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The First Films of Akira Kurosawa [Criterion Collection] [4 Discs] [DVD]

Release Date:08/03/2010
This box set from the popular Criterion Collection 'Eclipse' line - volume 23 in the series - presents four early and seldom-seen sound films by master Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, produced many years before the titles, such as Yojimbo and Rashomon, that turned Kurosawa into a household name. The set includes: the 1943 Sanshiro Sugata, Kurosawa's debut film, on a judo student's difficult but compelling spiritual journey; The Most Beautiful (1944), a propagandistic wartime drama about female volunteers employed at an optics factory; Sanshiro Sugata, Part Two (1945), the sequel to Kurosawa's debut, that continues the tale of Sanshiro and his quest to become a martial arts master; and The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail (1945), a kabuki-inspired tale about a lord who disguises himself as a monk to get past a seemingly impenetrable roadblock.
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    Sanshiro Sugata 2
    This 1945 Japanese film by renowned director Akira Kurosawa, is a sequel to its better known predecessor, Sanshiro Sugata (1943). Both concern the relationship between Shogoro Yano (Denjiro Okochi), the founder of the martial arts discipline of Judo, and Sanshiro Sugata (Susumu Fujita), one of his principal students. Like many such relationships, this one is shown to be a blend of the spiritual and the intimately personal. As the film was made during World War II, it not surprisingly contains vignettes in which Europeans are made to appear extraordinarily piggish and vulgar. This film was re-released in a slightly shorter, re-edited and subtitled version in 1981 and was first seen in the U.S. at the Film Forum in New York City in 1989. It is of interest both as a tightly-crafted martial arts master-and-student film, and as an early example of Kurosawa's mature style. ~ Clarke Fountain, Rovi

    Sanshiro Sugata
    This first effort by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa was originally released as Sanshiro Sugata . The film, made under reasonably smooth conditions despite the war, is based on a best-selling novel about the creation of Judo. Most of the film explores the relationship between the creator of this form of self-defense and his faithful protege. In addition to establishing the reputation of Kurosawa, the film made a popular star of Susumu Fujita. Sanshiro Sugata was remade by Shigeo Tanaka in 1955 and again by Seiichuro Uchikawa ten years later. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    The Most Beautiful
    Following up on his successful directorial debut, soon-to-be cinematic master Akira Kurosawa helms this war-era melodrama about female factory workers dutifully toiling for the greater good of the Imperial war effort. Under the watchful eye of their paternalistic factory manager (played by Kurosawa regular Takeshi Shimura), the young women workers fight through their own trials and tribulations to produce high-quality optical equipment factory under extremely spartan, almost militaristic conditions. One lass (Takako Irie) gets ill and is forced to convalesce over her own objections. Another insists on continuing with her work after falling and breaking her leg. Still another is desperately trying to hide her tuberculosis so she can stay on the assembly line. The shift leader (Yoko Yaguchi), whose mother is dying at home with no one to care for her, struggles to set a good example for her underlings and struggles to find a mislaid half-finished lens. ~ Jonathan Crow, Rovi

    The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail
    Akira Kurosawa's Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail was put together at the last minute when Kurosawa's plan to direct a costume picture called Doko Kono Yari fell through (the producer couldn't get any horses!) Utilizing the costumes, sets and actors already commissioned, Kurosawa spent one long evening writing a screenplay based on the old Kabuki piece Kanjincho. The central character, a dimwitted porter who almost causes the film's plot to go awry, was played by Enoken, a stage actor and longtime personal favorite of Kurosawa's. Originally titled Tora no o o fumu Otokotachi, Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail was impressive enough for English-filmmaker Michael Powell to request permission to remake it on a larger scale (he never did). Completed in 1945, the film was not generally released until 1952. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Cast & Crew

    • Image coming soon
      Akitake Kono - Yoshima Dan
    • Image coming soon
      Yukiko Todoroki - Sayo
    • Image coming soon
      Ryonosuke Tsukigata - Gennosuke Higaki
    • Susumu Fujita
      Susumu Fujita - Sugata
    • Denjiro Okochi
      Denjiro Okochi - Shogoro Yano

    Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.