The Men Who Tread On the Tiger's Tail (aka 虎の尾を踏む男達 aka "Tora no o wo fumu otokotachi?") (Akira Kurosawa, 1945) Set-bound tale of a feudal lord's attempt to make it back to friendly territory after a successful naval campaign against his enemies. But, to get there, Lord Yashitsune Minamoto (Hanshirô Iwai) must travel through land controlled by one of his enemies, Togashi (Susumu Fujita), who is on the lookout for him and will kill him if he is found. To get through, he poses as a porter, accompanied by six samurai, led by Beiko (Denjirô Ôkôchi), acting as monks on a religious pilgrimage to raise funds for a temple to be built in Kyoto.
It's a tale of suspense, with very little action, save for the subterfuges, disguise, flummery, and appeals to Kataoka's patriotism and faith (which are legitimate but used for false purposes), knowing that any slip-ups will mean death by sword by a very large collection of border guards. So, in other words, all of the heroes are lying and using the best instincts of their foe against him. Hardly the high-minded ideals one associates with dedication to country or God. In fact, the only of the group that isn't decidedly two-faced is the comic relief, another porter (played by Kenichi Enomoto), who could be Japan's answer to Jerry Lewis in his early career, whose frequent panic attacks could give it all away at any second. You'd want to strangle Enomoto's porter, if he wasn't so entertaining and a tonic against the heavy earnestness of the rest of the movie.
|In the studio