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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Death in the Dust and the Wind
Although it lacks the scope of THE SEVEN SAMURAI, THRONE OF BLOOD, and other more widely known films by the celebrated Akira Kurosawa, the 1961 YOJIMBO (also known as BODYGUARD) is one of the most important films of the second half of the 20th Century--and a film that was deeply influenced by American film. Even so, YOJIMBO stands on its own merits: it's a magnificent...
Published on December 6, 2003 by Gary F. Taylor

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76 of 88 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Awesome... but falls short.
Thank you so much Criterion for releasing all of their licensed Akira Kurosawa films in a single boxset! This is one epic collection in every sense of the word!

Most arm-chair critics do not take into account or acknowledge companies like Criterion need to pay royalties for the right to release films! And the royalty often come with an expiration date. An...
Published on January 12, 2010 by JediFonger


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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Death in the Dust and the Wind, December 6, 2003
Although it lacks the scope of THE SEVEN SAMURAI, THRONE OF BLOOD, and other more widely known films by the celebrated Akira Kurosawa, the 1961 YOJIMBO (also known as BODYGUARD) is one of the most important films of the second half of the 20th Century--and a film that was deeply influenced by American film. Even so, YOJIMBO stands on its own merits: it's a magnificent piece of cinema that will fascinate even those who normally turn up their noses at "movies with subtitles."

In theory, the film is based on the 1929 Dashiell Hammett novel RED HARVEST--but transports the basic story to a period in Japan when the Samurai class has fallen on hard times and must seek employment as common body guards. Sanjuro Kuwabatake (brilliantly played by Toshiro Mifune, who appeared in several Kurosawa films) is such a one, a scruffy looking and aging warrior who finds himself caught between warring factions of a Japanese village and responds by playing the two against each other.

One of the film's greatest assets is its visual style. Kurosawa is very clearly influenced by the look of the American western here, and most particularly so, in my opinion, by HIGH NOON. Consequently, YOJIMBO leaps the cultural divide with considerable ease--but Kurosawa uses the images of empty streets and the lone warrior to considerably different effect, presenting him as a dangerous figure who emerges from the dust and the wind to rip wide his foes. But the film does not rely on visual style alone: there is plenty of hard substance here, too. The plot is tightly wound, action-intensive, and laced with a dry and very black humor, and the cast is superlative throughout.

As it borrowed from the American movie western, so did it influence American film in return, most obviously in the form of the popular Clint Eastwood "spaghetti westerns" of the 1970s--where it was essentially remade as A FIST FULL OF DOLLARS. But frankly Clint Eastwood never had it so good: with Kurosawa at the helm and Mifune as the lead, Eastwood's "lone stranger" feels mighty tame in comparison.

The Criterion DVD offers the film in original widescreen and in the best possible condition short of a full digital restoration. As noted elsewhere, there are occasional blips and lines--but honestly the film is so driving that you will barely notice them. The subtitles also seem to be a better translation than I've seen in any other version. YOJIMBO was my introduction to Japanese cinema. I urge you to let it be yours as well.

GFT, Amazon reviewer
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76 of 88 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Awesome... but falls short., January 12, 2010
By 
JediFonger "JediFonger" (Boston, MA United States) - See all my reviews
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Thank you so much Criterion for releasing all of their licensed Akira Kurosawa films in a single boxset! This is one epic collection in every sense of the word!

Most arm-chair critics do not take into account or acknowledge companies like Criterion need to pay royalties for the right to release films! And the royalty often come with an expiration date. An example of this is Kurosawa's 1985 film RAN was released on DVD and was scheduled to be released on Blu-ray only to have the rights expired. It was reverted back to Studio Canal, who eventually decided to release their own Blu-ray/DVD instead (at the time of this writing). Royalties/licenses are primary reasons why the following 5 titles are missing from this collection to make it COMPLETE:

The Quiet Duel
Dersu Uzala
Ran
Dreams
Rhapsody in August

I'm not an industry insider nor do I work for Criterion so I do not know the business decisions those 5 films aren't included in this collection. Remember, Criterion is business first, film purist second. My guess is it is not for the lack of trying to obtain the rights to release those 5 in this boxset. It's possible that either the license/copyright owners want too much money or there might not have been a great film print to begin with and it would take even longer for a set like this to be released! It's not like Criterion is sitting around with nothing to do =P. So, it isn't really Criterion's fault for not including every single film Akira Kurosawa has directed! This boxset is already monumental for the fact that Criterion took the time to do it in the first place! For that, I am grateful!

