mifune : mimicked but….accept no substitute

Jesse Marinoff Reyes:

Last week we looked at 24 Akira Kurosawa film posters on the occasion of his 102 nd birthday, with many of the posters featuring his star, Toshiro Mifune. Today, we look at Toshiro Mifune on what would have been his 92nd birthday (with many films directed by Kurosawa). Well, they did 16 films together and they ranged from great, to really great to absolutely transcendent.

Famous for his gruff Ronin roles, Mifune’s range was not limited to Samurai—from a painter in Scandal, to a stressed and extorted executive in High and Low, to a WWII Japanese soldier in Hell in the Pacific, or even a two-bit hoodlum dying of tuberculosis in Drunken Angel or a committed surgeon to the poor in Kurosawa’s magnificent Red Beard, Mifune was a gifted and epic performer. Kurosawa said it himself after watching Mifune for the first time auditioning for another director (a role he did not get), “I am a person rarely impressed by actors… But in the case of Mifune I was completely overwhelmed.” He later said Mifune “could convey in only three feet of film an emotion for which the average Japanese actor would require ten feet.”


Samurai Trilogy II: Duel at Ichijojii Temple (Zoku Miyamoto Musashi: Ichijôji no kettô), 1955

Directed by Hiroshi Inagaki. Here, Mifune appears in another iconic role, that of the legendary historic figure, Miyamoto Musashi, Japan’s greatest swordsman (his meditation on the martial arts and philosophy, The Book of the Five Rings—Go Rin No Sho—is still read today). Mifune played the role four times for director Inagaki, in 1951, Conclusion of Kojiro Sasaki-Duel at Ganryu Island, then in the Samurai Trilogy in succession 1954-56.


The Bad Sleep Well (Warui yatsu hodo yoku nemuru), 1960 (Japan)

Directed by Akira Kurosawa.

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Yojimbo (aka “The Bodyguard”), 1961 (Japan)

Directed by Akira Kurosawa. Sanjuro and Yojimbo were the inspiration for and adapted into Sergio Leone’s “The Man With No Name” Spaghetti Western trilogy starring Clint Eastwood: A Fistful of Dollars (1964); For a Few Dollars More (1965); The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (1966).

Yojimbo was especially mimicked by A Fistful of Dollars.

JMR Design

Sanjuro (Tsubaki Sanjuro), 1962 (Japan)

Directed by Akira Kurosawa. Sanjuro and Yojimbo were the inspiration for and adapted into Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western trilogy starring Clint Eastwood. In particular, Sanjuro influenced For a Few Dollars More (1965).

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