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Seven Samurai: The Criterion Collection

A band of marauding Ronin (masterless samurai) spot a village and are about to raid it when their leader notes that the village's crops won't be ready for another couple of weeks. They ride off, but a villager hears their plans. After a discussion, the villagers decide the only thing to do is go into town and recruit samurais of their own to defend the village. This proves difficult — the only thing they have to offer their recruits is three square meals a day, but after some unsuccessful attempts, they snare Kambei (Takashi Shimura), who becomes their lead samurai, to whom the younger samurai Katsushiro (Isao Kimura), offers himself as an apprentice. Figuring they need at least seven samurai to defend the village, Kambei finds his old friend Schichiroji (Daisuke Kato), recruits Gorobei (Yoshio Inaba), and Heihachi (Minoru Chiaki), who's found cutting wood. The real find is Kyuzo (Seji Miyaguchi), who Kambei notes is a great warrior because he's "a man obsessed with testing his own skill." Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune) auditions, but he's tripped up — his scroll offering his samurai lineage is proved to be fake when it says that his age should be 13. But the men head off, and Kikuchiyo decides to follow, only to be slowly accepted into the fold. Once back at the village, the warriors begin their preparations, even though the villagers are cold toward them. Fortifications are made, but there are 40 ronin who are ready to attack, and due to their hunger, it will be a fight to death. Often imitated, though rarely equaled, Akira Kurosawa's 1954 Shichinin no Samurai ("Seven Samurai") is an absolute masterpiece of action cinema, and essential viewing, giving the world a blueprint for the action film, as well as the role of Toshiro Mifune's career. Criterion double-dips the film with a three-disc set, with the feature presented in a new full-frame transfer (1.33 OAR) and new Dolby 2.0 Surround audio, along with the original mono (DD 1.0) in Japanese, with optional English subtitles. The film is split across two discs at the intermission, and it includes two commentaries: the original Laserdisc track by Japanese-film scholar Michael Jeck, and a critics' roundtable with Stephen Prince, David Desser, Tony Rayns, Donald Richie, and Joan Mellen. The first disc also comes with three trailers and a teaser, and a stills gallery. Disc two offers "Akira Kurosawa: It is Fun to Create" (49 min.), one of a multi-episode Japanese TV series that highlighted the films of Akira Kurosawa. Disc Three features "My Life in Cinema: Akira Kurosawa," which has fellow director Nagisa Oshima in conversation with Kurosawa about his films and career (116 min.), while the featurette "Seven Samurai: Origins and Influences" enlists Stephen Prince, Joan Mellen, Tadao Sato, David Desser, Tony Rayns, and Donald Richie to talk about the film and where it came from (55 min.). The set also comes with a booklet with essays by Kenneth Turan, Peter Cowie, Phillip Kemp, Peggy Chiao, Alain Silver, Stuart Galbraith IV, directors Sidney Lumet and Arthur Penn, and from Mifune himself. Few DVDs have been as essential. Three disc digipak with paperboard slipcover.

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