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DVD Reviews: Yojimbo

The Final Say!

Review Score
Reviewed by Sacha Chambers
Review Date: June 2004
Distributed by:
The AV Channel
Running Time: 110 Minutes





Yojimbo is yet another classic film from acclaimed director Akira Kurosawa. It was made in 1961 and if you are a fan, it will still provide compelling entertainment.  Overall, I found that Yojimbo doesn’t have the total appeal of THE movie, Seven Samurai. It does, however, share a lot of the basic strengths as Seven Samurai; great plot, strong acting, absorbing sets with fun fight scenes.   This film does have one element to set it apart from Seven Samurai, and that is the “showdown at high noon” idea.  If you have never seen one of these, I’ll explain.  Two rival gangs eye each other off down a street, posturing and slowly (very slowly) coming together until they fight.  These scenes are clearly designed to create tension, but in the case of this movie, the over the top music, in combination with the insipidity of the warring gangs just irritates me.

Much to my disdain, this “showdown” idea is copied ad infinitum by spaghetti westerns. However, if nothing else the “showdown” must be celebrated for its genre creating genius

   In the case of the final standoff in Yojimbo, all the posturing and glaring between gangs appears to be used to indicate how removed from samurai these gangsters are.  The strange thing about this scene is if you mute the sound, it is almost beautiful to watch the ebb and flow of the gangsters coming together…   

   Yojimbo tells the tale of a Ronin, Sanjuro (Mifune) who comes into a town ruled by two mobs of gangsters.  He plays both sides to his advantage until they self destruct in a final scene, aided by his trusty Katana. 

 The film itself is set mostly in the town, and the wretchedness of the town itself creates a wonderful frontier feeling of desolation.  This background desolation, sets the tone for the film and from this emanates the subtle humor of Kurosawa. .  Good examples of this are the item between the dog’s teeth in one of the opening scenes, and the happiness of the cooper (coffin maker) at all the work he is getting.     

   A relationship of sorts immediately develops between the local tavern man, the cooper and Sanjuro.  The tavern is the main stage for the plot and it is the interaction between these characters that is the underpinning of the film.

  Sanjuro offers his services to the highest bidder of the two gangs, playing each side until they become wise to his tricks and eventually nab him while he is not ready.  

With the help of the tavern owner and the cooper, Sanjuro escapes and recovers, leading to the final showdown.  

  There are two things that stand out after watching this film, the first is the female characterization.  The only depiction of women is as either prostitutes or as a conniving matriarch.

   The second is that there are a lot of layers to this film, which takes repeated viewing to fully appreciate all the subtleties.  Most film makers would kill to have the depth in their movies that Yojimbo does, which I think is one of the defining characteristics of a Kurosawa film. 

 Yojimbo is one of those films that you will love if you enjoy Kurosawa films. If you have never seen one, you may not get it straight away, but with time the brilliance of Kurosawa will be slowly etch itself into your memory.


16:9 anamorphic frame ratio.  The images for this feature have been captured clearly, and remarkably so considering the film is 50 years old. 


Japanese 5.1
Japanese Mono
English subtitles only

 I thought the soundtrack for this movie was hit and miss.   Sometimes the music was atmospheric and added to the scene, and at other times it was just over the top.  The English subtitles were clear and logical.


- Original Trailer
- Eastern eye- montage
- Seven Samurai trailer

- Akira Kurosawa trailer - a small look into the life of the director. 

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