Home Featured TV Shows All TV Shows Movie Reviews Book Reviews Articles Frequently Asked Questions About Us

Mini Movie Reviews: Toshirō Mifune

Today's theme is one of the most magnetic movie stars who ever lived, Toshirō Mifune, featuring films by Terrance Young, Hiroshi Inagaki, Kihachi Okamoto, and (unsurprisingly) Akira Kurosawa.

Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo (1970)
The 20th entry in the long running series starring Shintarô Katsu as the famous blind swordsman. Growing tired of killing, Zatoichi return to his home village only to discover it has been taken over by Yakuza, including a surly ronin working as a bodyguard (yojimbo) for one of the factions. Despite what the title might imply, this isn't a crossover with Kurosawa's Yojimbo. Mifune might be dressed the part, but he's playing a different character altogether. It's like if Harrison Ford showed up in a Mummy movie wearing the fedora but was playing someone called Ohio Smith instead. The film isn't just content to make us think Mifune is reprising his Yojimbo role again, it wants us to think this is Yojimbo as well, recycling that film's entire plot, but in a much more haphazard fashion.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto (1954)
Inagaki and Mifune were frequent collaborators, making twenty films together over two decades. The undoubtable highlight of their working relationship was the Samurai Trilogy. Based on the epic novel by Eiji Yoshikawa, it chronicles the life of legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, as he goes from wild young soldier to a reserved and thoughtful samurai. Unlike most Japanese movies of the time, the entire trilogy was shot in colour, an expensive venture for Toho Studio, but one that paid off as not only does the film look great, but it was one of three big hits the studio put out that year (the other two being Godzilla and Seven Samurai). The first film suffers somewhat from the central romance grating, and so obviously being just the first part of a much larger story that when it finally finished I was actually surprised it said THE END instead of INTERMISSION. As a result, the last stage of Musashi's journey into a stoic trainee samurai feels rushed and unsatisfying.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Hidden Fortress (1958)
During a time of civil war, a pair of unlucky farmers, Tahei and Matashichi, are roped into a scheme by a former general (Mifune) to help escort a rebel princess (Misa Uehara) to safety. Best known now for inspiring Star Wars, this is by far the weakest of all of Akira Kurosawa's samurai films. Mifune and Uehara are compelling as the general and the princess, but majority of the focus is on Tahei and Matashichi, an increasingly insufferable pair.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Red Sun (1971)
A group of bandits rob a train carrying the Japanese ambassador and his samurai entourage to Washington. One of the bandits betrays his partner, kills one of the samurai, and makes off with the loot along with a ceremonial sword meant as a gift for the president. To restore his honour, another samurai teams up with the betrayed bandit to track down his partner and recover the sword. Bond director Terrance Young united four icons of 60s cinema (Mifune, Charles Bronson, Alain Delon, and Ursula Andress) for a fairly standard and unimaginative spaghetti western tale of honour, revenge and brotherhood, but Bronson and Mifune do make for an entertaining odd couple.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
The Sword of Doom (1966)
Set in 19th century, Tatsuya Nakadai plays Ryunosuke Tsukue, a cold and amoral swordsman of exceptional skill who is indifferent to the cruelty and death he inflicts. Found the ending to this unsatisfying and abrupt (apparently the sequel was scrapped because this film was too violent), but the rest of the film was just sublime. Mifune has a small, but crucial role as a sword master who is mistakenly targeted for assassination, leading to a jaw dropping fight in the snow as he easily dispatches his many would be assassins, firmly shattering Ryunosuke's confidence with his display of superior skill.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Seven Samurai (1954)
After discovering that bandits are planning to attack their village, a group of poor farmers hire seven samurai warriors to defend them, offering no more than meals to eat and beds to rest in. Often imitated (way too often if you ask me), but never equaled, Kurosawa's action epic is as close to cinematic perfection as you can get. While the film takes great care to flesh out all of the seven, Mifune is the clear standout, gifted with the biggest personality, backstory and sword.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig

No comments:

Post a Comment

We love comments! We moderate because of spam and trolls, but don't let that stop you! It’s never too late to comment on an old show, but please don’t spoil future episodes for newbies.