Note: Those Who Make Tomorrow (1946) is not included because Kurosawa himself disowned this film because Toho studio forced him to direct it for the sake of union. Google it and you'll find out why. I've seen this film and Kurosawa is correct, it is not even close to being Kurosawa-lite! IMDB lists 31 FULL Length features that Kurosawa has directed, but it should be 30 total.

Now, onto the set itself! Every single film in this set is presented in the usual excellent picture quality and audio presentation Criterion is known for! If you have purchased Criterion products in the past, you already know that they deliver the very BEST technical film presentation than anyone else in the industry. So if you were wondering what if Criterion skimped on quality, I would stop wondering. They did not skimp on anything in this boxset! All grain is preserved and the picture is clear and sharp and audio cleaned up so you can hear everything. Pretty good for 60+ year old film negatives on the early films!

Ok, so there is probably only 1 film that you are wondering how they can squeeze what was once a 2 disc high bitrate release (from the 3 disc edition) down to 1 disc. I'm talking about the Seven Samurai, of course. I have to remind you that Criterion has released that title 3 times (correct me if I'm wrong). The first is the barebone movie only version during the early days of DVDs, it was not even anamorphic I don't think. The second release, Criterion took the video from the first, cleaned it a bit, and added more bonus/extra. There is a progressive improvement, but nothing like the third release (the 3disc edition). This latest edition is the definitive remastering of the film negative that is so sharp and awesome they needed 2 discs (it is an almost 4 hour movie after all). Anyways, back to this set. Did Criterion do Seven Samurai justice by squeezing what was once 2 discs into 1 disc? Absolutely. Why? Improvements in MPEG-2 compression knowledge and technology over the years. MPEG-2 is a VERY mature codec by now. It's been 13+ years since DVDs debuted. Every year or so it has improved more and more, squeezing more quality out of less disk space than previously required. So rest assured everything else is golden here. It's not the *SAME* as the 3 disc, but it also not as poor as the first 2 edition releases. But if you love Seven Samurai like I do, you should already own the 3disc release (or the Blu-Ray ;)

That brings to me to why I gave this 3 stars. Before I purchased this AK 100: 25 Films of Akira Kurosawa boxset, the only Kurosawa Criterion I owned is the 3 disc Seven Samurai DVD because I had been waiting for a boxset like AK 100 to come along! The Seven Samurai is my favorite film of all time and Akira Kurosawa is my favorite director of all time, but I never bought AK movies on DVD because I've been waiting for a "definitive" Criterion collection to complete the collection all at one fell swoop. Unfortunately, Criterion did not release this set with those intentions in mind. This boxset included is only the films themselves and nothing more. Some of the films that were previously released like Hidden Fortress had bonus features. In my dream, I wished that Criterion included *ALL* previous double disc and the entire bonus content releases for ALL the AK films that they have. That would have made this more like $500-700 though. I know that would have been priced way out of my price range!

Which makes me wonder who this set is target. I know one of the audiences they want to bring in are people who have never purchased any AK films. It would seem like I am their target... yet I am disappointed because they didn't include all the PREVIOUSLY released bonus/extras! Before I got this, I assumed that this boxset would include EVERYTHING, my 3 disc Seven Samurai, all of the Criterion AK movies that have been released and previously unreleased material with even MORE bonus material. Instead I'm left with JUST THE FILMS themselves, which isn't bad at all! They are excellent films! It's just I feel cheated now because I'm expected to be brought upto speed w/the rest of the AK collectors (over the years) who have purchased the single disc editions for the bonus/extras. Instead, I'm left with the impression that Criterion is basically saying: "you should have been buying those AK Criterion releases all along, we were never going to include the bonus/extras in a boxset you silly goose!"

Those that have been collecting every single AK releases by Criterion will not buy this set. They will probably wait for the eventual Essentials/Eclipse package that will include the ones that they are missing (the early films especially). Or they can wait for the individual releases.

Hope this review is helpful for those who either don't have any AK films or have some or have all of them so far.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hooray for cynicism!, September 14, 2006
By 
Wheelchair Assassin (The Great Concavity) - See all my reviews
Those looking for redeeming social messages might want to look elsewhere, but if you're in the mood for a violent, stylishly shot, and decidedly nihilistic good time you should be sure to give Yojimbo a look. Presaging the role Clint Eastwood would soon make famous in the Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns, not to mention countless action-movie leading men since, Yojimbo helped to introduce the concept of the amoral antihero as main character, as well as give cinema (Japanese or otherwise) one of its all-time most fascinating figures. Played by the great Toshiro Mifune at his glowering, imperious best, samurai-turned-drifter Sanjuro Kuwabatake is one of film history's great protagonists-hard drinker (don't interrupt Sanjuro when he's enjoying his sake), master strategist, seemingly peerless swordsman, and unapologetic self-seeker. He's the kind of guy you can't help but like; even if his actions would be considered reprehensible in most times and places, at least he doesn't proclaim any lofty ideals or lay claim to any moral high ground while killing people. As a samurai with no master and no clan to owe allegiance to, going through a time of flux in Japan, Sanjuro enters a world where old values don't apply and he has only his own survival to think about. Since he's found himself where life is cheap, the movie seems to be saying, Sanjuro's actions, underhanded or not, are as justifiable as anyone else's. Besides, as Sanjuro himself notes, at least the people he kills are even worse than he is.

