The great filmmaker Akira Kurosawa was known as the Japanese director whose sensibility resonated most with moviegoers in the West.
Now, the Criterion Collection has released dual-format discs of two of his best films, both starring Toshiro Mifune and each with a very specific relationship to Western culture.
"Throne of Blood," the better known of the two, features Mifune as an ambitious warlord with a ruthless wife. If that sounds familiar, it's because director Kurosawa based his story on Shakespeare's "Macbeth."
If the narrative of "The Hidden Fortress" also sounds familiar, that's with good reason as well.
Its tale of a general who has to guard a princess was a key inspiration for George Lucas when he was writing the original "Star Wars."