Tag Archives: 1954

Seven Samurai (1954) Review

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Seven Samurai

Time: 125 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
Toshiro Mifune as Kikuchiyo
Takashi Shimura as Kambei Shimada
Daisuke Katō as Shichirōji
Isao Kimura as Katsushirō Okamoto
Minoru Chiaki as Heihachi Hayashida
Seiji Miyaguchi as Kyūzō
Yoshio Inaba as Gorōbei Katayama
Yoshio Tsuchiya as Rikichi
Bokuzen Hidari as Yohei
Yukiko Shimazaki as Rikichi’s wife
Kamatari Fujiwara as Manzō
Keiko Tsushima as Shino
Kokuten Kōdō as Gisaku
Yoshio Kosugi as Mosuke
Eijirō Tōno as a thief
Jun Tatara as a coolie
Atsushi Watanabe as a bun seller
Director: Akira Kurosawa

A veteran samurai, gathers six samurais to protect a village from the cruel bandits. As the samurais teach the natives how to defend themselves, the village is attacked by a pack of 40 bandits.

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There were plenty of well-known famous movies that I knew of that I had yet to check out for myself, many of them were classics. Seven Samurai was one of them, and it was a bit intimidating and daunting going into it. It was a black and white movie, with aspect ratio of 1.33:1, it’s in Japanese and was 3.5 hours long. However I came out of the movie really loving it.

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The astonishing thing about Seven Samurai is that it seems far too modern for a film made in the 50s, it really can still compete with action films today. The length and the amount of time spent on characterisation and story might put off some of the audience, but I’d say that the film does enough to grip audiences even today. The story is told in two parts, separated by an intermission. The first part is about the initial plight of the villagers, the title characters being assembled to help the village, their arrival into the village, and the several tactics they come up with in preparation. The next part brings the bandits into play which ultimately culminates in a giant battle that tests both the samurais and the villagers. As said earlier, it is a little over 3 hours long which can be intimidating, but it makes great use of that runtime. The script is pretty much flawless, director Akira Kurosawa is incredibly patient in his approach to the story here, and his storytelling is strong. He’s never in a hurry as he builds up the premise slowly, taking his time on focusing on defining the village’s desperate situations before introducing the samurais. He also lets each scene play out gradually, and even infuses humour wherever he can. It really focuses well on all the characters and the situations, really fleshing them out. It’s an epic tale held together firmly by all seven major characters, each of them are given tremendous depth and arcs in the script. A lot of the character development is conveyed through events and dialogue that reveal truths about each of them. With so much attention invested into each of them, the entire story would deviate greatly if even one of them were removed. Despite the looming battle that’s anticipated, Seven Samurai isn’t simply about the battle at the end. It’s about two distinct groups of people that mistrust each other, but who work together. It’s easy to see how many films Seven Samurai has influenced: countless westerns and action films, or really any film in which a team is assembled to carry out a challenging task.

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Seven Samurai features a highly devoted cast, and every single one of them leave their imprint as their respective well developed and engaging characters. Many of the characters are very well fleshed out, but none of them stand out as much as two of the samurai. The first is the leader of the seven samurai, played excellently by Takashi Shimura as a veteran samurai, who commands quite a strong on-screen presence. The second is that of the character of Kikuchiyo played by Toshiro Mifune. The character is fascinating, funny and dominates just about every scene he’s in, and you want to learn more about him (and over time you do). From beginning to end, Mifune delivers a fierce and energetic performance that really stands out even among the other great actors. The rest of the supporting cast is no slouch and play their part very well too.

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This is the first movie I have seen from Akira Kurosawa, and from this alone I already know that he’s an absolutely masterful filmmaker. First of all, it’s shot very well. The cinematography does a great job in creating a very rich atmosphere, and the use of close ups, slow-motion and smooth manoeuvres with the camera are composed excellently. The location and settings also evoke an era reminiscent of its timeline. The editing is perfect too, for the mere fact that it keeps the audience’s runtime despite the demanding runtime. There are some spectacular action sequences, Kurosawa really gives the battle scenes a grand sense of scale. Watching it now, you can clearly see the influence that it has had on so many films since then. Lastly it boasts a memorable and effective background score that suits the story very well.

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Seven Samurai is definitely an influential movie that fully lives up to its enormous reputation, and it’s easy to see why it is considered to be a great achievement in film. The script is dense yet keeps your attention throughout, the characters are well developed and performed excellently by the cast, and Akira Kurosawa’s direction is masterful and ahead of its time. I understand that it is an intimidating movie to watch for the first time, but I do highly recommend checking it out if you haven’t already, it is absolutely worth it.

Godzilla (1954) Review

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Godzilla (1954)

Time: 96 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Some scenes may scare very young children
Cast:
Akira Takarada as Hideto Ogata
Momoko Kōchi as Emiko Yamane
Akihiko Hirata as Dr. Daisuke Serizawa
Takashi Shimura as Dr. Kyohei Yamane
Director: Ishirō Honda

When a seemingly indestructible fire-breathing monster is created as a result of the testing of American nuclear weapons, the government takes help from a reclusive scientist to kill the monster.

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I liked the American Godzilla movies from the 2010s with Godzilla and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. However, Godzilla has a very long history of films, and I did want to go back to the very beginning and see how they used to be. With 1954’s Godzilla I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I didn’t think it would have aged all that well. However, it actually surprised me how great this movie is and mostly holds up to a degree.

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While other Godzilla movies has Godzilla fighting other monsters, 1954 Godzilla keeps things simple by having it making it just Godzilla occasionally pop up to terrorize and destroy the city. You don’t actually see a lot of Godzilla, and that played a big part of making his presence so effective. Once you see him fully for the first time, you feel his presence in the movie even when he’s not on screen. The movie is actually darker than I thought it would be, and that makes sense given that it comes from a place of real life horror. For those who don’t know, basically Godzilla symbolizes nuclear holocaust from Japan’s perspective, nearly a decade after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the 1940s. It touches on social issues and provides commentary on Japan’s current society in general at the time, and the moral debate about the use of deadly weapons is ever present. There’s a lot of weight to the story, everything is played seriously, and you really feel the impact of certain moments and even dread throughout. Godzilla is 96 minutes long, which is a pretty good length for the movie, and it spends its time effectively, not a minute is wasted. It doesn’t rely on the destruction or the monster to drive the film (even though Godzilla is sort of the focus of the movie), and it takes its time with the plot. Thankfully, I was invested in the story quite a bit.

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The cast are quite good. The most surprising things was that the use and focus on the characters are at the right level for the movie. Most monster movies have stock human characters that either distract or feel obligatory and just to be there, and are usually the weakest part of each of these movies. Although I wouldn’t call them among the best parts of this film, these characters actually feel human and they fit the story fine enough. The highlights were Takashi Shimura as one of the scientists investigating Godzilla, and Akihiko Hirata as another scientist who has potentially created something that could be used against Godzilla.

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Godzilla is directed well by Ishirō Honda, and I was surprised at how well it mostly holds up. No doubt you’ve at some point seen glimpses of the old Godzilla in the earlier movies using miniatures and a stunt actor in a Godzilla suit, and it looked goofy. While it of course doesn’t look as good as the more recent Godzilla movies, considering it’s the 1950s, in this movie it actually looks quite impressive. The black and white definitely helps, while no doubt there were multiple reasons for filming it in this way, it fits the tone quite well.

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Godzilla is a dark, impactful and thematic monster movie, that’s greatly directed, written and acted. It was innovative for its time but even now there’s a lot to appreciate about it. If you liked the more recent Godzilla films, I highly recommend going back to the 1954 original at the very least, it is well worth the watch.