Movie Name: Throne of Blood
Genre(s): Martial Arts/Action/Adventure
Release Date(s): January 15, 1957
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
General Washizu (Toshiro Mifune) and General Miki (Minoru Chiaki) return home after defending Lord Tsuzuki (Takamaru Sasaki) kingdom and Spiderweb Castle from the invading forces. When they encounter a spirit in the forest (Chieko Naniwa), they learn that Washizu will be lord of Spiderweb castle and Miki’s son will eventually rule Spiderweb Castle. The prediction creates chaos when Washizu and his wife Asaji (Isuzu Yamada) decide to speed up the prophecy by slaying Lord Tsuzuki and setting off a chain of events that could doom them forever.
Directed by Akira Kurosawa, Throne of Blood (蜘蛛巣城 Kumonosu-jō or Spider Web Castle) is an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Following Kurosawa’s I Live in Fear in 1955, the movie was well received by critics and was adapted in a stage play by Ping Chong. Throne of Blood has been released by Criterion in a remastered edition (Criterion #190).
I love Akira Kurosawa’s vision and I particularly like his samurai films. When you take a samurai film and combine it with one of the greatest plays in the English language, you get an interesting combination. Throne of Blood works because the oddities of the play work with Akira Kurosawa’s culture.
The plot of the movie is pretty close to Macbeth, but Kurosawa does a great job adapting it in a way that makes sense. The feudal Japan culture in the film really is rich for the mysticism that doesn’t seem somewhat out of place in Macbeth. The idea of the evil woman really is played up and it could be argued that Taketoki Washizu’s wife is the corrupting force which ends up causing the prophecy to come true.
Toshiro Mifune is the quintessential Japanese actor from the period. He has a lot of range and can play different characters…it is probably why he was used so often. I also really like the creepy Isuzu Yamada as evil Lady Macbeth role of Lady Asaji Washizu. I like the spirit as well played by Chieko Naniwa, but it feels like rather a stock character in Japanese mythos.
I always enjoyed the imagery in Macbeth. The witches, the trees moving, the night of the murder…it is one of Shakespeare’s most imagery based plays and Akira Kurosawa is one of the best directors to make these images translate not only off the page but into his culture. The visuals are strong, and the ending with arrow assassination is fantastic.
Throne of Blood is a good “gateway” movie for Akira Kurosawa. It is layered but a story that everyone knows and it translate well into another culture. It also provides good visuals, but not Kurosawa’s best visuals so it is easier to focus on the story. Kurosawa followed Throne of Blood with The Lower Depths also released in 1957.
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