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The Hidden Fortress (The Criterion Collection)

4.6 out of 5 stars 159 customer reviews

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(Jun 01, 2010)
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Essential Art House ed.
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(May 22, 2001)
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The Criterion Collection
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Editorial Reviews

A general and a princess must dodge enemy clans while smuggling the royal treasure out of hostile territory with two bumbling, conniving peasants at their sides; it's a spirited adventure that only Akira Kurosawa could create. Acknowledged as a primary influence on George Lucas' Star Wars, The Hidden Fortress delivers Kurosawa's inimitably deft blend of wry humor, breathtaking action and humanist compassion on an epic scale. The Criterion Collection is proud to present this landmark motion picture in a stunning, newly-restored Tohoscope edition.

Special Features

  • Exclusive video interview with George Lucas about The Hidden Fortress
  • New transfer with restored image & sound
  • New & improved English subtitle translation

Product Details

  • Actors: Toshirô Mifune, Misa Uehara, Minoru Chiaki, Kamatari Fujiwara, Susumu Fujita
  • Directors: Akira Kurosawa
  • Writers: Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni, Ryûzô Kikushima, Shinobu Hashimoto
  • Producers: Akira Kurosawa, Sanezumi Fujimoto
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Black & White, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), Japanese (Dolby Digital 3.0)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: May 22, 2001
  • Run Time: 126 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (159 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005B1ZL
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,276 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Hidden Fortress (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 19, 2001
Format: DVD
I have to confess my bias at the start: Akira Kurosawa is easily one of my two or three favorite directors. If forced to sit down and do a list of my 25 favorite films, SEVEN SAMURAI would be in a tie for first, and two or three others would join it on the list.
This was the first movie that Kurosawa made that was widescreen, and therefore the first that will derive maximum benefit from DVD. (Read through the early reviews of the DVD of SEVEN SAMURAI to see some of the confusion over this.) His use of the wider angle is magnificent, presenting the view with extraordinary vistas again and again. Kurosawa never seemed to struggle with the technical aspects of filmmaking, and would later make a similarly effortless transition to color.
This is one of Kurosawa's finest films. It is difficult to say that it is his best, since his very best films are among the greatest ever made. Suffice it to say, that the film bears in every way the mark of greatness. The camera work is flawless. Though black and white, the film is gorgeous to look at every moment. The acting is impeccable, with Mifune giving a somewhat difference performance in this one. If we are more accustomed to think of him as a more fiery character, as in RASHOMON or SEVEN SAMURAI or THRONE OF BLOOD, in this one he is magisterial and aristocratic.
I think the parallels to STAR WARS are rather overblown, and anyone coming to this film looking for tones of George Lucas rather than Akira Kurosawa just may find themselves disappointed. Yes, there is a princess, and yes, there are some very small plot parallels, and yes, there are two comic characters included to provide light entertainment and to move the plot along. But none of these are crucial elements of THE HIDDEN FORTRESS.
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Format: DVD
Of all the directing masters Akira Kurosawa is arguably the greatest. No matter how much praise and hyperbole is shoveled onto his films they always surprise me by how good they are. Not good in a, "this was phenomenal for the 1950's," but good as in, "this is better than just about anything we're seeing today." While watching this movie I was trying to think of an American director who even comes close, but no one quite matches Kurosawa. If Akira Kurosawa and Stanley Kubrick had a street fight in Heaven I gurantee you Kurosawa would kick Kubrick in the nuts and decapitate him inside of a minute.

This film is often described as the impetus for Star Wars. After seeing the prequel trilogy I half expected The Hidden Fortress to be an exact blueprint for Episode IV, but they're really not that similar. It turns out that George Lucas was talented back in the day. If you're looking for simularities you'll find them, but if Lucas himself hadn't mentioned how much this film influenced him I doubt anyone would be drawing parallels. For example, the two peasant characters, Tahei and Matakishi, are supposed to be the inpirations for R2-D2 and C-3PO, but they're not similar in the least. Tahei and Matakishi are slow, bumbling, greedy, and selfish. They're a far cry from Lucas' creations. R2-D2 is the butch in the relationship while C-3PO is his more feminine partner. (I have to give Lucas credit for having the guts to put a gay robot couple in a film way back in the 70's, and it's even more amazing because no one has had the guts to do it a second time. Perhaps one day gay robots will get the screen time they deserve.)

The story involves a princess and her general who are trapped behind enemy lines and must make it back to their own land.
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Format: DVD
This is Kurosawa's fist use of widescreen, and it looks glorious. While he managed to simulate wider shots in his past films with an academy aspect ratio, this, rife with innumerable extras and an epic landscape, is just awesome spectacle. Like all good Kurosawa though, the story is simple, elemental, yet definitive. The two peasants/thieves are an absolute riot, and Mifune comes across with amazing presence... as fantastically usual.

Criterion does the film justice with an excellent transfer, but with little in the way of supplementary material, especially when compared to recent releases --the introduction by George Lucas on this disk is great though. For the price of this disk, the lack of audio commentary, etc... is unfortunate.

Truly a character driven story, the film boasts of people that are crass, yet lovable. Not concerned with the apocalypse like Kurosawa is in some previous and later works, Hidden fortress offers a rousing adventure, which encapsulates classic story telling at its stylistic best. As such, this is one of the favorites in my personal Kurosawa collection.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I'd heard about THE HIDDEN FORTRESS as a young man whenever the roots of STAR WARS were discussed. FORTRESS is always mentioned as the film that influenced George Lucas the most in crafting his STAR WARS films. It wasn't until last year that I actually decided to rent it and see what it and its director Akira Kurosawa were all about. THE HIDDEN FORTRESS was my first introduction to the incredible direction of Akira Kurosawa. I've gone on to watch several of his other films and am now a huge fan. I also discovered that quite a few Hollywood movies have their roots in Kurosawa films. Interestingly enough, an interview with George Lucas has been included on the disk as a bonus, which completes the HIDDEN FORTRESS/STAR WARS connection.
FORTRESS is a fast-moving film. It's story is reminiscent of the serials of the 1930's (including "wipes" to transition from scene to scene -- again, another technique that Lucas borrowed for STAR WARS). Our heroes leap out of frying pan into fire on several occasions.
The Japanese style of acting (at least in 1958 when this film was made) is very stylized and little over the top or "stagey". However, the stylized performances only add to the wonderful, other-worldly atmosphere of HIDDEN FORTRESS. That's one thing that I enjoyed about this Kurosawa film: it definitely takes the viewer to a world he has not seen before ... a weird, ancient and savage old-Japan.
Those are my thoughts on this film. This was the first Kurosawa I ever saw and I was very impressed. Immediately I rented YOJIMBO and HIGH AND LOW and SEVEN SAMURAI and went on to be a fan.
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