I was bored one night and decided to go see a movie. The only thing that even remotely interested me was 'The Last Samurai.' Although I walked out of the theatre feeling slightly disappointed, that a movie with such potential would have to be ruined by typical hollywoodism, and the poor choice of casting Tom Cruise, it left me with a curiousity about other Samurai themed movies. This is how I stumbled across Kurosawa.
Although lacking the blood, and special effects of newer releases, it lacks absolutely none of the intensity. In fact, I was on the edge of my seat during 'the duel.' This movie is a lesson perhaps, in how acting is taking a second to special effects lately, and how the opposite should be the case.
The Hidden Fortress is NOT an epic that gives great insight into the code of the samurai or other such nonsense. It's a fun romp through the misadventures of several bungling "heroes": Two greedy, cowardly peasants, a knight very similar to the young Obi-Wan Kenobi, and a bitchy, aloof Princess Yuki of Akizuki (a name that sounds like something from Dr. Seuss). They are trying to smuggle the Akizuki treasury (gold bars hidden in firewood) and the princess to safety. But greed, lust and stupidity keep getting in the way.
This movie is more of an old-style caper film than a samurai epic. The dumb, double-dealing characters are more from The Lavender Hill Mob than MacBeth. What makes the characters more interesting is that the two peasants don't hold a monopoly on greed and harebrained "cunning plans" that would make Baldric from The Black Adder proud, and the knight and the princess don't hold all the courage and nobility cards, either. In fact, the two peasants come up with a plan that literally saves their necks.
The way the film is told from the point of view of the two lowliest characters was quite novel and an obvious influence on George Lucas when he made the first Star Wars. The Hidden Fortress is a great movie in its own right, though.
To people with open minds without preconceived notions of what should and should not be in a Kurosawa film, The Hidden Fortress is a great movie.
Protected by her closest general but trapped in enemy territory, a young princess is aided by two hapless farmers. Read more