The Hidden Fortress


The Hidden Fortress is a 1958 jidaigeki adventure film directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune as General Makabe Rokurōta and Misa Uehara as Princess Yuki.


Two bedraggled peasants, Tahei and Matashichi, reveal through conversation that they had intended to fight alongside the Yamana clan, but turned up too late, were taken for soldiers of the defeated Akizuki clan, and forced to bury the dead. After quarreling and splitting up, the two are both again captured separately and forced to dig for gold in the Akizuki castle with other prisoners. After a prisoner uprising, Tahei and Matashichi escape. Near a river they find gold marked with the crescent of the Akizuki clan. The peasants encounter a mysterious man who takes them to a hidden Akizuki fortress after they tell him their plan to evade the Yamana soldiers who are preventing people (and defeated Akizuki clansmen) from crossing the frontier to Hayakawa. Their plan involves traveling to Yamana itself and then passing to Hayakawa through a different border.
The man turns out to be a general of the defeated Akizuki clan, Makabe Rokurōta. Although Rokurōta was planning on killing the peasants, on hearing their plan, he decides to let them live. He realizes that their plan is so ingenious that he decides, without telling them, to use their plan to move the Akizuki Princess Yuki to Hayakawa, whose lord is an ally of the Akizuki clan.
While Rokurōta is escorting Princess Yuki Akizuki and what remains of her family's gold to Hayakawa, Matashichi and Tahei don't know the girl traveling with them is the Princess. In order to keep her identity secret, Yuki poses as a mute so that she doesn't inadvertently speak in the usual mode characteristic of a noblewoman.
During the mission, the peasants impede it and sometimes try to seize the gold. They are later joined by a farmer’s daughter, whom they acquire from an inn-keeper.
They avoid being captured on one occasion by Rokurōta killing four soldiers of a Yamana patrol, including two soldiers Rokurōta has to pursue on horseback. However, Rokurōta ends up in a Yamana camp, where the general in charge is Rokurōta's friendly rival Hyoe Tadokoro.
Tadokoro states that he is sorry he didn't face Rokurōta in battle and decides to have a lance duel which Rokurōta wins. Rokurōta refuses to kill Tadokoro. Rokurōta tells Tadokoro they'll meet again and then leaves the camp on horseback to get back to the Princess. Eventually, they are captured by Yamana soldiers close to a post on the Hayakawa border and held prisoner to be executed. In the confusion, Matashichi and Tahei are able to hide and avoid being taken prisoner. Hyoe Tadokoro comes to identify the prisoners before the soldiers take them to be executed.
Tadokoro shows a large face scar and explains it is a result of a beating ordered by the Yamana lord for losing the duel with Rokurōta. While Tadokoro is meeting them, the Princess gives a speech on how even facing death she has enjoyed the trip and getting to know humanity's ugliness and beauty closely.
The next day as the soldiers start marching the prisoners to be executed, Tadokoro sides with the Princess, Rokurōta and the farmer's daughter. Tadokoro aids and joins them in their escape across the border to Hayakawa. The horses carrying the gold escape. After the Princess and Rokurōta's escape, Matashichi and Tahei stumble upon the gold which is carried by the horses, but are then arrested by Hayakawa soldiers. The soldiers take the peasants to see the general, whereupon Rokurōta explains Yuki's true identity, and states that all of the gold will be used to restore her family's domain. The peasants are then dispatched, taking a single ryō. Finally, Tahei gives this to Matashichi to protect; but Matashichi allows Tahei to keep it.

Influence: Star Wars (1977)

George Lucas has acknowledged the heavy influence of The Hidden Fortress on Star Wars, particularly in the technique of telling the story from the perspective of the film's lowliest characters, C-3PO and R2-D2. Lucas's original plot outline for Star Wars also had a strong resemblance to the plot of The Hidden Fortress, which would be reused for The Phantom Menace.