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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 3.0 Stereo
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Exclusive video interview with George Lucas about The Hidden Fortress
  • Original theatrical trailer

The Hidden Fortress


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Akira Kurosawa
Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Minoru Chiaki, Kamatari Fujiwara, Susumu Fujita, Misa Uehara
1958 | 139 Minutes | Licensor: Toho Co.

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $29.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #116 | Out of print
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: May 22, 2001
Review Date: March 14, 2014

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SYNOPSIS

A general and a princess must dodge enemy clans while smuggling the royal treasure out of hostile territory with two bumbling, conniving peasants at their sides; it's a spirited adventure that only Akira Kurosawa could create. Acknowledged as a primary influence on George Lucas' Star Wars, The Hidden Fortress delivers Kurosawa's inimitably deft blend of wry humor, breathtaking action and humanist compassion on an epic scale. The Criterion Collection is proud to present this landmark motion picture in a stunning, newly restored Tohoscope edition.

Forum members rate this film 7.6/10

 

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PICTURE

Criterion’s original DVD for Akira Kurosawa’s first widescreen film, The Hidden Fortress, is presented in the aspect ratio of about 2.35:1 on a dual-layer disc, and has been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

Though I wouldn’t call the presentation awful it certainly is week. At the time the restoration work was pretty impressive, though things have come a long way since (as Criterion’s recent dual-format edition of the film can attest.) The digital transfer is a bit fuzzy and noisy but fairly stable, with limited artifacts. Sharpness isn’t anything too write home about, though, the image looking fairly soft with limited detail, long shots especially. The image is also a little dark, with details getting lost in darker areas of the screen. Edge-enhancement is also obvious in a few sequences.

The worst aspect, though, is still the source print. Though it looks as though a lot of restoration has been done there’s still quite a bit of damage present. Stains, hair, specs of dirt, and other groupings of damage are scattered about, but the most obvious and consistent issue are visible splices in between cuts; these are especially distracting.

Again, not awful, but open to improvement, and Criterion has certainly improved upon it with their new dual-format edition, where both the DVD and Blu-ray versions deliver a substantial improvement.

6/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The Hidden Fortress comes with two audio tracks: a Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track, and a 3.0 Dolby Digital track that recreates the film’s original Perspectasound track.

Neither track sounds particularly great, age being the primary reason for this. Restoration has been done but there’s still a fair bit of background noise and damage, and range and fidelity are both lacking, delivering a flat and tinny experience.

The 3.0 track does have some noticeable panning and movement between speakers, but it can sound a bit unnatural. Still, having the option is great and I’m glad Criterion included it (they also carried it over to their new edition.)

5/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Surprisingly there is very little on here with only an 8-minute interview with director George Lucas being the lone big feature here. In it Lucas talks about how Kurosawa influenced him as a director and what he most admired about his work, from his editing to his camerawork and compositions. He talks a little about The Hidden Fortress and how it did inspire him when he was writing Star Wars, though says it was primarily the opening with the two peasants, which influenced the opening of Star Wars with the droids. The rest of the plot (about a general trying to get a princess out of enemy territory) was more of a coincidence. Though Lucas is his usual laid back, monotone self, it’s a good interview, with the director simply gushing about Kurosawa, and offering insights into how the filmmaker not only influenced him but others of the same generation.

The disc then closes with a rather lengthy 4-minute theatrical trailer that opens with some behind-the-scenes footage. The included insert contains an essay by Armond White, who seems to focus more on genre conventions in the film.

Disappointingly slim, though Criterion also remedies this with their new edition.

3/10

CLOSING

Certainly not the version of the film to get. With an old, dated transfer and next-to-no supplements, Criterion’s new edition offers a drastic improvement in all areas, whether one is looking for the film on DVD or Blu-ray.


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