Thursday, 12 January 2017

I've Just Seen: The Hidden Fortress (Kakushi toride no san akunin) (1958)

 Director: Akira Kurosawa

The Hidden Fortress will be familiar to some for being one of the inspirations for George Lucas' Star Wars. The plot of Kurosawa's film follows two hapless peasants caught up in a war between two clans. They manage to fall in with Makabe Roturota, a General with the Akizuki clan, who is taking the Princess Yuki (and other family members) to a safe territory. Along with the princess, there is a large portion of gold as well. While Lucas didn't take his plot verbatim from Kurosawa's film, the influence is very clear.

While not as great as Seven Samurai (but what is?), The Hidden Fortress is very enjoyable. Kurosawa regular Toshiro Mifune plays Roturota, a much straighter role than usual; his nobility and loyalty is contrasted to the two mercenary peasants. The princess does feel like a prototype Princess Leia - she is not afraid to give her opinion, even though she is acting as a mute. The two peasants provide much of the humour, and rather reminded me of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Hamlet.

Comparing Kurosawa's work across his filmography is an interesting exercise. On the surface the samurai films look like different beasts from his earlier dramas, which often focused around medical conditions. Yet throughout all his films, his deep interest in human beings is clear. It is even present in a film like The Hidden Fortress, which, while taking the audience on a rollickingly fun adventure, never forgets to populate the story with memorable characters.


  1. The influence on Lucas is less what I thought it would be. Frankly I thought Star Wars would simply be a remake, but that is not so. These are two distinctly different movies and once I realized that (and swallowed my disappointment) I liked Hidden Fortress a lot better. Not as good as Seven Samurai, butas you say, what is?

    1. I think is a subtle influence; some scenes, like the two peasants meeting the princess at the end, felt familiar. But they were not straight copies. The fact Star Wars is not a direct remake shows Lucas was more mature in his filmmaking than maybe he gets credit for.

      Seven Samurai has a melancholic depth to it, along with all its action. The Hidden Fortress feels first and foremost a fun story, albeit one that is expertly crafted.