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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 13.04%
Average: 4.35%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 4.35%

2 reviews, 11 user ratings

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Hidden Fortress, The
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by Brian McKay

"Crouching Princess, Hidden Fortress"
5 stars

Kurosawa reminds us that he really is the best Samurai movie director ever with THE HIDDEN FORTRESS, the film that greatly influenced Lucas when writing Star Wars (even more than he admits in the DVD-extras interview). With the biting humor of YOJIMBO and the grand scale of THE SEVEN SAMURAI, Kurosawa created a timeless comedy-adventure.

With usual front-man Toshiro Mifune at the fore, this film couldn't have gone too wrong. But the real focus of the story is on a pair of escaped thieves who, despite their initial bickerings, soon become friends of an almost co-dependent nature. When the fuedal state they are in is conquered, the princess Yuki (played by the lovely but strident Misa Uehara) escapes - only to have a reward of ten gold pieces placed on her head. Of course, what the conquerors want more than her head is the 200 pieces of gold she fled the Castle with.

Meanwhile, inept thieves Tahei (Minoru Chiaki) and Matakishi (Kamatari Fujiwara) are captured, but manage to escape in a prisoner riot and go hide in the mountains. While there, they come across two unexpected surprises - pieces of gold concealed in sticks of firewood, and the towering, bearded presence of one surly man who claims to be General Rokurota Makabe (Toshiro Mifune). Playing on their greed, he enlists their aid to cart out the hidden stash of gold he has nearby, leading them to a secret fortress in a mountain valley.

While in the small fortress, the thieves try to double-cross Rokurota every chance they get, and also encounter the presence of a young girl who they do not realize is the princess. As Rokurota and the Princess engage in trick after counter-trick against each other and the thieves, their fates becomes entwined and the lowly pair of thieves are committed to escorting the General, the Princess, and the gold out of enemy lines and to a friendly neighboring state.

There are many laugh out loud moments in Hidden Fortress, thanks to the dimwitted pair's antics and the use of Mifune's blustering bravado to intimidate and annoy them. The princess Yuki is also good for a few laughs as she spends half the time crouching in the bushes (to hide - not to pee) and the other half having a teenage outburst against Rokurota and her retainers. In addition, the film also bears some of Kurosawa's finest action sequences since Yojimbo, which include Mifune chasing down two escaping enemies on horseback with a two-handed grip katana smackdown at the end of the ride, and a protracted but excellent spear Deul between Rokurota and a general of the opposing army (note Mifune's spear selection process - quite possibly the funniest bit in the film).

The Criterion collection DVD doesn't contain a cornicopia of extra features, but it does have the aforementioned Lucas interview, as well as some subtitling that renders the dialogue a tad anachronistic in places. For example, one of the characters remarks "This Sucks", while the Princess argues with Rokurotan "You can't use reverse-psychology on me!" (you're right, Princess, he can't - the term won't even be coined for another 300 years!) Still, the translation remains funny and effective, and at least the use of more modern phrasing might make the film more accessible to the Blockbuster kids who have to watch it for a class - or (unthinkable) discover it on their own.

Though a fairly long film (139 minutes), THE HIDDEN FORTRESS should leave you with a smile on your face and almost wishing it would keep going. And although Lucas claims he based only a small part of STAR WARS on this story, you may find several parts that are somewhat familiar up until even the final scene.

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originally posted: 06/20/03 08:11:11
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User Comments

5/26/09 futurestar his venture into the big screen also introduced a new tactic - humor 5 stars
6/09/05 Agent Sands The inspiration for Star Wars, and still better than any of the 6 Star Wars movies. 5 stars
11/26/04 alien assassin this is absolutely divine...if you find this boring, get a brain transplant !!! 5 stars
4/07/04 ELO Bleh. Not Kurosawa's best. Kinda cornball and wears out it's welcome. 3 stars
12/18/03 Mark Saucier brilliant 4 stars
7/29/03 DM Really good, but Kurosawa's done better 5 stars
4/29/02 The Bomb 69 change my rating, comparing to his other films not fair, still better than 99% of all else 5 stars
4/29/02 The Bomb69 very solid, but not as good as Ran, Seven Samurai 4 stars
11/02/01 Yuri Eediott (just shut up and at least watch the movie) You're an idiot, critic, they weren't going home, they were going to friendlier territory. 4 stars
7/27/01 SJ Lumpenprole simply amazing plot construction - the first 30 minutes of SW is a decent imitation of this 5 stars
5/26/00 kelly boaring 1 stars
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  02-Feb-1962 (PG)

  02-Feb-1962 (PG)

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