The Hidden Fortress, VHS tape Japanese with English subtitles
Four out of five stars
Released in 1958, this classic Japanese film is an epic adventure that has been acknowledged as an inspiration for the first “Star Wars” movies. It is set in the time of sixteenth century Japan and the lone hero, the great general Rokurota is the sole protector of the princess Yuki. Her domain has been defeated in war and she has a supply of gold that they hope to transport across hostile territory to a safe location where she can use it to rebuild her clan.
Two bumbling, greedy peasants Tahei and Matashichi (Jar Jar Binks perhaps?), are enlisted to aid them in transporting the gold. They are as incompetent as possible, making mistake after mistake in what is designed to be comic relief. A classic scene that will remind the viewer of the confrontation between Darth Vader and Ben Kenobi takes place. It is vintage Japanese, where the two protagonists square off with lances while a gang of soldiers simply watch. The battle ends when Rokurota’s opponent declares, “I am defeated.”
Firearms are used by some of the Japanese soldiers, yet Rokurota uses only lances and swords in his battles. The presence of the guns dates the period of the movie, as they were almost completely unused during the sakoku, or period of seclusion.
This is a classic tale of the great hero that prevails against all odds. Personally, I could have done without some of the bumbling comic relief of the two peasants, Jar Jar Binks wore on me as well, yet that is my taste in humor. It is very helpful if the viewer has some knowledge of Japanese culture, particularly the esthetic warrior hero components.