Combustible Celluloid
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With: Toshiro Mifune, Minoru Chiaki, Kamatari Fujiwara, Susumu Fujita, Misa Uehara
Written by: Ryuzo Kikushima, Hideo Oguni, Shinobu Hashimoto, Akira Kurosawa
Directed by: Akira Kurosawa
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Japanese with English subtitles
Running Time: 139
Date: 12/28/1958

The Hidden Fortress (1958)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Sticks and Stones

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Toshiro Mifune became a star after playing the outlandish, animated bandit in Rashomon, and he worked with director Akira Kurosawa again in a total of sixteen films. Among these was the exciting adventure epic The Hidden Fortress, which is said to have inspired George Lucas in making the first Star Wars. Over the course of the film, a swordsman (Mifune), a princess (Misa Uehara), and two comic relief idiots (similar to R2-D2 and C-3P0) attempt to smuggle a cache of gold -- hidden in sticks of firewood -- through an endless series of pitfalls and traps.

The movie is fairly long, but Kurosawa keeps the pace consistent and the mood light, making beautiful use of his widescreen frame. It was one of his most financially successful movies. The Criterion Collection's beautiful DVD lacks a commentary track, but Star Wars fans will be interested to see George Lucas' video introduction to the film.

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