Anyway, as the movie opens, Sanjuro wanders into a town where commerce is at a virtual stop (with the exception of the local undertaker's business, which is thriving) and the factions of two local bosses are fighting each other for dominion. Sanjuro quickly sees there's money to be made off the conflict for anyone with his combination of flexible morality and astonishing skills with a sword, and he just as quickly starts playing the two sides against each other to see which boss will dig deeper to procure his services. As hostilities escalate, there's all sorts of conniving and backhanded maneuvering from everyone involved, with occasional breaks for Sanjuro to slice and dice whatever poor folks get in the way of his objectives. The violence obviously isn't as graphic or realistic as what you'll get from later color movies, but the battle scenes are shot in a nicely frenetic and unflinching manner, even if they consist largely of Sanjuro cutting through his opponents without breaking much of a sweat. At the very least, the fight scenes here are certainly preferable to the constant CGI-fests action fans are subjected to nowadays.

It becomes evident early on that this movie isn't going to be entirely serious (if the bouncy, jokey score doesn't clue you in, the dog running up to the main character with a severed hand in its mouth might), but the comic elements don't subtract from the movie's violent, morally ambiguous nature. If anything, the film's humor plays up the absurdity of the conflict into which the protagonist enters and the principals involved in it. In one scene that's especially indicative of the movie's cynical point of view, Sanjuro excuses himself from a planned battle right before it starts, and proceeds to watch with amusement as the two sides tentatively approach each other and back off over and over, obviously not feeling quite as brave as they did before it actually came time to fight.

All humor aside, though, this is still a technically stunning movie, especially in its visual depictions of its stark 19th-century setting. The cinematography features tons of great, sweeping shots of a town square as desolate physically as it is morally; the final battle is especially well-shot, with the two sides (Sanjuro and everybody else) slowly moving towards each other as the wind blows dust all around them, the score turning darker in order to ratchet the tension up even more.

It's obviously not an easy task to rank this movie among Kurosawa's filmography, although of the several that I've seen I'd put this one a very small notch below The Seven Samurai for the number-one spot. That said, though, in terms of ideas, influence, and sheer coolness of its protagonist, Yojimbo belongs on the short list of the greatest movies of all time. Guy-movie enthusiasts everywhere owe it a watch or two.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars good films,but a poor release, February 25, 2010
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As there is so much written about this Box I want to share my opinion on it too !
First of all you already know that these DVDs are plain film,no extras!For a price around 300 dollars that's absolutely unacceptable,even though the films themself are pure masterpieces!
So my 5 Star-Rating only concerns the films,but not this poor release.
But even if the films don't contain any bonusmaterial,why are they also don't feature optional soundtrack-versions like a few of the individual Criterion-Releases have?
For instance the individual Release of "Rashomon" (Spine No. 138)also contains an optional english dubbed soundtrack.
The individual Criterion-releases of "The Hidden Fortress" (Spine No.116) , "Yojimbo" (Spine No.52) and "Sanjuro" (Spine No.53) also contain an optional 3.0 Soundtrack,while the releases in this box are only monaural. The individual release of "Throne of Blood" (Spine No. 190) contains 2 different subtitles to choose. One from japanese film translator Linda Hoaglund,the other from Donald Richie.The DVD in this box only features the Donald-Richie-Subtitles.
And of course the film "Dodes'ka-den".....While in 1995 released on Criterion-Laserdisc (LD 291)with a 1,66/1 format,the later DVD-Release was cut to a 1,33/1 format (The individual release (Spine No. 465) as well as the DVD in this box)!
And don't let anyone fool you by telling you how good the quality of the picture and sound are.The 4 early films that are released here for the first time ("Sanjiro Sugata part 1 and part 2","The Most Beautiful" and "Those who Tread on the Tigers Tail")have a poor picture and sound quality.In fact even someone who's able understanding the japanese language can't watch the films "Sanjiro Sugata Part 1 and 2" without subtitles.The soundtrack is to poor to understand the whole film.
The 5 films that have already been released as Eclipse Series 7 ,Postwar Kurosawa("No Regrets for Our Youth","One Wonderful Sunday","Scandal","The Idiot" and "I live in Fear") have a better picture and sound then those four films mentioned before,but still not the ultimate.I got better releases of some of these five films from other countries in my collection.

