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Seven Samurai: The Film the Shook World Cinema

Seven Samurai, a movie released on April 24, 1954 with a running time of 207 minutes is a Japanese movie that was shot in Japan with a budget of ¥125 million. This movie directed, edited and co-written by Akira Kurosawa but produced by Sōjirō Motoki is a blockbuster, which raked in ¥268 million at the box office in its first twelve months of release. The movie centers on events that happened in Japanese history during a period called the ‘Sengoku Period’. Till date, it is seen and has lingered as an exceedingly influential movie, evidenced by it been amongst the world most mentioned, rewritten and reproduced movie in the history of cinema across the globe.

Seven Samurai (1954) Credit: Toho Co., Ltd

Seven Samurai (1954) Credit: Toho Co., Ltd

The main story of this historical and adventurous drama is the hiring of seven ronin otherwise known as a masterless samurai by a village comprised mainly of farmers. The farmers have had experiences of thieves stealing their farm harvests; therefore, the need arose to protect themselves against these occurrences especially after a farmer overheard the local thieves’ plans to raid their harvest again. So the farmers after consultation with the village elder called Gisaku, decide to hire hungry samurai. These Samurai would be hired to help protect the farmers against these local thieves who usually came to steal harvested farm crops (rice). The farmers agree they would pay these samurai with food in exchange for protection.

The farmers go out on their search and after some time found an old veteran samurai called Kambei played by Takashi Shimura, who was going through a hard time. He was found and approached by the farmers after they watch him rescue a boy from a thief who taken hostage by a thief. Kambei the old samurai was asked for help by the farmers who explained their ordeal; he reluctantly agreed and thereafter recruited about six other samurai namely Daisuke Kato who played Schichirōji, Ko Kimura who played Katsushirō.

Others are Yoshio Inaba who played Gorobei, Minoru Chiaki a master of wood chop who played Heihachi, Seiji Miyaguchi who played Kyuzō and Toshiro Mifune who played Kikuchiyo. Schichirōji is a friend of Kambei, while Katsushirō helped with the recruiting of the three other samurai. Gorobei is considered to be friendly, Heihachi is considered to be good-willed whereas Kyuzō is a respected and reticent swordsman who was held in high esteem by Katsushirō. Katsushirō has little experience as a samurai but was selected mainly because there was no enough time before the task ahead will commence. Kikuchiyo is an orphan son of a farmer who claims to be a samurai and despite been turned back by the group of samurai still followed them.

The samurai travels to the village for the task ahead but on arrival were treated with total disdain as though they were no humans as deserving of the villagers to have come to protect. As a result of this, the village bell rang by Kikuchiyo, this prompted the villagers to troop out and the other samurai became pleased with Kikuchiyo, this prompted them to accept him as a companion in arms. Gradually, the samurai and the village farmers overcome the huge gap of mistrust that exist between them, as they began to prepare and train themselves together for the battle and task of protection which lies ahead. After a while of been in the village, Katsushirō somehow fell in love with one of the farmer’s daughters called Shino, a character played by Keiko Tsushima. Shino pretends and disguises to been a boy because of the lustful nature of the samurai.


Kikuchiyo brings the six samurai confiscated armors and weapons which the villagers had taken from either injured samurai or those killed by the villagers. This act by Kikuchiyo angers the six samurai but he is quick to defend himself by stating clearly the weapons belong to samurai who were responsible for acts such the raids, battles and forced labor, which has over time left the lives of villagers and farmers devastated. Thereafter, he revealed to the six samurai, that he is an orphaned son of farmers who were killed by the samurai whose weapons he gave them. This explanation changed the angry state of the six samurai to shame, leading them to accept Kikuchiyo as one of their own.

