50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2014
I just can't believe there's no review on this amazing movie. Incredible. Please look this movie up elsewhere online and read the reviews you can find. Even Rotten Tomatoes gives it 5 stars. Anything I write won't come close to some of the more insightful reviews on this fantastic movie. I will say this, the hilarious scenes starring the 2 peasants forced to accompany the General (the great Toshiro Mifune giving another one of his amazing performances) and the Princess throughout the movie were the inspiration for R2-D2 and C3PO in Star Wars. Pretty cool trivia fact. If you're put off by sub-titles, that's a shame. You're missing some of the greatest movies ever made by one of history's greatest directors. I can watch this or Kurasawa's Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Ran, Throne of Blood, Kagemusha and Rashomon all day long. (Sorry, I couldn't pick just one once I started. And I'm know I left some out.) Of course, Seven Samurai is an all day long movie just by itself..lol.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2014
Received my pre-order a day early from another retailer who had a better deal. I've been waiting a very long time for Criterion to release a blu-ray edition of this incredibly entertaining film. I must say, they did a stellar job of overhauling the visuals to a level this film has never even come close to. The clarity of the film's widescreen format with an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 is breathtaking. There will be two large black bars on top and bottom of the screen. It seems noticeably brighter and the contrast level is maxed out. You might want to tone down the brightness level a notch or two in order to make it easier on the eyes for the next 2 1/2 hrs. The blacks are deep and the visual integrity is near 3 dimensional. You won't get that fuzzy low rez blur that you get from lower quality formats. The close-ups of faces are incredibly detailed to the point where you can see their pores, sweat, wrinkles, and grunge. The foreground as well as the background is crisp and detailed. It's hard to believe such a dramatic makeover could be possible with a film nearly 60 yrs old. The subtitles are brighter and much easier to read. There is noticeable grain throughout the film which is intended and doesn't detract from the enjoyment rather it's appreciative. Don't see how this film can get any better.
There are 3 audio options; original monaural, 3.0 perspecta simulated surround, and a commentary from the Japanese film scholar Stephen Prince. The commentary is very insightful and highly entertaining. Other options include the making of the film called "It is wonderful to create" and a short interview with George Lucas; how he was influenced by Kurosawa in SD quality.
The case includes a small booklet which has the chapter selections as well as an insightful introduction from another film scholar Catherine Russell. The DVD and Blu-Ray discs are arranged from top and bottom inserts instead of separate spindles to minimize space as well as cost.
Now that you've read my spiel. Go click "confirm purchase" now!
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2014
I will probably get the blu-ray version. Already have the DVD. Best Kurosawa movie and one of Mifune's best. I have over 300 Japanese movies and this is my favorite. If you are looking for a samurai movie with a lot of fighting scenes, this isn't the movie for you. Lucas has admitted that he got the basic idea for Star Wars from this movie. The main plot is a general trying to take a princess through enemy territory to get her home with the help of two bumbling peasants. The two peasants provide most the comedy with Mifune playing a stoic samurai leader. Great movie and I highly recommend getting it.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 2014
I was debating whether or not to pick up blu-rays of Mr Kurosawa's films. Since I've seen Hidden Fortress and most of his films on the big screen, and I own the complete collection on dvd, I wondered how many more times could I watch some of these great movies? After picking up HF and high and low, I know i'll be watching them all over again, several times.
The print is the best I have seen, and the 2k resolution is really stunning especially with the revolt of the slaves scene. With Kurosawas deep focus there are so many faces in the background, previously represented by a grey pixel or two on dvd, that now have visible expressions!!
My only thing is the translations for a lot of these movies aren't as good as the old vhs translation subtitles, imo. I would like an option of the old subs along with the new translations.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 2014
This is the clearest, sharpest print of this film I have seen, the new 2k scan reveals much more detail, also, the audio is much improved over the DVD release.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2014
The movie was great, the Cast, Directing, Photography story line, a crystal clear Picture.