But the other 15 films that are also individually available from Criterion do have a brilliant picture and sound !!!

At last one really positive thing is that this collection contains the 3-hour japanese cut of the film "Kagemusha",not the 2 and a half hour international cut that's avalable all over the world.
Sad Thing is that "The Quiet Duel","Dersu Uzala","Ran" and "Dreams" are not included in this box(I Love those films !).
As some other reviews already stated,the missing of "Rhapsody in August" is Ok.(I don't like That film!)
But those 5 films are individually available.
"Ran" as Criterion-Collection Double-DVD Spine No.316.But if you want the Criterion-DVD then you must be fast ,it's already OOP (Out Of Print).
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Adventure, November 22, 1999
I love Toshiro Mifune. It's so wonderful to see him play this character. He cracks me up every time he does his little shoulder-twitch character trait. Brilliant!
SANJURO delves a little deeper into his samurai character. There's some themes about killing and comparisons of his character to a good sword that should be sheathed. Other than that, it is flat-out adventure on the menu!
Again, Kurosawa is a wonderful story teller. I find his work (the three films I've seen so far -- HIDDEN FORTRESS, YOJIMBO, and this one) to be so economical. He can add a wrinkle to the story with one word; one look. He truly transcends the language barrier because the storytelling is so good.
I thought Criterion did another good job with the transfer. The trailer does, indeed, feature Kurosawa directing Mifune in an action sequence, which is interesting. I wish Criterion would use pictures on its chapter lists. When I want to access a certain scene and am unfamiliar with the movie it is hard to do based on chapter names that make no sense to me. Other than that, no qualms about the rest of the DVD.
Next, I'd love to see HIDDEN FORTRESS on DVD. Criterion, are you listening ?
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Japanese western!, August 5, 2006
Akira Kurosawa is one of the most talented and beloved Japanese directors to cross over into the western market. Yojimbo illustrates why. Shot in heavily contrasted black and white, Yojimbo is not only a beautiful film but an interesting cultural portrait and a psychological tale of conflict. The talented Toshiro Mifune in his prime plays the lead and Tatsuya Nakadai is notable as the villain obsessed with his gun.

Yojimbo means bodyguard. It is the 1860's and out-of-work samurai wander the country. The hero of the piece is a nameless and scruffy looking character. But his swaggering catlike grace, along with his characteristic shoulder shrugging walk, reveals his muscular strength and lighting speed with the sword. This charismatic ruffian arrives at a village that appears to be under siege. Villagers peer from behind blinds as he enters, and a breeze blows fallen leaves in the empty streets.

Our hero learns the village is in the middle of a gang war. He becomes a trickster figure who pits the gangs against one another and brings the problem to a conclusion--after demonstrating his superiority both in fighting and in intelligence.

This highly enjoyable period piece is not only a classic story but a view into Japanese cultural heritage. A must see for film buffs since many directors refer to this film. It is a great film for anyone just to see Mifune's visceral performance. Sergio Leone's "A Fistful of Dollars" was an unauthorized remake which resulted in legal action. It is interesting to note that the plot for Yojimbo was based on a Dashiell Hammett story, Red Harvest. In addition Kurosawa stated his inspiration for the film was a noir detective thriller called "The Glass Key" starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. Apparently a scene where the hero is getting beaten in "Yojimbo" is from the exact same scene from "Glass Key", copied shot by shot. Kurosawa was also a big western fan and some of the plot as well as shooting angles are influenced by American Westerns.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great movie, unfaithfull presentation., January 6, 2000
By 
Eventhough this is one of the greatest movie from Criterion collection, I can't say this is recommended for anyone who loves this film. likewise "Yozimbo", Criterion did not use new print for this DVD edition. Instead, they used same transfer from their old LaserDisc version. The print is not in good condition, neither is the soundtrack. The more pathetic thing is that you can't see all of samurais filled on the screen. Most of the time, ten samurais, including Mifune Toshiro, are fit in widescreen originaly. But in here, one or two samurais are missing in left or right side. This is almost pan & scan! I want to know why Criterion did not use Hi-Difinision transfer from Japanese LD version approved by director himself? (Did you know that one of his film "High & Low" is in 4-track surround stereo?). I realy hope that when they releace "Red beared" on DVD, they'll have the best transfer......
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stupid friends are dangerous, September 7, 2004
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The sequel to Akira Kurosawa's classic "Yojimbo" is very different in tone -- rather than a straightforward grizzled-anti-hero-cleans-up-the-town tale, it's a comic story about the grizzled hero getting stuck on a ship of fools. While it's Kurosawa's lightest samurai movie, it's still a solid action/drama flick with plenty of comedy sprinkled in.

