The Hidden Fortress (1958)

Scroll to content

“Kurosawa stages every scene with an eye toward screen-filling spectacle”

The Dissolve

20th Century-Fox introduced the widescreen system they called CinemaScope in 1953; the old 3 x 4 standard screen was replaced by the relatively vast 2:35:1 ratio, and before long the system had been licensed to other companies. Toho called the system TohoScope, and Kurosawa used it for the first time in 1958 on a film that set out to be nothing more than an elaborate entertainment.

Set in 16th Century Japan, a time of civil wars, the film establishes the conflict between rival Feudal Lords. When the clan to which Princess Yukihime is heiress is defeated by their neighbour, she manages to escape with her clan’s war funds, 170 pounds of gold bars. A pair of scruffy, would-be samurai discover the gold, but they are quickly overcome by Rokurota (Toshiro Mifune), a fearless samurai loyal to the Princess and her clan. What follows is a rollicking adventure, with significant comedy elements, in which Kurosawa uses the Scope ratio with peerless imagination.

Famously, this is the film that inspired George Lucas to create Star Wars, which also has a Princess in distress and other characters that were derived from Kurosawa’s film. Some contemporary critics believed that the ragged foot-soldiers were inspired by Laurel and Hardy.

Supported by The Japan Foundation