The Hidden Fortress is a 1958 adventure film directed by Akira Kurosawa, and stars Toshiro Mifune, Minoru Chiaki, and Kamatari Fujiwara, and has long been acknowledged as the film that most influenced George Lucas when he made the first Star Wars film! It is no secret that many aspects of Star Wars can be seen in The Hidden Fortress, from the portrayal of characters to how the story is told. It is though important to note however that whilst there are similarities, the two films are still very different. It is easy to watch The Hidden Fortress, and try to pick out Star Wars from it, but when you do watch the Hidden Fortress, you will begin to see the differences too; the main one being that the film is set in Japan, not Space!
The arguments between this film and Star Wars will ironically rage on for many years to come, but I am not here to talk about the comparisons between the two films. I am here to look at what is a very odd trailer! It is a trailer with an exciting Beginning, a lot of nonsensical Middles, and a wild Ending!
It begins with the brilliant horse chase shot of Toshiro Mifune on horseback, waving a sword in the end. This is then followed by that grim soundtrack from Masaru Sato, but then most bizarrely, some footage of the Director on the film set. I don’t think I have ever seen that in a trailer, before or since. It’s an interesting piece of footage, but, rather nonsensical to the film’s plot! But then it gets back on track to footage of the village, with people surrounded by soldiers, followed by an epic piece in the score.
We then get a montage of clips featuring core cast members including Kurosawa regular Takashi Shimura, and Misa Uehara, playing the first of three Princess roles in the space of just two years (the other films being Sengoku gunto-den, and The Three Treasures). This montage is then followed by a wild and exciting dance around the fire routine.
What then follows is a range of clips featuring mostly silent footage, bar some long sections of dialogue, and the occasional piece of action. This is now pretty much the half-way point of the trailer, and this is also the time when you really begin to scratch your head as to what any of this means. But eventually we get back on course, with a nice montage of action, and wild scenes, such as people on horseback running around, people moving around a wood, and then ending it all off with a frantic stampede down a set of stairs.
It’s a weird trailer. Firstly it doesn’t read, see, or feel like a trailer, more just a random collection of clips highlighting moments in the film. But whilst this may speak more like the trailer we’d all prefer to see more of today (in that it doesn’t reveal the entire story); it still struggles to tell at least enough of a story for it to make sense, at a level where it would make us want to go and see it. Although today; its more the case that people want to see it, because of it’s relation to Star Wars.
But, this oddball trailer does work to a strange degree. It’s cobbled mess of an approach, sticks in your head. You sort of now what to see it; to make sense of it. In addition to that, it has a catchy soundtrack that won’t be leaving your brain in a hurry. The action scenes look small in comparison to today’s high budget standards, but still look very exciting. But on top of that, it does paint the idea of an interesting journey, one that highlights an ancient world now sadly gone, whilst also highlighting the beauty of the natural world, and the cultures that fill it. Yes that last section may sound weird, but it’s an interesting point to highlight, for a very weird trailer!