.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Classically Speaking:
Promoting Classic Movies in a Jaded World!

Friday, June 27, 2008


Toshirô MifuneTOSHIRÔ MIFUNE (1920-1997) was the best-known Japanese actor of the 20th Century. Mifune was a performer of stunning depth and was capable of playing a wide range of characters, from samurai to petty crooks to doctors. He became better known in America playing the character Toranaga on "Shogun". He was one of the great film actors of all-time. I cannot begin to go into his modern era films here, but seek them out and enjoy the performances.

Haven't you seen Yojimbo (1961)
(Japan) [aka: The Bodyguard (International: English title - literal title); Yojimbo (1961)Yojimbo the Bodyguard (alternate title: USA); Yojinbo (Japan - modified Hepburn romaji)]? A Ronin, a masterless samurai, wanders into a town controlled by two warring factions. He plays one side against the other, finally coming out on top. Mifune was named Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival for this role. And if the plot seems familiar, it was "borrowed" by Sergio Leone for A Fistful Of Dollars.

Watch this and then see these other four films.

Aru kengo no shogai (1959)
(Japan) [aka: Samurai Saga (USA); Life of an Expert Swordsman (literal title)] This was Rostand's play Cyrano de Bergerac transplanted to 17th Century Japan, and it is a truly beautiful adaptation. Mifune is Komaki, poet and warrior with a rather large nose. In love with Princess Chiyo, he helps her chosen suitor to woo her despite his own feelings. If you do not cry at the end, you have no heart.
Shichinin no samurai (1954)
(Japan) [aka: The Seven Samurai (USA); Seven Samurai (UK); Shichi-nin no samurai (Japan: alternative transliteration)] Peasants hire seven Ronin to protect their village from the annual attack from bandits. Obviously, this was remade in the U.S. as The Magnificent Seven. There are not enough superlatives to describe this film. Directed by Akira Kurosawa it also stars Takashi Shimura as the leader of the Ronin. Mifune is a young Samurai who has a secret. Before I saw this I was under the impression they only made Godzilla movies in Japan.
Kumonosu jô (1957)
(Japan) [aka: Throne of Blood (USA: original subtitled version); Macbeth; Cobweb Castle; Spider Web Castle; The Castle of the Spider's Web] Kurosawa takes Shakespeare's Macbeth and places it in Medieval Japan. Mifune is Washizu, a noble who kills his way to the top before his well-deserved end. Outstanding.
Kakushi-toride no san-akunin (1958)
(Japan) [aka: The Hidden Fortress (USA); The Three Villains of the Hidden Fortress (informal English title); Three Bad Men in a Hidden Fortress (International: English title: literal title); Three Rascals in the Hidden Fortress (International: English title)] A princess, aided by two comic servants and accompanied by a sardonic warrior (Mifune) is pursued by Darth Vader, er, I mean an enemy general. George Lucas admitted this film inspired several elements of the Star Wars story. Mifune is the Princess's general, disguised as a servant as they attempt to make their way across enemy lines. A true classic, but beware newer prints that insert profanities, nonexistent in Japan, into the subtitles.

*Contributed by: "Eric Jamborsky" Date: Sat, Aug 12 2006 / 14:27:57 PST

Autographed still provided by: Eric Jamborsky
This picture was sent off to Japan to get autographed. It traveled further than any other picture and further than I ever will.


  • 27 June 2008
    The first film I ever saw Toshiro Mifune in was James Clavell's Shogun. After that, I saw him in Midway. Tonight, he was in a western also starring Charles Bronson named Red Sun. He was great! I enjoyed each one of these films and I look forward to seeing Toshiro Mifune in the films you mentioned.

    By Anonymous Elizabeth Van Cleve, at Fri Jun 27, 10:56:00 PM PDT