On 25 August the BFI will release Akira Kurosawa’s five Samurai films – Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, The Hidden Fortress, Yojimbo and Sanjuro – in a 4-disc Blu-ray box set, Akira Kurosawa: Samura Collection. These critically acclaimed films are accompanied by contextualising extras including interviews with directors George Lucas and Alex Cox, feature-length audio commentaries and original theatrical trailers.
This indispensable Blu-ray set, released by the BFI on 25th August 2014, features digitally remastered presentations of five of Kurosawa's greatest films and will retail at £59.99.
Seven Samurai (1954)
When the residents of a small Japanese village seek protection, they hire seven unemployed ‘ronin’ (masterless samurai). Paid only in handfuls of rice, the samurai remain distant from the villagers, knowing that their assignment may prove to be fatal. Unanimously hailed as one of cinema's greatest masterpieces, Seven Samurai has inspired countless films, and was remade in 1960 as The Magnificent Seven.
Throne of Blood (1957)
In this brilliant re-imagining of Shakespeare's Macbeth, Toshiro Mifune plays a samurai fated to betray his friend and master in exchange for the prestige of nobility. Kurosawa's bloody tale is a triumph of economic style, and the climactic battle scene is full of remarkable, and brutal, imagery.
The Hidden Fortress (1958)
In this classic collaboration between Kurosawa and star Mifune, a warrior and a princess try against all odds to return to their homeland with their fortune. Acknowledged by George Lucas as the inspiration for Star Wars, The Hidden Fortress combines an epic tale of struggle and honour with modern comic sensibilities to masterful effect.
A drifting samurai for hire plays both ends against the middle with two warring factions, surviving on his wits and his ability to outrun his own bad luck. Eventually the samurai seeks to eliminate both sides for his own gain and to define his own sense of honour. Yojimbo provided the inspiration for A Fistful of Dollars.
This comedy of manners that follows a man fighting corruption in local government, offers a twist on the classic Samurai tale by gently, but perfectly parodying the conventions of the Japanese period action movie tradition.
Original theatrical trailers
The Art of Akira Kurosawa (2013, 49 mins): Asian-cinema expert Tony Rayns discusses Kurosawa's career and influence
Interview with filmmaker George Lucas (2001, 8 mins)
Interview with filmmaker Alex Cox (2003, 9 mins)
Introduction to Sanjuro by Alex Cox (2003, 5 mins)
Full-length audio commentary for Throne of Blood by Japanese-film expert Michael Jeck
Full-length audio commentary for Yojimbo by film critic Philip Kemp
Fully illustrated booklet with essays by Philip Kemp and Nigel Andrews, contemporary reviews and full film credits
Also re-released on Blu-ray on 25th August is Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, which was previously available in a Limited Edition SteelBook package. The RRP will be £19.99.
Seven Samurai original theatrical trailer: