Much is made of the contribution of George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola in the making of KAGAMUSHA. This is not reflective of the reality of making the film but more on a funding fix and an international distribution deal than any artisitic endevour by either. Although undoubtably they adored the works of Japans greatest director of human complexity and male virility, AKIRA KUROSAWA. Criterion collection upscale everyone’s DVD to Blu Ray.

KAGEMUSHA is not Kurosawa greatest film by a country mile. The story of the a small and insignificant thief, who has the misfortune to look like a warlord and has to impersonate him, might sound like a set up for a comedy of errors. The thief even initially enjoys the life and times of a warlord. He is forced to choose then between death and the continued impersonating as group loyalties shift, tensions rise and then tempers fray.

You could see a plot like this underpin a mob drama. A theory of power plays and falsehood. However what  Kurosawa is narrating here is how men become. The cowardly thief is nothing like, his representing another is stealing but under duress. The noble warlord is even less. His obsession with men as agents of their own misery and destructive tendencies rewards reviews and research, it also reveals how his early, better films deserve examination and maybe more time in your view.


If you were not usually sure of the quality of Criterion, then KAGEMUSHA would make you suspicious. Light leak, colour haze and some blurring makes the film only a touch better than the DVD release. Sad as this seems, it is to be expected. The treatment of that 80s stock will make happy bedfellows with film restoration types.


Explorative, informative, honest and excellent. All would apply to Stephen Prince commentary. No details is missed and no fact unchecked. If not a little fast in transmission. EVERYTHING else is excellent but this is the best thing on an excellent extras package.

Special Features

  • Restored high-definition digital transfer, with DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0 soundtrack on Blu-ray edition
  • Audio commentary by Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince
  • Lucas, Coppola, and Kurosawa, an interview piece from 2005 in which directors George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola discuss Kurosawa and Kagemusha
  • Documentary from 2003 on the making of the film
  • Image: Kurosawa’s Continuity, a piece from 1993 reconstructing Kagemusha through Kurosawa’s paintings and sketches
  • Suntory Whisky commercials made on the set of Kagemusha
  • Gallery of storyboards painted by Kurosawa and images of their realization on-screen
  • Theatrical trailers and teasers
  • Plus: An essay by scholar Peter Grilli (DVD and Blu-ray), and an interview with Kurosawa by renowned critic Tony Rayns (Blu-ray only)
    Cover painting by Akira Kurosawa

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