Toshiro Mifune swaggers and snarls to brilliant comic effect in Kurosawa's tightly paced, beautifully composed Sanjuro
. In this companion piece to Yojimbo, jaded samurai Sanjuro helps an idealistic group of young warriors weed out their clan's evil influences, and in the process turns their image of a "proper" samurai on its ear. Criterion is proud to present Sanjuro in a gorgeous Tohoscope transfer.
Akira Kurosawa's sequel to Yojimbo
is more lighthearted and less cynical, a rousing adventure with Toshirô Mifune reprising his role as the scruffy mercenary who becomes an unlikely big brother to a troupe of nine naive samurai. Shuffling into a secret meeting where the proud young men discuss the graft choking their clan, Mifune's Sanjuro scratches his scraggly beard and distractedly rubs his neck like some common peasant while giving them advice on appearances and truths: "People aren't what they seem," he warns the dubious lads. "Be careful." Naturally they aren't, and Sanjuro grudgingly adopts the well-meaning but hopelessly ill-equipped heroes, giving the starry-eyed youths a series of lessons in real-world honor and respect while saving their skins from reckless attacks and impulsive plans. It isn't the subtlest of Kurosawa's films--the repetitious lessons and speeches delivered to the thickheaded samurai are rather obvious--but it's one of his most entertaining. Mifune, gruffly at ease with the boys, is hilariously discomforted in the presence of a cultured lady, who sees through his shaggy exterior and imparts a little wisdom of her own. Mifune bounds into action in a number of impressive sword fights--wonderfully choreographed lightning-quick battles in which Mifune leaps all over the widescreen image--but an increasing sense of waste, of futility, hangs over the action scenes, culminating in a tense but meaningless duel of honor. The accompanying trailer on the DVD features brief behind-the-scenes glimpses of Kurosawa directing Mifune through an action sequence. --Sean Axmaker