THRONE OF BLOOD
KUMONOSU JO
1957, Janus Films, 110 min, Japan, Dir: Akira Kurosawa

As its alternate English titles (COBWEB CASTLE and CASTLE OF THE SPIDER’S WEB) suggest, director Akira Kurosawa’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a chilling blend of gothic melodrama and samurai swordplay, Elizabethan tragedy and Noh theater. Taketori Washizu (Toshiro Mifune), inspired by a ghostly vision and coaxed by his frighteningly ambitious spouse, Lady Asaji (Isuzu Yamada), conspires to murder his lord to rise in the ranks to become eventual ruler. In the process, he betrays friends and foes alike, is driven to madness along with his cold-hearted spouse and is overwhelmed by the violent forces of chaos. With Takashi Shimura, Minoru Chiaki, Akira Kubo. "Kurosawa’s THRONE OF BLOOD is the grisliest Macbeth you’re likely ever to see. It’s powerful filmmaking and provides much revelatory cultural frisson. It also features some of the best work of Kurosawa’s alter ego Toshiro Mifune." – Marjorie Baumgarten, Austin Chronicle. In Japanese with English subtitles.


SEVEN SAMURAI
SHICHININ NO SAMURAI
1954, Janus Films, 207 min, Japan, Dir: Akira Kurosawa

Director Akira Kurosawa’s first attempt at a samurai film yielded this character-driven masterpiece about an aging swordsman (Takashi Shimura) who enlists six other warriors-for-hire (among them Toshiro Mifune) to safeguard a remote village plagued by bandits. After viewing SEVEN SAMURAI, filmmaker Federico Fellini called Kurosawa "the greatest living example of all that an author of the cinema should be." In Japanese with English subtitles.


HELL IN THE PACIFIC
1968, Buena Vista Pictures, 103 min, USA, Dir: John Boorman

“They hunted each other as enemies…they tormented each other as savages…they faced each other as men!” This tense World War II drama stars two real-life veterans of that conflict, Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune, as soldiers stranded on a Pacific island who must learn to cooperate in order to survive. With minimal reliance on dialogue, director John Boorman’s third feature (and second with Marvin) benefits enormously from Conrad Hall’s cinematography and Lalo Schifrin’s music.


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