Years before Akira Kurosawa changed the face of cinema with such iconic works as Rashomon, Seven Samurai, and Yojimbo, he made his start in the Japanese film industry with four popular and exceptional works, created while World War II was raging. All gripping dramas, those rare early films - Sanshiro Sugata; The Most Beautiful; Sanshiro Sugata, Part Two; and The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail - are collected here. Containing a two-part martial arts saga, a portrait of female volunteers helping the war effort, and a kabuki-derived tale of deception, these captivating films are a glorious introduction to a peerless career.
Sanshiro Sugata (Sugata Sanshiro)
Kurosawa's effortless debut is based on a novel by Tsuneo Tomita about the rivalry between judo and jujitsu. Starring Susumu Fujita as the title character, Sanshiro Sugata is a dazzling martial-arts action tale, but it's also a moving story of moral education and enlightenment that's quintessential Kurosawa.
The Most Beautiful (Ichiban utsukushiku)
This portrait of female volunteer workers at an optics plant during World War II, shot on location at the Nippon Kogaku factory, was created with a patriotic agenda. Yet thanks to the director's ground-breaking semi-documentary approach to the material, The Most Beautiful is a revealing look at Japanese women of the era that anticipates the aesthetics of Japanese cinema's postwar social realism.
Sanshiro Sugata, Part Two (Zoku Sugata Sanshiro)
Kurosawa's first film was such a success that the studio pressured the director into making a sequel. The result is a hugely entertaining adventure, reuniting most of the major players from the original and featuring a two-part narrative in which Sanshiro first fights a pair of Americans and then finds himself the target of a revenge mission undertaken by the brothers of the original film's villain.
The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail (Tora no o wo fumu otokotachi)
The fourth film from Kurosawa is based on a sacred twelfth-century incident in which the lord Yoshitsune, with the help of a group of samurai, crossed enemy territory disguised as a monk. The story was dramatized for centuries in Noh and kabuki theater, and here it becomes one of the director's most riveting early films.
Spoken Languages: Japanese, English subtitles.