DVD Review: 'The Hidden Fortress' released on Blu-ray

This 1958 comic adventure film from Akira Kurosawa is widely credited as a big influence on “Star Wars:” A legendary general (Toshiro Mifune) has to escort a princess safely through enemy turf, accompanied by two constantly quarrelling peasants. No Luke Skywalker or Han Solo here. Among this new Blu-ray's extras is an eight-minute interview with George Lucas from 2001, in which he forthrightly discusses his great admiration for the film and what “Star Wars” did or didn't get from it.

The picture quality is very good, the audio a little less so. There is a new commentary track from film historian Stephen Prince (“The Warriors Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa”). It's well-organized and full of interesting technical and historical info. There is no in-depth analysis — which is a good thing, given that this is one of the lightest (maybe the lightest) of Kurosawa's movies. Amid a lot of discussion of the framing and composition — this was the director's first widescreen production — he correctly observes that the tone has much to do with the focus on the peasants. The movie follows them more closely than the heroic figures that most samurai films center on.

The other major supplement here is a 2003 documentary about the making of the film, created as part of the Toho Masterworks series, “Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create,” made up of interviews with Kurosawa and his collaborators.

The Hidden Fortress (Criterion, Blu-ray/DVD combo, $39.95)


ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on "FilmWeek" on KPCC-FM (89.3).

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