Hidden Fortress on DVD

Sunday, 27 June 2010 16:29

The original 1958 version of “The Hidden Fortress” was directed by Japanese legend Akira Kurosawa, and was apparently heavily referenced in George Lucas’s “Star Wars” movies. Fifty years on, this new version seeks to update the production values of the original whilst holding true to its classical storylines and characters.

The allied nations of Hayakawa and Akizuki are at war with the invading forces of Yamana. The titular fortress is under siege and Princess Yuki (Masami Nagasawa) and her loyal Samurai bodyguard Rokurota (Hiroshi Abe) must flee before enemy forces breach their defences. They dupe a couple of morally suspect rogues into helping them transport some gold back to friendly territory whilst pretending to be humble bandits. Shinji Higuchi’s remake is a fun, mildly thoughtful and action-packed adventure yarn about caste, honour, greed, humanity and salvation. The two rogues - Takezo (Jun Matsumoto) and Shinpachi (Daisuke Miyagawa) - are the bumbling comic relief in an otherwise quite earnest and bloody movie, but during their journey they realise there might be more to life than their mantra of “Women! Liquor! Food!”.

Hidden Fortress on DVDFor their part, the Princess and Rokurota are focused on getting safely back to their people with the gold in tow, but wretched scenes of poverty and the horrific abuse of Yamana citizens at the hands of rival troops awakens them to the tragedy that normally falls outside their social scope.

If that description makes the film sound a little heavy going, it is not. There is plenty of action and plot-twisting, escapist high jinks to keep the audience entertained. As our fearless foursome travel through dangerous enemy terrain to reach the friendly border, they encounter many obstacles and enemy soldiers searching for the Princess and the gold.

The formidable, exacting and vocally booming Lord Takayama (Kippei Shiina) leads the Yamana forces with a fist of iron, crushing peasants, enemies and his own officers who fail him with impunity. Like Darth Vader he wears an imposing set of heavy black armour, and a helmet and mask that almost conceal his humanity. “Star Wars” fans will definitely enjoy spotting the many other similarities!

Hopefully the commercial DVD will feature respectable picture quality, as regretfully the preview screener I was sent was murky, lacking in vivid colours and bordered on all sides by a thick black frame that shrank the image somewhat. Despite this fact, the film features plenty of attractive and varied scenery (forests, mountains, deserts and giant construction works), some decent special effects and the sweeping musical score helps to carry the plot along nicely.

Sadly, the only special feature on offer is a trailer.

“Hidden Fortress: The Last Princess” is out now on DVD, courtesy of 4Digital Asia. The running time of the main feature is 118 minutes approx, certificate ‘15’ and retails for £15.99 or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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