To celebrate the upcoming release of my book, Akira Kurosawa: A Viewer’s Guide, due out Dec. 15 from Rowman & Littlefield — preorder here! — I’ll be doing capsule reviews all month covering every single Kurosawa film and posting (very) brief excerpts. These will be short impressions and recommendations, nothing more. For a full, detailed analysis of each, grab the book!
The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail (1945)
Released in 1945, The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail is a slightly comedic retelling of a traditional Kabuki play (which is itself based on a Noh play). It’s also an overlooked little delight. At just an hour long, it’s a short, tight-drama about a group of warriors trying to flee a dangerous situation. It features samurai, yes, but this is no action movie. Rather, it’s a tense drama about a battle of wits and wills.
It also has some good humor, something which caused a little bit of controversy when it was released. In fact, the comedy almost caused the film to be buried by Japanese censors. Without the intervention of the American military, it may have been lost.
From the book:
That Kurosawa managed to make something worthwhile out of this thrown-together production is commendable, though perhaps more commendable was his willingness to force viewers to see traditional stories in new ways.
This is a quick, enjoyable watch that even casual fans are likely to enjoy, so despite it not being among his great works, it’s an easy one to recommend.
You can get the movie in this excellent boxed set.