The Hidden Fortress

Japan 1958, 138 mins
Director: Akira Kurosawa

If Kurosawa had proven himself skilled at subverting the conventions of Japanese genre filmmaking, with this hugely entertaining film he not only proved he could embrace a straightforward adventure, he showed he could beat most other filmmakers at their own game. His trump card was to foreground two lowly farmers. One of Kurosawa’s most influential films, it’s a rip-roaring ride.

A story of rival clans, hidden gold and a princess in distress, The Hidden Fortress is a thrilling mix of fairy story and samurai action movie. It was Kurosawa’s first film shot in the widescreen process of Tohoscope, and he exploited this to the full in the film’s rich variety of landscape locations, including the slopes of Mount Fuji.

The Hidden Fortress became Kurosawa’s biggest box office hit to date and won several awards, including the Golden Bear at the1959 Berlin Film Festival. Some twenty years on, the film’s influence would have even greater impact on world box offices, when George Lucas borrowed its plot for the first of his Star Wars series.
BFI Player

This epic adventure, with its sweeping narrative and well-defined characters, is one of Kurosawa’s most accessible and rousing pictures. At times, it seems as if the director has made a Hollywood version of feudal Japan – the fire festival sequence resembles a big production number from a musical. But, what makes it interesting is Kurosawa’s observations on ancient Japanese society. For example, through the eyes of a cloistered princess (fleeing to safety with the mysterious General Rokurota, played by Toshiro Mifune) we witness religious rituals and the role of women in a male hierarchy. George Lucas cited Hidden Fortress as his inspiration for Star Wars, with the two bungling, disreputable soldiers transformed into R2-D2 and C-3PO. An engrossing film.
Sight and Sound, January 1995

A contemporary review from 1959 Berlin Film Festival
Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress erupted into the festival like a rhinoceros into a prairie of mild sheep. Never before has Kurosawa’s allegiance to John Ford been more apparent; this, one felt, was the definitive Eastern-Western. The story is simple: a Samurai in disguise is conducting a Princess in disguise through enemy lines. To render their passage less ostentatious, the Samurai enlists two peasants into their company with the promise of gold. The by-play of these deceitful, raucous peasants, acted in broad, antic Kabuki vein full of comic whoops and barks, forms the light relief in a series of hair-breadth escapes, dazzlingly choreographed sword fights and shock effects timed with a master’s instinct. There is one moment strongly recalling the appearance of the Indians in Stagecoach: the little band seems to have reached temporary security when from every fold in the innocent landscape a menacing army materialises.

The superior adventure film obviously lies close to Kurosawa’s heart, and his authority in the genre commands respect. Far below the stature of Seven Samurai in its conception, The Hidden Fortress is an example of a popular theme handled with such skill and enthusiasm as almost to disguise the fundamental lack of narrative distinction. Toshiro Mifune, stunningly athletic and as controlled as a panther, is the star.
Sight and Sound, Summer/Autumn 1959

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Production Company: Toho Co. Ltd.
Producer: Masumi Fujimoto
Associate Producer: Akira Kurosawa
Production Supervisor: Hiroshi Nezu
Production Accountant: Koichi Noguchi
Production Assistant: Takuyuki Inoue
Assistant Directors: Mimachi Yanagase, Yoshimitsu Sakano, Kan Sano, Yoichi Matsue, Masahiro Takase, Yasuyoshi Tajitsu
Script Supervisor: Teruyo Nogami
Casting: Yuichi Yoshitake
Screenplay: Ryuzo Kikushima, Hideo Oguni, Shinobu Hashimoto, Akira Kurosawa
Director of Photography: Kazuo Yamasaki
Lighting: Ichiro Inohara
Assistant Lighting: Sei Arai
Stills Photography: Masao Fukuda
Special Effects: Toho Special Effects Co Ltd
Editor: Chozo Obata
Art Director: Yoshiro Muraki
Assistant Art Director: Shinko Kato
Art Supervisor: Kohei Ezaki
Costumes: Masahiro Kato
Hair: Yoshiko Matsumoto, Junjiro Yamada
Music: Masaru Sato
Choreography: Yoji Ken
Sound Recording: Fumio Yanoguchi
Sound Assistant: Yoshiro Miyamoto
Sound Mixing: Hisashi Shimonaga
Sound Effects: Ichiro Minawa
Swordplay instructor: Yushio Sugino
Horseback Riding Instructors: Ienori Kaneko, Shigeru Endo

Toshiro Mifune (General Rokurota Makabe)
Misa Uehara (Princess Yuki)
Minoru Chiaki (Tahei)
Kamatari Fujiwara (Matakichi)
Takashi Shimura (General Izumi Nagakura)
Susumu Fujita (General Heiei Tadokoro)
Eiko Miyoshi (lady-in-waiting)
Toshiko Higuchi (farmer’s daughter)
Kichijiro Ueda (girl-dealer)
Koji Mitsui (soldier)
Yû Fujiki (barrier guard)
Yoshio Tsuchiya (samurai on horse)
Kokuten Kodo (old man in front of sign)
Takeshi Kato (fleeing, bloody samurai)
Toranosuke Ogawa (magistrate of bridge barrier)
Nakajiro Tomita, Yoshibumi Tajima (potential slave buyers)
Ikio Sawamura (gambler)
Senkichi Omura (soldier)
Sachio Sakai, Akira Tani (captured foot soldiers)
Makoto Sato (Yamada foot soldier)
Yutaka Sada (guard at bridge barrier)
Yoshio Kosugi, Haruo Nakajima, Senkichi Omura (Akisuki soldiers)
Takeo Oyabigawa (guard at pass barrier)
Tadao Nakamura (young man)
Niyoshi Kumaya, Shoichi Hirose, Etsuro Nishijo (Yamana soldiers)
Masayoshi Nagashima (Yamana samurai)
Fuminori Ohashi (samurai who buys horse)
Shin Otomo, Minoru Ito, Haruo Suzuki, Shigemasa Kanazawa, Hiroyoshi Yamaguchi, Haruya Sakamoto (samurai on horseback)
Kazuo Hikita, Ichiro Chiba (Yamana foot soldiers)
Rinsaku Ogata (second young man)
Yutaka Nakayama (soldier)
Nichigeki Dancing Team (female dancers)

