Group D – Toshiro Mifune

Cressida – Source 1

The Hollywood Reporter article written about the 2015 unveiling of the first Tokyo Comic Convention shows how much of an influence Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune were, both worldwide and particularly in Japan, as they are the subject of discussion at such a large event. The article focuses on the fact that Mifune turned down the roles of Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader in Star Wars, a film partly based on Kurosawa’s film The Hidden Fortress (1958). According to Mifune’s daughter, he did not accept these roles as he thought “sci-fi movies still looked quite cheap as the effects were not advanced and he had a lot of samurai pride.” This shows how Mifune was opposed to the idea of Hollywoodizing the art of Samurai sword-fighting, a craft highly regarded in Japanese culture which is shown both powerfully and beautifully in Kurosawa’s films. George Lucas had apparently based the fighting style in Star Wars on the “image of the Samurai” and Mifune didn’t want to “cheapen” this image showing how passionate he was about Japanese cinema, and representing the Samurai appropriately and with respect.


Gordon – Source 3

Source 3 is the official corporate licensed trailer for The Last Samurai, a documentary about the great actor Toshiro Mifune. We see his legacy resonate through this trailer alone as we see some of the best established members of the cinema industry such as Spielberg, heap praise onto him, glorifying him as the perfect embodiment of a samurai. The fact that such people speak of him in such praise helps to not only demonstrate his prestige but also shows his influence over some of the most influential creatives. This is a clear representation of how his status as the last samurai but also the personification of post war Japanese cinema, embodying the strength, ferocity and fun of movies of the time.


Lauren – Source 4

Producing and selling merchandise is an increasingly popular notion that is used to display admiration and support towards a person or collective. On this website (source 4) we can see that there are countless items of clothing and other household objects with Toshiro Mifune’s face on, as well as quotes and famous characters he has played. This suggests that his legacy lives on long after his passing as he continues to be respected along with his involvement in cinema. Mifune and his impressive 170 film appearances has become iconic due to his distinctive image and character, potentially appreciated more in today’s society as the most famous Japanese actor of his time. Mifune’s continued popularity in the 21st century is confirmed by the idea that people are such fans of his work that they wish to wear his face on their chest in public.


Nick – Source 5

This Source shows a Blu Ray collection of three films staring Toshiro Mifune. This Samurai movie Trilogy speaks volumes about Toshiro Mifune and the legacy he has left to the world of cinema. ‘The Criterion Collection Inc’ (the distributing company for the Trilogy) takes pride in immortalising “important classic and contemporary films”. Therefore recognising this film as a crucial piece of art praises Toshiro Mifune’s effect on the long term critical success of the the films, globally, further implementing his star image. The fact that this release is by an American distribution company and is available to buy in multiple countries, for example the UK as depicted on the UK Amazon website, all but confirms Toshiro Mifune’s popularity and lasting impression on audiences around the world. It is also worth noting that the films have been digitally restored and transferred into Blu Rays. Although Blu Ray disks are common place now, to convert such old (and foreign) work into a classy special edition collection proves that people in the industry still have an affection for Toshiro Mifune’s performances. The Source also shows customer reviews where audience members share their appreciation of the film which proves their yearning over this particular edition, further implementing the impact of Toshiro Mifune’s work

One thought on “Group D – Toshiro Mifune

  1. Tutor feedback:

    The analysis picks up on an interesting aspect of the article in considering the idea of ‘Hollywoodization’ (or perhaps ‘Americanization’) of specific kinds of narratives or characters and relating this to Mifune’s star image. What difference do you think it would have made to have Mifune in this role? Could we apply the ‘commutation test’ in this instance to highlight what’s distinct about Mifune’s star image, and, in contrast, that of Alec Guinness, who did eventually take the role of Obi Wan?

    The analysis picks up on the key idea of ‘prestige’ here, which links a body of auteur figures to Mifune to affirm the status and value of his star image and legacy. The piece ends on an interesting point about what Mifune ‘embodies’. What else might the existence of this documentary tell us about the resonance of particular star images beyond their own national borders, and how they are used in different popular cultures? When was it made, and for what platform – what might these additional details tell us as film history researchers?

    This is an interesting interpretation, considering how the merchandise we see here attests to Mifune’s continued popularity. Is the idea of ‘respect’ quite what these materials are showing, though, given that they focus on mass reproduction and the transformation of star image into consumer gimmick / brand? It’s interesting to consider what kind of connection these items really have to Mifune and his actual films – whether Mifune as wandering samurai has become the singular defining image of his persona in the West / what this might occlude about his wider body of work or wider meaning(s) historically, perhaps.

    I liked the attention here to thinking about who is producing this source and why – this is key to beginning to unpack / make sense of any primary source you encounter. This shows some good basic research around the item you selected, considering not just the way stars are ‘distributed’ via subsidiary media, but the way specific kinds of home media speak to questions of prestige and the importance of historical star images in the contemporary moment. The aside about the review comments from audiences is also a really interesting point, linking star images across to ways of evidencing their modes of reception.

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