Dir. Akira Kurosawa; writ. Shinobu Hashimoto, Ryuzo Kikushima; feat. Toshiró Mifune, Misa Uehara, Minoru Chiaki, Kamatari Fujiwara, Takashi Shimura (NR)
There are these two bickering buddies, see, lower-class types who have to serve their social betters, who get tied up in an adventure with a princess on the lam. In the course of their travels they get some help from a brusque tough guy, a grouch who has little patience for the hassles they cause, but is good to have around when you need to make a daring escape.
Then the motley bunch goes on a mission to blow up the Death Star - oh, wait; thought I was synopsizing Star Wars there for a second. Any similarity between George Lucas' space opera and Akira Kurosawa's 1958 Japanese action film is entirely intentional; Lucas has often acknowledged the debt he owes this film. The echoes are strongest in the characters of Tahei and Matakishi, failed soldiers whose comic relief incompetence and cowardice were lifted for R2D2 and C3PO.
Star Wars aside, Fortress is an enjoyable yarn, far less weighty than many of the master's other famous films but benefiting from the presence of über-swordsman Toshiró Mifune, whose iconic scowl could make the silliest Saturday serial a little edgy. Texas Public Radio film series curator Nathan Cone clearly has a thing for Kurosawa, and his obsession is San Antonio's gain; it's not every town that gets a blast of Tohoscope glory a few times a year.
The Hidden Fortress screens Tuesday, August 5 as part of Texas Public Radio's "Cinema Tuesdays" series. 7:30pm at AMC Huebner Oaks, admission $10 members/$12 non-members, 614-8977 or tpr.org for reservations. The Hidden Fortress is also available on DVD from the Criterion Collection.
Ahí Está El Detalle
Dir. Juan Bustillo Oro; writ. Oro, Humberto Gómez Landero; feat. Cantinflas, Joaquín Pardavé, Sara García, SofÌa Álvarez, Dolores, Camarillo, Manuel Noriega (NR)
In one of his first in a long string of popular films, Mexican comedy legend Mario "Cantinflas" Moreno plays a bum who is mistaken for the heir of an industrialist's wealthy father-in-law. As the father-in-law's will requires that his children be together to receive their inheritance, the businessman is obliged to treat the stranger like a king.
Ahí Está El Detalle screens at the Institúto de México, 600 HemisFair Park, at 4pm on Sunday, August 3. Info: 227-0130. •