Influencing films like Star Wars, Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress is the next film from the What Else to Watch from DK Books The Movie Book following my screening of Rashomon.
A fun, action-filled adventure with dramatic moments, and fantastic performances, the story follows a pair of greedy peasants, Tahei (Minoru Chiaki) and Mastashichi (Kamatari Fujiwara). They discover hidden gold, and soon find themselves caught up in an adventure that sees them helping a General, Rokurota Makabe (Toshiro Mifune) and the Princess in his protection, Yuki (Misa Uehara) escape through enemy lines.
It’s a fun adventure filled with laughs, and Tahei and Mastashichi are very familiar, as they seem like versions of Laurel and Hardy, or slightly greedier versions of C-3PO and R2-D2.
The film sprawls leisurely across a two hour runtime, and has some fantastic character moments, and showdowns. Mifune is in his element, and watching him ride, and square off against his former friend , General Hyoe Tadokoro (Susumo Fajita) makes for some thrilling moments.
Tajei and Mastaschichi seem to to stumble from one incident to another that simply adds to the adventure, and often leads them to another success.
Kurosawa makes the most of his story, and the cinematography as well as the performances. It’s an exciting and thrilling watch that has lots of laughs and some amazing sequences.
Mifune is a joy to watch, and he’s so wonderfully gruff in this film, he balances the peasants nicely as he works to keep the princess safe, as well as safeguard the gold he is helping to smuggle through the enemy lines (conveniently hidden in wood sticks).
The film rockets along, and everything balances, tying up nicely before the film’s end. Tajei and Mastaschichi are brilliantly entertaining, complaining about all their problems and making the peasants highly enjoyable, if unlikable characters.
Of all the characters, Yuki is the least utilised, which is too bad, though she is given some brilliant moments to shine, throughout the film.
This is one of those films that I had always heard about, and knew that it had served as a huge influence on films that followed it, but I had never seen it.
That is to my loss, because it is a fantastic film, and is slowly making my selection of favourite Kurosawa film that much more difficult. And, of course, it simply makes me appreciate the incredible talent of Mifune so much more.
And just to keep me on my toes there’s a couple more Kurosawa’s coming up as I continue to explore the What Else to Watch list in DK Canada’s The Movie Book.