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A simple story of seven mercenaries hired to protect a village from marauding bandits becomes a unique and mesmerising action-packed epic of sustained tension and stoic humanity in Kurosawa's hands: an enduring classic.
A village in medieval Japan is repeatedly falling prey to a troop of marauding bandits. At last in desperation the villagers turn to an old samurai warrior Kambei (Shimura) to assemble a team of similarly disenfranchised fighters to protect them. This he does, recruiting five other samurai and one untrained renegade (Kurosawa regular Mifune), offering them no more payment than a few bowls of rice per day. The samurai move into the village, where they find their employers initially suspicious, before together they face the bandits as they return for their annual raid.
With elegant compositions, Kurosawa presents a vibrant story with languid sequences punctuated only rarely by scenes of action - most memorably the magnificently orchestrated climactic battle in the rainstorm. John Sturges transported the story to the West, remaking it as The Magnificent Seven, and stuck closely to the original in the narrative structure and in several of the characters.
The ease with which Kurosawa's film made the westward transition is unsurprising, considering the strong influence that the films of Ford had on him throughout his career - the chief source here being My Darling Clementine.
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