April 26, 1954: Acclaimed Kurosawa film “Seven Samurai” is released
Seven Samurai is a 1954 epic samurai drama from beloved Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. The story tells the story of a 16th-century village whose desperate citizens hire a team of seven rōnin (masterless samurai) to protect them from a band of roving bandits. The three-hour film, which takes place in two parts, is often ranked among critics’ lists of greatest films. It is still seen as highly influential and frequently reworked today.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “The plot of director Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 classic, Seven Samurai, can be summed up in one sentence: Mercenaries are hired to protect a farming village from marauding bandits.” Ask any critic, though, and it is much more than that. Seven Samurai seamlessly combines violence, romance, humor, and delicate human emotion into one action-packed package.
The first part of the film sees bandits planning their raid on a tiny mountain village. A farmer, of course, overhears this exchange– and he and his people come up with the plan to hire samurai. The group they put together is ragtag at best: An old man, a swordsman, a comic, and even a hanger-on (who isn’t actually a samurai at all). In part two, the bandits are spotted and the samurai begin battle. There is plenty of death and destruction, many good people die (including several samurai), and emotions run high. If you’ve never seen it, trust us–you’ll want a box of tissues.
At just over three hours, promoters (rightly) assumed that the film was too long to be released in its entirety in most markets. The full film was only shown to very select audiences in Japan. When screening the film for American markets, 50 full minutes were eliminated. The director’s cut didn’t make it to a wider audience until 2010.
Seven Samurai eventually became Japan’s highest-grossing movie ever. Today, it continues to be a money-making machine. Its influence can be seen in several Hollywood features, including The Magnificent Seven and The Invincible Six. Some even say the Clone Wars episode “Bounty Hunters” pays direct homage to Akira Kurosawa.