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Throne of Blood(1957)

Akira Kurosawa matched his epic vision with that of William Shakespeare for this liberal adaptation of Macbeth, the first of his three variations on the Bard’s greatest tragedies. For this tale, a Samurai commander (Toshirô Mifune) in feudal Japan is spurred by his ambitious wife (Isuzu Yamada) to usurp the lord he serves. Kurosawa adapted elements of Noh theatre into the film, and as with Noh, the film is scored to flute and drum. In addition, the evil spirit that predicts Mifune’s future wears masks and the action stresses the common Noh theme of impermanence. Because of its rugged terrain and persistent fog, Kurosawa had the castle exterior built on Mount Fuji. That meant shipping volcanic soil from the mountain so the earth in the courtyard, built at the Toho Studios, would match. The lavish production was Toho’s biggest grosser of the year and a critical success when it reached the U.S. in 1961. To complete his Shakespeare trilogy, Kurosawa created a modern-dress Hamlet in The Bad Sleep Well (1960) and set King Lear in feudal Japan for Ran (1985). Roman Polanski paid homage to the film’s visual style in his own Macbeth (1971), while Brian De Palma quoted Mifune’s death scene at the end of Carrie (1976). (d. Akira Kurosawa, 110m, 35mm)

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