Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Throne of Blood

aka Spider's Web Castle
Akira Kurosawa, 1957, Japan, bw (7.9*)

In spite of the lurid title, this is another of the great Japanese director's early masterworks, it's not really a horror film. Based on Shakespeare's Macbeth, Kurosawa made it entirely Japanese, building his castle on Mt. Fuji, and mixing elements of Japanese theater into the film. Kurosawa even trucked in the black volcanic soil of Fuji into the studio lot to film the castle interiors.

The story involves the castle of the title, surrounded by a maze-like forest that adds to its protection. One day while lost in this forest, two military leaders who are lifetime friends receive a prophecy from a ghost that leads them into their own web of power seeking and mistrust, as they are each to become castle lords themselves. No medieval Japanese film can avoid war, and this has some beautifully filmed battle sequences, once again using stark black-and-white cinematography to show the power of horses and soldiers in battle, much like his earlier classic The Seven Samurai.

His new favorite actor Toshiro Mifune is featured in this one as well, though this film is not quite as artistic as Seven Samurai, it adheres to the Shakespearean story, so it's a bit more melodramatic and staged looking in comparison, though that's an honest cinematic interpretation of the play. With some haunting and huge-scale images, it's still a great example of the early Kurosawa style, and a worthy entry into the pantheon of Shakespeare transformed to film.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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