The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail
In terms of entertainment value, Akira Kurosawa’s 1945 The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail can’t compete with The Hidden Fortress, but this 59-minute B-movie is an essential study for Kurosawa buffs. Although it was only his third film, and a cheap Toho programmer at that, Kurosawa already displayed a visual elegance and precision, while tentatively exploring several of the tropes and themes that would come to define his career. An unlawfully deposed king and six bodyguards disguised as monks traverse a dense “forest” (actually just sparsely decorated sets, although that suits the film’s Kabuki origins) towards a confrontation at the border. The Men Who Tread is pretty static and talky, but it’s enlivened by an impish comedic performance from Kenichi Enomoto as the porter, and contains an implicit criticism of occupational forces quite topical for 1945 Japan.