What more can you ask of a movie.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2014
Hidden Fortress is extremely entertaining. It offers a mixture of humor, boisterous actions, and moving drama. I already owned the DVD version. But this blu ray edition is a big step up. It showcases clearly the fine details of landscapes and sets along with the expertly staged background activities. It also includes a commentary by Stephen Prince, and a behind the scene documentary which were not available on the previous Criterion DVD.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2014
It surprised me when I re-watched this recently how many set pieces were in a film I didn't used to think of as flamboyant or virtuosic. But there is was, when one takes account for the smaller budgets and perhaps limited technical abilities of the time and place: the stunning dance sequence, a big horseback chase that rivals Indiana Jones, a duel between two martial arts masters that mirrors the famous one between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader in Star Wars (because Lucas copied it and much else in this film, as he himself states). The two bumbling peasants, one tall and one short, trying constantly to get ahead on others' misfortune and make a buck, also resemble R2D2 and C3PO; it's interesting to note that in earlier drafts of Star Wars C3PO was more of a hustler and R2D2 originally spoke words too. The crazy samurai, played (as usual with Kurosawa) by Toshirô Mifune, was Lucas' original choice to play Kenobi, and some aspects of his personality remained in the finished Star Wars script, most notably when Luke's Uncle comments that he's "just a crazy old wizard." The English Knight as played by Guinness hardly seems crazy, but with Mifune, the character undoubtedly would have been, because that's the kind of parts he played.
The story is similar to early drafts of Star Wars, with a touch of Phantom Menace thrown in. (Fear not, there's no Jar Jar; it's basically to do with the idea of a double for the princess so she won't be recognized.) Misa Uehara is terrific as Princess Yuki--rare for a female to be so strong in a Kurosawa film, unless she's a dark Lady Macbeth-type as in Ran and Throne of Blood. She's also, quite frankly, sexy as hell as she commands the screen, and sexuality (or even *warmth*) is one quality Lucas never got from Carrie Fischer. Takashi Shimura has only a small part, but I love anything he's in. Minoru Chiaki and Kamatari Fujiwara are the comic foils you'd expect, often poignant and sweet, but also a little grating after a while. And Toshirô Mifune is, well, Toshirô Mifune. Criterion's restoration is stunning (I used to own their DVD and believe me this is worth the upgrade), with rich scenery detail and gradated shadings of light in some scenes I'd never seen before. This is really beautifully shot and may well be Kurosawa's first widescreen film. (The director came to widescreen early and color late.) Supplements include excerpts from the superb documentary "It Is Wonderful to Create," a brief discussion of the film from George Lucas, the trailer, a beautiful booklet, and a commentary track from film historian Stephen Prince. Needless to say, if you love Kurosawa this is mandatory. If you're wondering what all the fuss is about, this movie is a good place to start. After all, it worked for a young George Lucas.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2014
We all agree that 'The Hidden Fortress' is one of our favorite Kurosawa films (if not our first choice) for various reasons you'll find in the Amazon positive reviews. A few years ago we made a trip from Connecticut to Portsmouth New Hampshire to watch it in a theater to enjoy it better on a big screen. But seeing this new Blu-ray is a revelation after owning the previous Criterion DVDs and watching a good print with an audience. This restoration is the best we'll ever see so trade in your previous editions and get this one which includes a DVD version for non Blu-ray owners and looks very good as well. In addition to the older extras there's more of the Toho series about the director's films, 'It is Wonderful to Create,' found on other Criterions and now there's an excellent commentary by Stephen Prince who has contributed other Kurosawa commentaries. Fan of these films should get his book 'The Warrior's Camera.'
However I will repeat my disappointment about Criterion's Blu-ray of another Kurosawa classic 'Throne of Blood' I reviewed on Amazon: "My only complaint is that the subtitles on this black & white film are too often difficult to read and worse on the above mentioned extra 'It is Wonderful to Create' due their white letters not having wide enough black edges when shown over white or light grey backgrounds. I've seen worse on other films and this continuous problem makes for a frustrating viewing experience which lessened my understanding and therefore enjoyment of the story. I have complained on Criterion's website about the bad subtitling on their Blu-ray of Fritz Lang's 'M' and other Amazon customers have commented about this problem on other Criterion discs of black & white films. Why they continue to release films this way is a mystery. Don't the folks in charge see what we see at home or more likely what we can't see? This problem could have been corrected very easily or at least have the subtitles printed in easy-to-read yellow as I've seen on B&W films from other companies."
