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
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
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 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
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.