Red Harvest. . . ) Kurusowa does some stealing of his own from D.W. Griffith (Intolerance), John Huston (Treasure of the Sierra Madre) and John Ford’s Three Bad Men (whence it borrows its Japanese title Three Bad Men in a Hidden Fortress.)

While Lucas, Leone, and Kurosowa do some borrowing, their labors result in a new creation through their work. As Shakespeare (that greatest of plot thieves) said best, “If there be nothing new, but that which is Hath been before how are our brains beguil’d, Which, labouring for invention, bear amiss The second burthen of a former child!” In other words, why bother going through labor twice if all your going to get his the same baby you’ve already given birth to.

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