HIDDEN FORTRESS: THE LAST PRINCESS
50th Anniversary Remake of Akira Kurosawa Samurai Classic Comes to UK DVD on June 28th
Source: Toho Co., Ltd promotional materials, 4Digital Media, Organic Marketing
Official Movie Site: kakushi-toride.jp (Japan)
Special Thanks to Louise Rivers, Steve Beecham, and Stuart Galbraith IV
By the late 1950s. filmmaker Akira Kurosawa was internationally renowned for his serious, intelligent— and often bleak and pessimistic— dramas such as RASHOMON (1950), I LIVE IN FEAR (Ikimono no Kiroku, 1955), THRONE OF BLOOD (Kumunosu-jo, 1957), and the LOWER DEPTHS (Donzoko, 1957). For his next production, Kurosawa decided to do something different. With THE HIDDEN FORTRESS (Kakushi Toride no San-Akunin), Kurosawa explained that, “I want to make a 100% entertainment film, full of thrills and fun.” Working once again with his RASHOMON and SEVEN SAMURAI (Shichinin no Samurai, 1954) stars Toshiro Mifune and Minoru Chiaki, Kurosawa created a film that has been long acknowledged as a masterpiece of entertainment.
Released in December, 1958, THE HIDDEN FORTRESS dazzled audiences of the day with its thrilling story development, unrelenting pace… and a healthy dose of comedy. It was Toho Co., Ltd’s top box office draw of the year, ranked second in Kinema Junpo‘s listing of the year’s best films, and won numerous awards. The film’s influence spread beyond Japan into the international film community to inspire future generations of film directors. George Lucas has acknowledged that he modeled his early STAR WARS characters and storytelling techniques on those in THE HIDDEN FORTRESS.
For the film’s fiftieth anniversary, Toho and director Shinji Higuchi took a fresh look at the story and characters of THE HIDDEN FORTRESS. Higuchi’s unique imagination infused the classic tale with a 21st Century perspective to bring it back as a new, non-stop swashbuckling adventure… HIDDEN FORTRESS: THE LAST PRINCESS (Kakushi Toride no San-Akunin: The Last Princess).
The remake opened in Japanese theaters on May 10, 2008 but actually had its world premiere in Los Angeles, CA. On April 27, 2008, the University of Southern California and Toho hosted a special HIDDEN FORTRESS: THE LAST PRINCESS screening event at the Eileen Norris Cinema Theatre on the USC campus. Director Shinji Higuchi, lead actor Jun Matsumoto, and special guest Anthony Daniels (best known as See-Threepio in the STAR WARS movies) were on hand for a post-screening Q&A and reception.
Japan’s “Age of Civil War” was a time of rival warlords, an era when no man could bring peace to the country.
Tensions begin to build in the neighboring provinces of Akizuki, Yamana, and Hayakawa. Mountainous Yamana, which has survived on its meager mineral resources, wishes to conquer its large and prosperous coastal neighbor, Hayakawa. Running through its already slender resources, Yamana instead sets its eye on its other neighbor, Akizuki, a smaller land but with fertile land and abundant gold mines. A surprise attack catches Akizuki off guard, and its castle falls without a significant fight. The Yamana troops make a frantic search through its burned out ruins for Akizuki’s hidden war chest of “100 kan in gold”.
The miner Takezo (Jun Matsumoto) and woodcutter Shinpachi (Daisuke Miyagawa) are young ne’er-do-wells constantly on the lookout for a get-rich-quick scheme. Pressed into slave labor by the Yamana forces searching for the gold, the pair use the commotion cause by a coal gas explosion to flee the castle. With no destination in mind, the two stumble across what looks like gold bearing the armorial symbol of Akizuki hidden among sticks of firewood by a waterfall. Overjoyed at finding the Azuki war chest, they are captured by two warriros that appear out of nowhere. The warriors are in fact Akizuki’s chief samurai, Rokurota Makabe (Hiroshi Abe), and the heir to Akizuki, Princess Yuki (Masami Nagasawa), engaged in a secret mission to take the gold to shelter in Hayakawa. At the point of Rokurota’s sword, Takezo suggests how they might be able to accomplish this.
