Voyager/1961/110m/WS 2.15/BW

         The magic of Yojimbo  (Bodyguard) can be summed up in one word: character. A wandering samurai, a ronin adrift in a new world of shifting loyalties, a former warrior of unparalleled skill, drifts with the wind into a town in the midst of a power struggle. An upstart rival gang led by a former fellow member and his scheming wife is challenging one gang’s dominance of the small village. The village is a desolate, austere place. It appears few people live there. A silk merchant and a sake brewer are the businessmen, but an inn owner and the neighbor coffin maker dominate the scene. The samurai, who flippantly calls himself Sanjuro Kuwabatake (This roughly translates to thirty year-old field of mulberry trees.), sees an opportunity to play one side against the other as they vie for the services of his magnificent sword as bodyguard. 

A samurai asserts himself. ©Voyager

     On the surface Yojimbo  is nothing more than an engaging entertainment from Kurosawa, a director with a well-defined social conscience. Though the film includes graphic depictions of violence, Kurosawa has great fun with the humor of the situation. Sanjuro is clearly a character with a unique sense of the changing world. His world-weary demeanor and cynical wisdom are often played for laughs. But the theme of the changing world and the need to accept and understand without giving up the values of the past is explored as the subtext of Yojimbo , as often in the themes of all of Kurosawa’s films.
     Toshiro Mifune arms the wandering samurai with arsenal of physical quirks that perfectly capture the moods and karma of the character. Whether rolling his shoulder as he walks or scratching compulsively at the back of his neck, Mifune finds the physical language to define Sanjuro. Kurosawa gives a prominent role to magnetic Tatsuya Nakadai as the devious youngest brother of the gang leaders.  
     Yojimbo  has been remade twice with varying success. Sergio Leone’s Fistful of Dollars made Clint Eastwood a star. On can see many of the qualities of Mifune in Eastwood playing the gunslinger in the Italian remake of Yojimbo . The most recent attempt to capture the spirit of Yojimbo was Last Man Standing, a lamentable attempt by director Walter Hill starring Bruce Willis in the samurai-like role.  No more remakes please. The original is good enough for me!
       While the source material for this transfer of Yojimbo is okay, there are many minor blemishes that detract from the presentation and some significant element damage that is happily of relatively short duration.  Still many of the scenes look fresh. While the contrast ratios are not as strong as the Sanjuro DVD, they are still quite good. The dark mood of the film is maintained with skill. The sound has persistent hiss and the dynamic range is limited. The English subtitles appear below the image in the black letterbox area and can be switched off. I measured the aspect ratio at 2.15:1. It’s listed on the box as 2.35, which is the aspect ratio at which the film was shot.








Check out the  Movie Poster   Archive for short bios and images of Susan Hayward, Kirk Douglas, Katharine Hepburn and many more. This month's featured star is  Humphrey Bogart

 The Feature Archive has articles ranging from Akira Kurosawa to Blonde Bimbos, The Heistmasters and John Ford. 
Click on the image of  for a candid interview with Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont, Redeeming the Writer

National Preservation Film Board
Learn about what this organization is doing to preserve our film heritage. Want to know the guidelines for proper handling of film? This is the place.

Imaging Science Foundation
The Imaging Science Foundation promotes proper standards in home theater viewing. ISF trained technicians offer monitor calibration services to consumers. The difference in a  properly calibrated monitor can be astounding. Click on the image to find an ISF member near you.


Home Theater Reference Reviewing System
projectors.jpg (2611 bytes)

When you read a DVD review it's of utmost importance to know what equipment is being used to evaluate quality. Click on the projectors to find out more.