How do you introduce one
of the few films in history which can truly lay claim to igniting the creative
fires and imaginations of generations of film makers, actors and viewers
alike? Easy, just say out loud: Seven Samurai.
This epic masterpiece
made in 1954 is still as exciting, insightful and thought provoking today as
when it was made, especially considering it was made with in a time where
special effects were non existent. This film has everything you could want in
an epic, mad action scenes, a well developed atmosphere, great sound effects,
insightful characterisations and an absorbing story line. The real brilliance
of this film however, is that we get to know each of the characters in an
austere and period relevant manner which has a twofold effect of setting the
scene for the movie and garnering audience empathy with the characters.
Overall, this film has
such an amazing array of strengths that's its hard not to get overexcited and
classify this as one of the greatest ever. So before I gush on any further
about how great this film is, I'll outline the basic plot. (Ill only give a
general description of the plot as I want to leave you the pleasure of
discovering the nuances of the film as you watch it).
The scene is 16th
century Japan, location unspecified. A village of poverty stricken farmers are
being raided each year by bandits and they fortuitously find out when they
next they will be raided. The farmers decide to do something relatively
unheard of, they attempt to hire some samurai to fend off the bandits.
However, they only have rice to offer, which is not much considering that at
the time samurai were essentially the law unto themselves. Eventually they end
up hiring 7 rag tag samurai to defend the village.
The farmers are
initially afraid of the samurai who don't really know how to interface with
the farmers, but it is the samurai, Kikuchiyo, who is able to break the
barriers and unite the two groups to help them work together. Without giving
away too much more, there are several brilliantly depicted skirmishes before
the deciding battle, in which only three samurai survive, and the farmers are
saved. Along the way secrets of both the farmers and samurai's are exposed and
a clearer picture of the interwoven relationships develops.
I have to say that as
far as fight scenes go, there are very few films that have so few fight
scenes, yet can get away with genuinely being a martial arts epic. This is a
good thing as it brings more meaning to each fight scene and grants insight
into the minds of the players. The final battle definitely ranks as one of my
favourite fight scenes, and has one of the most amusing yet strangest moments
in cinema history. It involves Kikuchiyo (Mifune) running around fighting
madly with all his heart in the pouring rain, wearing only protective head,
chest and shin gear and a Japanese g string. But it gets crazier, he's using a
sword far too long for stand up fighting (the sword he uses is actually
designed for use whilst riding a horse), which only adds to the wackiness of
was the standout performance for my money, amongst a cast of very solid acting
performances. His character is the glue that binds the samurai to the farmers
and his defensive posturing is unlike anything I've ever seen before. Quite
All in all a brilliant
film, one that if you've never seen before you'll kick yourself for not doing
This is the first time
the full length version has been available to west. Some of the scenes in the
first half of the film were deleted to make it more palatable to our "shorter
This disc uses 4:3 ratio viewing and the images are crisp
(once you realise that this film is 50 years old) and completely grain free,
which is a pleasant surprise.
The options are pretty standard: Dolby 5.1 surround
Japanese, and Dolby 5.0 Japanese and the option of turning off the English
The extras are pretty
slim. They are two short trailers on Kurosawa and another one of his films
Yojinbo, and finally a eastern eye collage of upcoming features.
I would have thought
that considering the special nature of this film a longer trailer on Kurosawa
or a profile of the famous actor Mifune would have been relevant.