A samurai incognito, a princess out to recover her land, and two mountain villagers… greed struggles with the fate of a nation. Braving a tight military cordon of thousands of soldiers, taken as prisoners to an impregnable fortress, the four fight against all odds.
A hunt for hidden gold and a princess in distress; a desperate and dangerous escapade has begun.
Cast and Crew
Director Shinji Higuchi was born on September 22, 1965 in Tokyo. In the film industry he began as a mold making assistant on THE RETURN OF GODZILLA (Gojira, 1984, US title GODZILLA 1985) and then worked on the special effects staff for Golden Harvest’s Hong Kong film NINE LIVES. He was one of the series directors for the TV animation series NADIA: THE SECRET OF BLUE WATER (Fushigi no Umi no Nadia, 1990). He won awards in 1992 and 1995 for his work on TOKYO EARTHQUAKE (Taiyo ga Hikisa- kareta Hi: Tokyo Earthquake) and GAMERA: THE GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE (Gamera Daikaiju Kuchu Kessen). For GAMERA: ATTACK OF LEGION (Gamera 2: Region Shurai) in 1996, he was both special effects director and designer. He did storyboarding, script and direction for the TV series NEON GENESIS EVANGELION (Shin Seiki Evangelion, 1995) and feature films NEON GENESIS EVANGELION: DEATH & REBIRTH (Shin Seiki Evangelion Gekiji-ban: Shito Shinsei, 1997) and NEON GENESIS EVANGELION: THE END OF EVANGELION (Shin Seiki Evangelion Gekijo-ban: Air/Magokoro wo, Kimi ni, 1997).
As special effects director for GAMERA: REVENGE OF IRIS (Gamera 3: Iris Kakusei, 1999), Higuchi created an advanced visual world using high-end digital image technology. His direction for FLYING: A DREAM I HAD (Tobu – Konna Yume wo Mita) won a prize at SIGGRAPH 2000’s Animation Festival. He’s participated in notable films as a special effects director, title backgrounds creation, as the visual effects designer and storyboarding. His feature directorial debut LORELEI: THE WITCH OF THE PACIFIC OCEAN (Lorelei, 2005) and his SINKING OF JAPAN (Nihon Chinbotsu, 2006) were both smash hits.
For HIDDEN FORTRESS: THE LAST PRINCESS, Shinji Higuchi’s motto was to make “the perfect entertainment for our time”; something that would rivet audiences to the movie screen and send them out of the theater with a feeling of exhilaration. The director was determined to bring back to the screen the power and passion of the earliest days of Japanese cinema when it was still young and lean. With that goal in mind, Higuchi brought together some of the most energetic talents in the modern Japanese movie industry.
Kazuki Nakashima of Theater Company Shinkansen has adapted the screenplay. The soundtrack is by Naoki Sato, once of the most sought after composers in recent Japanese film, whose credits include LORELEI: THE WITCH OF THE PACIFIC OCEAN and ALWAYS- SUNSET ON THIRD STREET (Always San-chome no Yuhi, 2005).
Headlining the cast is Jun Matsumoto as Takezo. Born August 30, 1983 in Tokyo, Japan, Jun made his debut in 1999 with the pop group Arashi. While still a member of the band, he starred in the the third season of the TV drama THE FILES OF YOUNG KINDAICHI (Kindaichi Shonen no Jikenbo, 2001) and his performance lead to subsequent appearances in other popular TV dramas including GOKUSEN (2002), BAMBINO! (2007) and BOYS BEFORE FLOWERS (Hana Yori Dango, 2007). In movies, his roles in PIKA*NCHI LIFE IS HARD DAKEDO HAPPY (2002 and 2004), TOKYO TOWER (2005), YELLOW TEAR (Kiiroi Namida, 2007), I LOVE MY YOUNGER SISTER (Boku wa Imouto ni Koi wo Suru, 2007) and BOYS BEFORE FLOWERS: FINAL (Hana Yori Dango: Final, 2008) exhibited an acting talent not usually seen in his television dramatic work. In theatre, Matsumoto played the critically acclaimed lead role in VALKYRIE OF BYAKUYA (Byakuya no Warukyuure, 2006).
