When it comes to classic films it's fair to say that the Criterion Collection is the pinnacle of what most DVD collectors would consider to be "essentials". No other publisher has as much variety and quality as they have in their catalog and every time announcements are released it's always a treat to see what's up their sleeve. While many directors and series stand out in their lineup, it's safe to consider famed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa to be a favorite.
During his career, Kurosawa created 30 films. Some of these were more obscure than others, but there were a few that stood out and really withstood the test of time. With the shift in format towards high definition, Criterion has made the move to Blu-ray and has taken Kurosawa with it with the release of Kagemusha. That Kurosawa classic will be joined later this month by Yojimbo and Sanjuro will both offered by Criterion in 1080p. The titles will be available as a set and individually.
Sanjuro was the, direct sequel to Yojimbo and came out just a year later in 1962. Toshiro Mifune reprised his role as Sanjuro, a wandering samurai who finds himself in situations in which people would otherwise be lost without his help. This time around things were somewhat different, however, both in terms of tone of the film and what we see from the character. It's by no means a continuation of the original tale about a doomed town, but rather a story about a clan with corrupt leaders and honest men who want to do something about it.
When the film starts Sanjuro is hanging out in a temple eavesdropping on a conversation nine men are having about their situation. As they talk Sanjuro's interest is peaked and he comes to a conclusion about what's going on in the clan. It seems as though these guys need his help, and that's especially the case when they are soon surrounded by one of the corrupt leader's battalion of men (lead by a character played by Tatsuya Nakadai). Some exciting fighting takes place and eventually he gets drawn into their plight further, to the point he feels he can't leave with unresolved business.
Back in the home region of the clan, the men continue to reveal what's been going on. It would seem that one of their uncles is actually the just and righteous leader of the clan. He has been kidnapped by the opposing force along with his wife and daughter. Soon the men, along with Sanjuro of course, plan a rescue the man's wife and daughter. They don't quite know where the uncle is, but having part of the family is a start and they eventually make their base in the residence next door. From this point the film basically follows Sanjuro as he goes behind enemy lines undercover and does everything in his power to do what's right. That's a fine blurry line, however, and we really get to see his disdain for death in this picture.