THE MEN WHO TREAD ON THE TIGER'S TAIL

(Japanese Title:Tora no o wo fumu otokotachi)
Also known as They Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail

(1945 - Japan)
With Denjirô Ôkôchi, Susumu Fujita, Kenichi Enomoto, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura,    Akitake Kôno, Yoshio Kosugi, Hanshiro Iwai, Dekao Yoko
Directed by
Akira Kurosawa
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

     Sometimes when you see a movie affects your thoughts.  THE MEN WHO TREAD ON THE TIGER'S TAIL, one of Akira Kurosawa's earliest films, was the final Kurosawa film I needed to see to complete this section.  Therefore, I watched it knowing full well what the director would go on to do.  So in watching this studio-bound adaptation of a classic Japanese play, I could see parts of it that pointed to such later glories as SEVEN SAMURAI (there are the same number of samurai in this film), RASHOMON (the opening shots of the sun shining through the trees) and HIDDEN FORTRESS (the story is told from the point of view of a fool).  It also shows how quickly Akira Kurosawa began to form a small stock company of actors he would use again and again (Takashi Shimura, Susumu Fujita, Masayuki Mori)

    On its own, THE MEN WHO TREAD ON THE TIGER'S TALE is a film Kurosawa shot quickly, hence most of the action plays out on obvious studio sets, a rarity in Kurosawa's work.  The story, based on a tale well known to Japanese at the time,  is about a group of traveling samurai disguised as itinerant priests in order to escape forces that wish to kill them.  The one novelty is the casting of popular Japanese comic Kenichi Enomoto as a porter who travels with them, offers running commentary and mugs like a young Jerry Lewis throughout. There are good performances by the underrated Susumu Fujita (Kurosawa's first "star") and several others, and the film is over in an hour, which is in its favor.  Not a great film but not a bad film either, but it is most interesting for the ways it points to the much better films mentioned above.  1½ - JB

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