A gang of idealistic young nobles are gathered in a decaying house, talking about how they are trying to battle local corruption. Suddenly a scruffy warrior (Toshirô Mifune) who calls himself Sanjûrô Tsubaki, appears and tells them who is lying and who isn't -- and that after confiding in the treacherous superintendant, they're being set up for an ambush.

After he saves their butts and drags the none-too-bright young men into hiding, he begins concocting a plan to save one young man's uncle, who is being held as a political hostage. After rescuing the lord's wife and daughter, Sanjuro and his band of fools continue with their plots to save him from the evil superintendant -- and he teaches his bumbling co-conspirators that exalted social position isn't what keeps you alive...

Kurosawa isn't known for having made goofball comedies, but there's a definite comic flair to this film, from the pampered prisoner offering nuggets of wisdom to the silent "happy dance" that all the young noblemen do. At the same time, there's a poignant note to Sanjuro's regrets about the men he's killed -- including men much like himself.

Even steeped in comedy, Kurosawa's creativity is still intact -- to give the feel that people are running, he shows short, rapid shots of several young men running down different streets. There are a few flaws (a lot of people get cut down without a speck of blood) but only a really determined nitpicker would let it bug them. And the finale is a shatteringly brutal scene, reminiscent of a western shoot-out, where you almost expect Sanjuro to put on a white cowboy hat and spit.

Mifune is wonderful as the grubby, grumpy samurai who is like an "unsheathed blade," and who has more brains than his little gang. He gives the character a lazy, languid air, sort of like an unexploded land mine. His followers are well-acted, though they don't have much individual personality. And small supporting roles -- like the kindly, prim noblewoman and the friendly prisoner in his little closet -- are very well-drawn.

Lurking under the comic flourishes is an intelligent film with likable characters, solid writing, and plenty of action. "Sanjuro" is as good as the film before it, though in a slightly different way.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars slow beginning, but nice build up with a satisfying conclusion, June 29, 2006
By 
Serenity "Serenity" (HOUSTON, TX, United States) - See all my reviews
I have been enjoying classic Japanese samurai films from childhood, and I have come to appreciate them more as I grow older.

This film is a must for those of you who appreciate a wry sense of humor and non verbal expression of wit. Toshiro Mifune (Sanjuro) plays the part of a jaded, cynical, but paradoxically honorable samurai to the hilt. The nine younger samurai reminded me of lion cubs who bound and growl with bravado while not realizing that they haven't the skills to bring down a sick sheep. Toshiro Mifune is the king of the pride, who gruffly smacks them back in line with his biting sarcasm.

My favorite character, however, is the wife of the kidnapped chamberlain whom the ten are trying to rescue. Her exaggerated but believable nobility and gentle femininity cow even the deadly and hardened Mifune, making him act like a school boy who is caught picking his nose.

All in all, the brief but stunning climax at the end of the film, with it's casual anticlimax, left me chuckling and applauding Kurasawa yet again.
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36 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No help for fools., April 24, 2005
By 
Westley (Stuck in my head) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
The great Akira Kurosawa directed "Yojimbo" -- first released in 1961. The film stars frequent Kurosawa collaborator, Toshirô Mifune, who's as good here as he's ever been. The film is set in the post-samurai era, and Mifune is a wandering samurai offering his services as a bodyguard. He stumbles upon an inept, warring town and decides to make some money - perhaps having a little fun in the process.

Of all Kuosawa's movies, "Yojimbo" is probably structured the most like a traditional western. Not surprisingly, Sergio Leone used it as his inspiration for "A Fistful of Dollars," the first of his "spaghetti-Westerns." Obviously, "Yojimbo" is better than the vast majority of movies, foreign or otherwise, but I was a bit disappointed nevertheless. Many people consider "Yojimbo" to be among Kurosawa's best film. However, the serio-comic approach didn't work entirely for me. I did not connect with it the way I did with other great films by the director, such as "Rashomon" or "High and Low."

In addition, the DVD transfer is problematic. A hissing sound can be heard throughout the movie, and the film just wasn't cleaned up the way it should have been before being transferred. Finally, the DVD includes no extras, save for the original trailer for "Yojimbo." Overall, the film is quite good although not Kurosawa's best, and the packaging is below par.
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Sanjuro: Remastered Edition (The Criterion Collection)
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