Stream of the Day: Akira Kurosawa’s ‘The Hidden Fortress’ Is More Than the Movie That Inspired ‘Star Wars’
Known as the Japanese adventure movie that inspired “Star Wars,” Kurosawa’s “The Hidden Fortress” is so much more than that.
At certain points in their careers, even cinema’s greatest auteurs have needed to cover their asses with a hit. For Akira Kurosawa at the height of his powers, that wasn’t going to be a problem. Kurosawa had earned a tremendous amount of goodwill after the critical and commercial success of 1954’s “Seven Samurai,” and by 1958 he’d spent every last scrap of it. First there was “I Live in Fear,” a difficult (but worthwhile) melodrama in which Toshiro Mifune played an elderly man so fraught with nuclear anxiety that he obliterates his own family. Kurosawa rebounded with the grim yet profitable “Macbeth” adaptation “Throne of Blood,” only to follow that with the most dire film he would ever make, a riff on Maxim Gorky’s miserablist play “The Lower Depths.”
Kurosawa knew that he was backing himself into a corner that he could only buy his way out of with box office receipts. “The Hidden Fortress” over-delivered on that front more than he ever could’ve imagined.
“All parts should go together without forcing. You must remember that the parts you are reassembling were disassembled by you. Therefore, if you can’t get them together again, there must be a reason. By all means, do not use a hammer.” —IBM Manual, 1925