The Hidden Fortress

The Hidden Fortress ★★★★½

Kurosawa's two previous films (The Lower Depths, Throne of Blood) was well received by the critics but to some extent failed at the box-office. It was therefore important that the next one was entertaining. He switched to TohoScope and made a genuine adventure film. In it there is humor, beautiful women, mano a mano spear duels and whatnot. The film's original title in Japanese - Three Bad Men in a Hidden Fortress is a nod to John Ford's 3 Bad Men.

The story tells of a princess protected by a general, fleeing through enemy territory, respectively helped and hindered by a couple of wacky sidekicks. Tahei and Matashichi, as these two are called are wonderful.

The film was a resounding success in Japan. It features some impressive sequences, among others a brilliantly choreographed massacre in a huge stone staircase (another nod, this time to Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin). Fight sequences are also intriguingly done - a chase scene on horseback, a spear duel between Mifune's character and his old acquaintance.

As mentioned, this was Kurosawa's first film in widescreen, and it is exploited to the fullest. Fritz Lang once said about CinemaScope, «Oh, it was not meant for human beings. Just for snakes - and funerals», but couldn't be more wrong in this case. During his next five films Kurosawa proved himself a master at this medium.

Akira Kurosawa has often had the reputation being the Japanese director most inspired by western influences in his films. The most obvious references, however, goes the other way around. It is now fairly well known that The Hidden Fortress was one of the movies that inspired George Lucas to create Star Wars. There, Tahei and Matashichi lived on as R2-D2 and C-3PO.