Japan 1958
138 mins

High and Low (Tengoku to Jigoku)
Thu 19 Jan 17:45; Sun 29 Jan 18:00 (+ intro by season co-curator Ian Haydn Smith)
The Lower Depths (Donzoku)
Thu 19 Jan 20:20; Mon 30 Jan 20:20
The Hidden Fortress (Kakushi Toride no San-Akunin)
Fri 20 Jan 20:20; Fri 27 Jan 17:45
The Idiot (Hakuchi)
Sat 21 Jan 16:50
The Bad Sleep Well (Warui Yatsu hoho Yoku Nemuru)
Sun 22 Jan 18:00; Sun 29 Jan 14:30 (+ intro by season co-curator Ian Haydn Smith)
Scandal (Shûbun)
Tue 24 Jan 18:10 (+ intro by season co-curator Ian Haydn Smith)
Sanjuro (Tsubaki Sanjûrô)
Thu 26 Jan 21:00; Tue 31 Jan 17:50
Seven Samurai (Shichinin no Samurai)
Sat 28 Jan 15:30 BFI IMAX
Tue 31 Jan 19:35
Stray Dog (Nora Inu)
Wed 1 Feb 20:35; Mon 13 Feb 18:10
Drunken Angel (Yoidore Tenshi)
Thu 2 Feb 18:20; Fri 10 Feb 20:40
The Silent Duel (Shizukanaru Kettô)
Thu 2 Feb 20:40; Sat 11 Feb 18:40
Sanshiro Sugata (Sugata Sanshirô)
Fri 3 Feb 18:20 (+ intro by Ian Haydn Smith, season co-curator); Sun 12 Feb 15:50
Sanshiro Sugata Part Two (Zoku Sugata Sanshirô)
Fri 3 Feb 20:45; Sun 12 Feb 18:20
The Gathering Storm: Kurosawa Study Day
Sat 4 Feb 12:00
Living (Ikiru)
Sat 4 Feb 17:50; Wed 15 Feb 20:15
Kurosawa and Shakespeare, Adaptation and Reinvention: An illustrated talk by Adrian Wootton
Sun 5 Feb 15:15
Sun 5 Feb 17:30 (+ intro by Adrian Wooton, CEO of Film London and film curator); Sat 11 Feb 11:50; Sat 25 Feb 17:20
I Live in Fear (Ikimono no Kiroku)
Mon 6 Feb 18:10; Mon 13 Feb 20:40
Dreams (Yume)
Wed 8 Feb 20:30; Sun 26 Feb 15:30
Throne of Blood (Kumonosu-jô)
Sun 12 Feb 13:00; Fri 17 Feb 20:40; Tue 21 Feb 18:10
Dersu Uzala
Thu 16 Feb 18:10 (+ intro by Ian Haydn Smith, season co-curator); Mon 27 Feb 20:10 (+ intro by Doug Weir, BFI Technical Delivery Manager)
Yojimbo Yôjinbô
Sat 18 Feb 20:45; Thu 23 Feb 20:15 (+ intro by Asif Kapadia, season co-curator)
Rhapsody in August (Hachigatsu no Kyoshikoku)
Sun 19 Feb 18:30; Sat 25 Feb 12:40
Mon 20 Feb 20:20; Tue 28 Feb 18:00
Philosophical Screens: Throne of Blood
Tue 21 Feb 20:10
Wed 22 Feb 20:50; Sat 25 Feb 20:45

In partnership with

Promotional partner

Welcome to the home of great film and TV, with three cinemas and a studio, a world-class library, regular exhibitions and a pioneering Mediatheque with 1000s of free titles for you to explore. Browse special-edition merchandise in the BFI Shop. We’re also pleased to offer you a unique new space, the BFI Riverfront – with unrivalled riverside views of Waterloo Bridge and beyond, a delicious seasonal menu, plus a stylish balcony bar for cocktails or special events. Come and enjoy a pre-cinema dinner or a drink on the balcony as the sun goes down.

Enjoy a great package of film benefits including priority booking at BFI Southbank and BFI Festivals. Join today at bfi.org.uk/join

We are always open online on BFI Player where you can watch the best new, cult & classic cinema on demand. Showcasing hand-picked landmark British and independent titles, films are available to watch in three distinct ways: Subscription, Rentals & Free to view.

See something different today on player.bfi.org.uk

Join the BFI mailing list for regular programme updates. Not yet registered? Create a new account at [www.bfi.org.uk/signup](http://www.bfi.org.uk/