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Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Hidden Fortress - Where Star Wars Came From

Last Saturday, I watched the 1958 Kurosawa Akira (surname first) movie The Hidden Fortress for the first time… and I don’t know why, but it made me think of Star Wars.

So I looked it up, and sure enough – as many of you already know, Star Wars creator George Lucas freely admits that Star Wars was indeed inspired by The Hidden Fortress.

Now… maybe I had heard that somewhere else before, and I’ve conveniently forgotten that for this blog… tough to tell.

May I be excused? My brain is full. That’s from an old Far Side cartoon I haven’t thought about in decades. No… I don’t have any collections of that series… though I probably should.

Anyhow… Lucas, and his inspired Star Wars movie and Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress...

Just as I was always confused at how grandiose the title of Star Wars was – really… war amongst the stars? A bit… but not much… we all know that the real wars are fought in the senate. Sorry… kidding.

Anyhow… the same with The Hidden Fortress… it  - a hidden fortress - was there… but it really wasn’t all that important in my mind… at least not enough to warrant the movie being named after it.

But no… the similarities I saw that do exist are the fact that Lucas seems to have based the two ‘droids R2D2 and C-3PO after a pair of bumbling, greedy peasants in The Hidden Fortress.

In The Hidden Fortress, the two peasants reluctantly help an old warrior help save a princess from the enemy samurai, trying to get her from her overrun lands to a safe far, far away.

Look at the photo at the very top - guess which two are the peasants, guess who is the warrior, and guess  who's the princess... 

Okay…. It’s not an exact match, but we do have to give Lucas some credit here… as he does NOT copy Kurosawa, but rather pays homage to The Hidden Fortress in Star Wars.

Lucas, in fact, says The Hidden Fortress did inspire him to write Star Wars.

With Lucas borrowing the scene swipes prevalent in the Kurosawa movie, we have the two bickering ‘droids helping an old Jedi Knight rescue a princess and then get her to a safe place. At least that’s the hope.
Although the character of the Princess is supposed to be 16, she's an adult actor, and thus I feel safe in saying she looks all hot brandishing that thin bamboo whip.
I suppose one could also liken an X-Wing run through the trenches of the Death Star to the way the old samurai runs after on horseback and chases down two enemies – but aside from the way it was filmed, I think we might be pushing it.

The Hidden Fortress is supposed to be Kurosawa’s best work… but I still think The Seven Samurai is better. (Think The Magnificent Seven – it came out six years after the Japanese flick, and is most definitely an homage/copy. And The Magnificent Seven is one helluva great flick. )

The Hidden Fortress was initially told through our two peasants… escaping from having to dig holes to bury the dead, being caught up separately by rival forces, and then through dumb luck, being afforded the opportunity to escape…

There is comedy galore in this flick… most of it from our two hapless peasants… from watching them complain about how each other stinks, to their comedic climb up a hillside slippery with loose rocks, to their abuse by the old samurai, and watching how their greed constantly gets them in and out of jams… all the while they unwittingly help save the day. Sort of. They don’t really save the day.

It’s also why C-3PO and R2D2 don’t get a medal. But then again… the peasant’s kindda do.

No… I think I did know this stuff about Star Wars and Kurosawa. Dammit… I thought I might have been smarter than even I thought I was.

Oh well… excellent movie… go see if your library has a copy of The Hidden Fortress.

And... tomorrow... something different to acknowledge the 5th anniversary of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Andrew Joseph

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