'The Hidden Fortress' - Movie Review

I was interested in "Hidden Fortress" for two reasons, and I'm a little embarrassed to admit that George Lucas's use of elements of this movie in the original "Star Wars" movie was the greater of the two. The other was of course the director, Akira Kurosawa. This is a "jidaigeki" film - means the same thing "period drama" does here.

The movie opens on two peasants trying to make their way home near the end of a war. They were forcibly recruited for grave-digging, and now that they've been released they haven't eaten in a couple days. The plot certainly doesn't seem like "Star Wars" ... But when you look at it from a different angle - two lowly comedic characters caught in the machinations of a war they don't understand - you get R2D2 and C3PO stumbling about on unwanted adventures. Plus a powerful general in exile and a strong-willed princess ...

The peasants Tahei and Matashichi are a couple of petty, greedy, and cowardly men who are pushed about by circumstances around them. They're forcibly recruited a couple more times, most notably by General Makabe RokurĊta (Toshiro Mifune - who else stars in Kurosawa's films?) to help him smuggle gold and a princess (although they don't know about that part as she's disguised) to another clan's territory.

Much of the movie consists of them whining or fighting each other. This was apparently comedy gold in Japan, but didn't raise a single laugh from me. And as a dramatic work ... it kind of seemed that there were two movies running in parallel, the "comedic" one with the two peasants that occasionally intersected the warring clans movie with Mifune's character. And the second movie wasn't very good either.

I know many people consider Kurosawa to be among the greatest directors who have ever lived, but several of his movies have left me indifferent or even annoyed. This is one of those. I did, however, completely fall under the spell of "Seven Samurai:" that one's so good I'll buy into the worship he gets.