What's the point of Criterion issuing a great restoration with new extras and us always willing to pay more for their quality discs if we can't fully enjoy them because of bad subtitling? Even a mediocre English dub would be preferable but you won't find one here. If the subtitles were easier to read, I would rate this Criterion five stars. Anyway it's a five star classic movie in any book and a must own set for fans.
Postscript 2/9/15: So far my review earned some unhelpful votes. I don't understand why anyone would think that being warned about illegible subtitling would be unhelpful unless the voter had something to do with this disc and didn't like my comments. Other than that, I praised this edition. Go figure...
on June 13, 2015
Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress is great fun. It is well-known to be a template for George Lucas' 1977 film A New Hope (Star Wars Episode 4), and just like that film, Hidden Fortress starts off with the unusual technique of the field of battle being described and surveyed by the lowliest of all participants - two bickering peasants from the same village who've stuck together as (failed) soldiers of fortune. On top of this major item, there are several other parallels as well - the noble general (like Obi Wan), the feisty princess (Leia) - from A New Hope, and one at the end that mirrors Darth Vader's final decision in Return Of The Jedi.
The film itself is a bit hit-and-miss, as it shows just a bit too much of the bickering Mutt and Jeff peasants, Tahei and Matashichi, especially at the beginning when their scenes go on for just a bit too long; but this is still contrasted brilliantly with horrific scenes of the aftermath of war that is really stunning to behold in terms of its brutality, filth and horror. And despite the length of some of their scenes, they do shine in their physical comedy routines, such as clambering up a slippery slope of rocky debris that keeps sliding away from them. Real Keystone Cops/Charlie Chaplin stuff here, but also with great lines/recurring motifs like "let's stay friends in heaven too." Funnier/lighter than a Kurosawa film has any right to be. The battle of wits between them and the noble general Makabe Rokurota, played by Kurosawa stalwart Mihune Toshiro, is always amusing - Makabe needs them as allies mainly for their labour and he plays their greed perfectly. Uehara Misa, a 19-year-old actress with gorgeous legs, is also stunning as a growling, feisty 16-year-old princess, especially in scenes when she holds off the randy peasants by snapping bushes and branches at them in a chase through the forest, and also for her whipping actions; she also has an amazing scene where she cries giant tears for literally 30 seconds in the middle of the film. Mihune's long spear duel with his adversary/ally General Hyoe Tadokoro is also a brilliant sight, especially when they tear apart curtains, the scene reminds of something from China's Three Kingdoms war epic.
The ups and downs of our team of four (later five) heroes is reminiscent of Luke and Obi-Wan's attempts to escape the Death Star and is great fun at every turn - tense and action-packed. Not a perfect film, but with plenty of great moments, many of which are unique in the Kurosawa canon. Loved it!
Not many bonus features on this one, but there's a very interesting interview with George Lucas on Kurosawa (8:10), where he mentions that the first Kurosawa film he ever saw was The Seven Samurai, and he ate Kurosawa films up after that. Lucas, a film school student, noted that Kurosawa's generation was still influenced by silent film, but that he was also a fan of John Ford, making his films more accessible to western audiences (where he was a film festival sensation), but also alienating him from Japanese audiences as being un-Japanese. This was eventually reconciled, but only after many years. Talking about Star Wars, Lucas notes how he picked up the motif of having the tale set up by the lowliest participants (droids, or peasants), but his princess is more of a stand-and-fight princess to Kurosawa's fleeing-to-safe-harbour princess; earlier drafts of the Star Wars screenplay had Leia be more like Princess Yuki, fleeing to safety, but this changed with revisions. Lucas notes that Kurosawa, in his films, tries to answer the question "why can't people be happier, and why can't they be happier together?"
Finally, there is a pretty good theatrical trailer (3:45) that includes a few shots of Kurosawa making the film.