The Hidden Fortress (Kakushi toride no san akunin) is a Japanese film that was directed and co-written by the legendary Akira Kurosawa. It was released in 1958 and once again starred Kurosawa’s favorite actor, Toshirō Mifune. The movie is also known as The Three Villians Of The Hidden Fortress, which is what the literal translation comes out to be in English.
The story starts with two peasants who seem to be constantly unlucky. Their names are Tahei and Matashichi. They manage to finally get lucky and escape a major battle. After the battle they meet with a General named Rokurota Makabe. General Makabe has been given orders to escort Princess Yuki through enemy territory. They are in hopes to use the gold that they have with them to rebuild her army so that she can get back her country and start a new kingdom. The four end up becoming five when they manage to get a farmer’s daughter away from a slave-trader.
One of the most interesting things about The Hidden Fortress is its connection to the legendary Star Wars. George Lucas, the creator and director of the Star Wars franchise, has admitted that he was heavily influenced by The Hidden Fortress. It has been noted that the two peasants, Matashichi and Tahei, are remarkably similar to two of the move beloved of the Star Wars movies, C-3PO and R2-D2. The dynamics between the pairs is extremely similar, with insults being traded and jokes being made constantly. In the movie The Hidden Fortress, Matashichi and Tahei manage to get separated and meet up in prison, much like C-3PO and R2-D2 do in the first Star Wars movie.
It is because of this fact that many Star Wars fans find themselves watching The Hidden Fortress. They want to see where the original idea came from and are generally very surprised that it is an old Japanese film. A lot of fans have commented, once they watched the movie, how much more they enjoyed it over Star Wars.
There are die-hard fans who hold true to the Star Wars universe, though, and hate when the two movies are compared, no matter what George Lucas has said. That camp believes that the movies can not be compared because Star Wars is completely science fiction when The Hidden Fortress is written to be in a historical time period.
Interestingly enough, Kurosawa has stated that he only made The Hidden Fortress in order to pay back Toho Studios. They allowed him to make a movie called Rashômon, which is an extremely artistic movie and was very risky for him to make. This becomes comical because while Rashômon was well-received, The Hidden Fortress was a blockbuster, bringing in much more money. It proved that unlike most of today’s directors, Kurosawa was not into making movies for the money, but rather for the art. It is no wonder that he has become known as one of the world’s greatest Japanese directors.