The first battle by the samurai starts after they spot three of the local thieves. In this first operation, two of the bandits are killed while the third is taken hostage. After he reveals their camp to the samurai and villages, he was killed by the villagers against the advice of Kambei. The samurai proceed to the revealed camp of the local thieves, thereafter burning it down. In this operation, one of the villagers called Rikichi, considered to be trouble due to the kidnap of his wife by the thieves, breaks down in tears as he seeing his wife when she ran out of the burning camp of the thieves. The wife runs back into the burning camp on seeing and Heihachi attempts to save her but gets killed at the fortress. This first operation compounds the situation of Rikichi.

Seven Samurai (1954) Credit: Toho Co., Ltd

Seven Samurai (1954) Credit: Toho Co., Ltd

After this encounter, the thieves garnered confidence for an attack but are met with stiff opposition, new defenses made up of moat with fences made of wood. With the help of the battle plan of Kambei, a number of the thieves lose their lives. However, the thieves succeed to enter the village chanting songs as they killed some farmers who had nothing but bamboo spears for protection. Gisaku, the elder of the village who lives outskirt of the village loses his life with his family who had tries to rescue him. Kikuchiyo rescues a baby who was left alone probably because his parents has been killed or escaped for their lives. On seeing the baby, Kikuchiyo breaks into tears mainly because the scenario reminded exactly of his life and experience as a child.

These thieves have a total of three guns, which were more than enough to make the life of the villagers and those of the samurai difficult. This situation prompts Kyuzo to sneak into the camp of thieves to steal one of the guns, Kikuchiyo followed suit and abandoned his duty to steal one of the guns by pretending to drunk. Kikuchiyo returns with the gun at hand and only to end up being chastised by Kambei who felt that he had no reason to abandon his duty post, which caused the death of some farmers after the thieves attached again.

At this point, Gorobei is killed when the head of the thieves attacked the village. The number of farmers and villagers are now reduced, prompting Kambei to predict another attack since the thieves now consider the samurai to be small in number. However, Shinos father gets to find out about the love relationship between Shino and Katsushiro. He beats her up until the intervention of Kambei the head of the samurai and some villagers. They plead that the young couple to be forgiven of their wrong mainly because of their young nature and also because passion tendto run high before battle.

Kambie during the last attack takes the numbers of the thieves who are alive to be thirteen. There is a heavy downpour in the morning, so he advises that the farmers and fellow samurai should allow the remaining thieves to enter the village. In the ensuing battle, the leader of the thieves who was well armed with a gun in hand ventures into the hut where women stayed and ended up shooting Kyuzo. This event leaves Kikuchiyo very enraged thus; he charges leader of the thieves and thereafter killed him before he died from the gun shot of this same leader.

Finally, it all has ended with the villagers and farmers all smiling. They sing and dance while working and planting crops in their farms. Three samurai survive, Kambei, Katsushiro and Schichirōji. They all wore a sad face, Kambei for the loss of the four samurai, Katsushiro for the loss of the samurai and inability to be with his love Shino. Kambei as the leader stands above the freshly dug grave of his four dead colleagues while reflecting on yet another outstanding but sad victory for the samurai, suddenly declares that the victory does not belong to the samurai but the farmers.

The Seven Samurai whose screenwriting took six weeks to about a year to be completed. This movie became a focus of discussion across various quarters even before it was released to the public. Yoshio A choreographer from Teshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu called Sugino led the choreography for this movie. Junzo Sasamori who worked laterally with Shinto as co-choreographer left to teach in Europe at the order of the Ministry of Education.

seven samurai, akira kurosawa, criterion collection, magnificent seven

Seven Samurai (1954) Credit: Toho Co., Ltd

Seven Samurai is believed to be the very first movie to make use of the movie plot element of having heroes gathered as a team with the aim of achieving a specific goal. Seven Samurai has earned a huge reputation for both the directing, producing and acting crews with Kurosawa been nicked named the world’s greatest editor due to his night editing practices during the period when the movie was been shut. Today, Seven Samurai is considered to be the third highest earning moving in Japan in 1954. It has continued to win several awards till date.


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