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Posts Tagged ‘Toshiro Mifune’

Throne of Blood

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020

THRONE OF BLOOD (蜘蛛巣城, Kumonosu-jō, “SPIDER WEB CASTLE”) is an Akira Kurosawa movie from 1957, and the only one I’ve seen by him that has supernatural shit in it. It’s partly inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which to be honest I don’t remember that well, because I only read it in school, and Julie Taymor hasn’t made it into a movie yet. But even I picked up on it when the Lady Macbeth-like character couldn’t stop scrubbing her hands, thinking they still had blood on them. That guy died 400 years ago, and he still owns guilty hand-washing scenes. Hats off.

Two generals, Washizu Taketoki (Toshiro Mifune, HELL IN THE PACIFIC) and Miki Yoshiteru (Akira Kubo, GAMERA: GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE), are headed back to their boss Lord Tsuzuki (Hiroshi Tachikawa, FIGHTING ELEGY) at Spider Web Castle after a glorious victory in battle. But, like a horror movie, the woods seem to have changed, and they’ve gotten lost. Then they spot a strange all white ghosty type person (Chieko Naniwa, SANSHO THE BAILIFF) just kinda sitting there in the woods glowing. And when that happens, I mean you basically got a choice of running away or walking up to it and seeing what the deal is. They choose B. (read the rest of this shit…)

High and Low

Tuesday, May 12th, 2020

Before going into seclusion to plot my revenge on the coronavirus I rented a bunch of Akira Kurosawa movies. Didn’t even really know what they were about. Luckily one of them was HIGH AND LOW, because that’s what more than one of you recommended after I reviewed STRAY DOG. Another contemporary police procedural one. No samurais in it at all.

One thing I did not expect: themes of shoe industry integrity. It opens with our initial protagonist Mr. Gondo (Toshiro Mifune in a white cardigan) meeting at his house with his fellow board members for the National Shoe company. They’re each in charge of one specific part of the company (one guy conveniently lists them all off for us), and Gondo’s is the factory. All of them agree that “the old man,” (the president of the shoe company, not Dan Inosanto’s character from REDBELT) is out of touch with what modern women want. They call his pumps “combat boots.” But they’ve come up with a plan that by teaming together they represent a majority of shareholders and can replace the old man and begin making shoes that are more current and cheaper to manufacture. (read the rest of this shit…)

Stray Dog

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020

STRAY DOG is an Akira Kurosawa film from 1949 – only seven years into his directing career, but about a third of the way into his filmography. I believe it’s the first one I’ve seen by him that wasn’t a period piece. At the time he had gotten really into the Maigret books and decided to write a detective novel. It took him longer to adapt the book into a screenplay than to write the book itself. Apparently it started the genre of police procedurals and/or detective movies in Japan. Pretty impressive side-achievement to kick off an entire category of movies different from the ones he was known for.

The mystery: where the fuck is my gun? Toshiro Mifune – who I have to admit I didn’t even recognize – plays the rookie homicide detective Murakami, who’s feeling like a piece of shit because somebody swiped his Colt when he was on a crowded bus. He figures it out too late, chases a dude (assistant director Ishiro Honda, five years before directing GODZILLA) but doesn’t catch him. So he has to learn all about the local pickpocketing and gun dealing scenes, recognize someone from the bus in a mugshot, convince her to give him a hint about who she gave the gun to, then finding out that person rented the gun to somebody… (read the rest of this shit…)

The Hidden Fortress

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Let’s face it, I’m stupid to not have seen all the Akira Kurosawa movies. Usually when I see one it becomes my new favorite movie. HIDDEN FORTRESS is my latest favorite movie.

It’s another one with Toshiro Mifune playing a badass warrior, but it starts on two buffoonish peasants, Tahei (Minoru Chiaki) and Matashichi (Kamatari Fujiwara). They’re all dirty and their clothes are torn up and they’re arguing, blaming each other for the shit they’ve just been through. One of them got the bright idea they could make money fighting with the Yamana clan, but they got to the battle too late and were mistaken for the losing Akizuki clan and forced to help bury all the dead bodies. And shortly after this they get taken prisoner again, locked up in the vanquished Akizuki castle and forced to dig for their hidden gold until there’s a riot and they escape.

On the lam they accidentally break a stick that has a piece of gold inside, marked with the Akizuki seal. What the hell? And while they’re checking all the sticks in the area for more gold they run into Mifune. He starts bossing them around without telling them he’s General Makabe Rokurota of the Akizuki clan and that he’s trying to sneak the clan’s gold and their sixteen year old princess Yuki (Misa Uehara) to safety. (read the rest of this shit…)

Seven Samurai

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

tn_sevensamuraiThere are some movies that everybody knows are great and you’d be a fool to deny it. One such movie involves a group of cooperating samurai numbering seven. This is their review.

