Thursday, 25 August 2016

Throne of Blood (1957)

There have been several American re-makes of Akira Kurosawa films, but he in turn was not reticent about adapting English-language works.  However, he mostly looked to the stage - and specifically to the works of William Shakespeare - for his source material.  Thus The Bad Sleep Well is inspired by Hamlet and Ran by King Lear.

Likely his most direct adaptation, however, is this film, which can be pretty succinctly summarised as "Japanese MacBeth".  A few other details of the plot are changed; for instance there's one spirit instead of three witches, and the film omits the 'no man born of woman can kill MacBeth' thing, presumably on the eminently sensible basis that 'a forest that moves' is more than enough of a prophetic symbol for his defeat; but basically it's the Scottish play turned into a samurai movie: J!MacBeth receives a prophecy he will become lord of the local castle, and is then goaded by his wife into treachery and betrayal in order to fulfil said prophecy.  He succeeds, but in doing so creates the very enemies who then overthrow him.

The familiarity of the story is more or less why I don't give this film a recommendation.  It's an adequately executed adaptation of MacBeth - albeit one with rather thin characters and a curiously lethargic first 20 minutes - but that's all it is.  It all just feels a bit stale to me.  Even the translation from Scotland to Japan doesn't really do much to shake things up.

I do find myself hankering for a good "SF MacBeth" film, though.  That sounds like it could be a fun time.

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