Combustible Celluloid
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With: Takashi Shimura, Toshiro Mifune, Yoshio Inaba, Seiji Miyaguchi, Minoru Chiaki
Written by: Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, Hideo Oguni
Directed by: Akira Kurosawa
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Japanese with English subtitles
Running Time: 207
Date: 26/04/1954

Seven Samurai (1954)

4 Stars (out of 4)

The Magnificent Kurosawa

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

No other Japanese filmmaker so inspired, or was inspired by, Western culture more than Akira Kurosawa. Perhaps that's why Seven Samurai (1954), an epic, 3 1/2 hour action movie remains so popular in the US.

The movie takes place in a small farming village that is continually being raided by brigands. The villagers try to hire a band of warriors to help defend them. Unfortunately, they have nothing to offer but a bit of rice. Once Takashi Shimura (Ikiru) signs up, the other six samurai protectors fall into place, including the legendary Toshiro Mifune (Rashomon, Hell in the Pacific).

The action scenes in this movie are virtually unequaled by any other movie in history, even if some of the "waiting-around" scenes grow tiresome. Toshiro is great to watch, but look for Takashi's understated performance as well, rubbing the back of his shaved neck absently while deep in thought. Make sure to stick around for the last 10 minutes and the final battle that takes place in the rain and mud with Toshiro's battle-crazed devil-gleam in his eyes.

Seven Samurai is an amazing film, but ranks slightly below the brilliant Rashomon and Ikiru. The Criterion Collection's essential DVD marks the first time home viewers can watch the entire film without changing tapes or turning over laserdiscs. It comes with a commentary track by scholar Michael Jeck and a trailer. In 2010, Criterion released a deluxe Blu-Ray edition.

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