1954 was a pretty good year for film. Many of the films that were popular in the U.S. are still watched and discussed today: REAR WINDOW, WHITE CHRISTMAS, 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, CARMEN JONES. The best picture/director/actor/supporting actress winner was ON THE WATERFRONT, a movie that turned out to be, you know, fairly influential for actors. In Japan, meanwhile, the two biggest hits were WHAT IS YOUR NAME?: PART 3 and CHUSHINGURA: HANA NO MAKI, YUKI NO MAKI. I don’t think those ever made it to video over here, and little information exists about them in my usual reference sources. The first one appears to be a romance sequel and the latter sounds like it would have something to do with the 47 RONIN story.

In third place at the Japanese box office that year, though, was Akira Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI. It was his fifteenth movie, but his first samurai movie. Would you believe it made more money than the original GODZILLA, which also came out that year? Doesn’t matter now. Both have persevered. And SEVEN SAMURAI is a movie justifiably worshiped by snooty film buffs (and in the Criterion Collection) while still being hugely influential in all the lower-brow genres I love: martial arts, westerns and straight up action.

People always complain about long movies, but here’s a nearly 3 1/2 hour one (the longest of Kurosawa’s career) that’s never a chore to watch. It’s a great story, simple and elegant, but it takes the time to let us get to know its characters, and to give us that feeling of waiting. Some day after the barley is harvested bandits will attack the village. We want that day to come and be over with but we also want all the time we can to get ready.

If you haven’t seen this movie, I’m proud to be the latest one to remind you that you need to see this movie. You need to. Everybody else, you know the story, but let’s go over it in case it’s been a while. (read the rest of this shit…)

Sanjuro

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

tn_sanjuro“It’s hard to explain. A strange series of events made him our ally.”

Akira Kurosawa probly had no idea when he made SANJURO that he was doing a sequel to one of the greatest movies in all of Badass Cinema. He just wanted to have some fun doing another small, funny samurai story with Toshiro Mifune’s character from YOJIMBO. This time the itchy wandering ronin (calling himself Sanjuro, another name made up on the fly) falls in with nine young, idealistic samurai who have discovered corruption in their clan. They want to do the right thing but they’re kinda dumb and inexperienced and he’s an incomparable swordsman and strategist, so he finds himself advising them, assigns himself to their most dangerous tasks and takes on the army and government mostly on his own. (read the rest of this shit…)

1941

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

spielbergtn_1941This movie has a reputation as kind of a mess. Admittedly it is a 2 1/2 hour broad comedy about paranoia right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. In my opinion a 2 1/2 hour broad comedy about paranoia right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor was not necessarily one of the top two or three things the world hoped for as Steven Spielberg’s followup to CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. But fuck ’em. It’s what they got and they oughta fuckin appreciate it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Yojimbo, Fistful of Dollars and Last Man Standing

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

YOJIMBO
and
FISTFUL OF DOLLARS
and – why the hell not –
LAST MAN STANDING

I’ve been doing alot of themed movie-watching lately and I don’t want that to grow stale, so I decided to mix things up a little. Three movies starring my favorite badasses, but from different years and different countries. Just a real variety of material here. YOJIMBO is about this bad motherfucker who wanders into a small town torn apart by two warring gangs, and he goes back and forth working for them, plays them against each other, rescues a woman from them then gets beaten up real bad but escapes and hides out and then tricks them some more and also I forgot to mention there’s alot of good jokes about the town coffin maker getting business from his activities. FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, on the other hand, is about this bad motherfucker who wa– hey, wait a minute! (read the rest of this shit…)

Red Sun

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005

Pretty much every day, somebody comes up to me and asks, “Vern, what in your opinion is the greatest badass ensemble cast of all time?” They expect me to go for a big cast like THE GREAT ESCAPE or THE DIRTY DOZEN. But I throw em a curve ball with the best possible answer: HELL IN THE PACIFIC. There are exactly two actors in the whole movie, and they’re Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune. That cannot be topped. The technology just doesn’t exist.

Here’s a cast that comes pretty close though: Charles Bronson, Toshiro Mifune and Alain Delon. I mean, that’s pretty fuckin good, right? You could argue whether or not Bronson + Delon > Marvin. But there’s other people in this movie, not just those three, and that lessens the impact. The minimalism of HELL IN THE PACIFIC is part of what makes it so great. (read the rest of this shit…)