Stepping into the sandals of Tohiro Mifune as the loyal samurai Rokurota Makabe is Hiroshi Abe. Perhaps best known in the west as Crisis Control Intelligence head Mitsuo Katagiri in GODZILLA 2000 (Gojira Nisen Mireniamu, 1999), Abe has starred in dozens of films and television series. His movie credits include OROCHI: THE EIGHT-HEADED DRAGON (Yamato Takeru, 1994), MOON OVER TAO (Tao no Tsugi, 1997), TOKYO RAIDERS (2000), TRICK (2002), THE MAN BEHIND THE SCISSORS (Hasami Otoko, 2004), SUMMER OF UBUME (Ubume no Natsu, 2005), TRICK 2 (2006), THE SWORD OF ALEXANDER (Taitei no Ken, 2007), THE BOX OF GHOULS (Moryo no Hako, 2007), and HAPPILY EVER AFTER (Jigyaku no Uta, 2007).
The female lead in HIDDEN FORTRESS: THE LAST PRINCESS is Masami Nagasawa, playing the part of Princess Yuki. Born June 3, 1987, at age 12 Nagasawa became the the youngest winner in the history of Toho’s Cinderella (female new talent) Contest. She made her acting debut in PYROKINESIS (Kurosufaia, aka CROSSFIRE, 2000). Her performance in ROBOCON (2003) netted her a “Best Newcomer” award at the Japanese Academy Awards. Nagasawa also won “Best Supporting Actress” for her portrayal of girl dying of leukemia in CRYING OUT LOVE, IN THE CENTER OF THE WORLD (Sekai no Chushin de, ai o Sakebu, 2004). In 2003 and 2004, Masami Nagasawa partnered with actress Chihiro Otsuka to play Mothra’s twin priestesses the Shobijin in GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS (Gojira x Mosura x Mekagojira: Tokyo SOS) and GODZILLA: FINAL WARS. The pair also sang “The Song of Mothra” for the TOKYO SOS soundtrack CD. More recently Nasagawa appeared in the heavy metal comedy DETROIT METAL CITY (2008).
While still unreleased in North America, HIDDEN FORTRESS: THE LAST PRINCESS is coming to DVD (Region 2, PAL, with English subtitles) in the United Kingdom from 4Digital Media. Available June 28th, 2010, the DVD will carry a 15 certification and a suggested retail price of £15.99.
• RUN TIME: 118 mins approx
• CERT: 15 TBC
• CAT NO: ASIA3815
• BARCODE: 5034741381512
• RRP: £15.99
• LANGUAGE: Japanese
• SUBTITLES: English
• Original Japanese trailer
HIDDEN FORTRESS: THE LAST PRINCESS
Takezo: Jun Matsumoto
Princess Yuki: Masami Nagasawa
Gyobu: Kippei Shiina
Shinpachi: Daisuke Miyagawa
Rokurota Makabe: Hiroshi Abe
Director: Shinji Higuchi
Screenplay: Kazuki Nakashima
Original Story: Ryuzo Kikushima, Hideo Oguni, Shinobu Hashimoto, Akira Kurosawa
Theme Song: The Three (Tomoyasu Hotei, KREVA, Seiji Kameda)
Original Music: Naoki Sato
Producer: Shogo Tomiyama
Executive Producers: Yoshishige Shimatani, Yoshinobu Kosugi, Osamu Kamei, Julie K Fujishima, Shinichiro Nishigaki, Tetsuaki Miyazaki, Noboru Otsuki, Yuji Shimamoto
Co-Executive Producers: Minami Ichikawa, Seiji Okuda
Producers: Akihiro Yamauchi, Morio Amagi
Co-Producer: Kenichi Yamada
Associate Producer: Takaya Kurata
Line Producer: Toru Mori
Cinematography: Shoji Ehara
Production Design: Takeshi Shimizu
Lighting: Sosuke Yoshikado
Sound: Jun Nakamura
Editor: Soichi Ueno
Set Decoration: Nobuhiro Akitaya
FX Producer: Tetsuo Oya
Assistant Director: Kimiyoshi Adachi
Music Supervisor: Kyoko Kitahara
© 2008 Toho Co., Ltd.; Nippon Television Network Corporation; J Storm, Inc.; Shogakukan, Inc.; Yomiuri Telecasting Corporation; Chukyo TV Broadcasting Co., Inc.; The Yomiuri Shimbun; Dentsu, Inc.