After receiving a prophecy that he will one day rule over Spider's Web Castle, an ambitious general murders the castle's lord and takes power.
Throne of Blood (1957)
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Written by Hideo Oguni, Shinobu Hashimoto,
Ryûzô Kikushima, Akira Kurosawa
Starring Toshirô Mifune, Isuzu Yamada, Akira Kubo,
Takashi Shimura, Minoru Chiaki, Takamaru Sasaki
Based on the stage play Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Throne of Blood was my introduction to the work of highly esteemed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. I guess it doesn't bode well that I wasn't a huge fan of the film. I won't go so far as to say it's a bad film. Far from it. It's one of the most interesting and original adaptations of Macbeth ever put to film. It's visually stunning with an ominous and foreboding score. My problem is with the cheesy, overacted performances that completely take me out of it. Also, (and I tend to only see this in some foreign films), almost every scene goes on for about ten minutes longer than it should. It's hard to explain that, but I'm pretty sure most of you know what I'm talking about and find it as annoying as I do.
The story is roughly the same as Macbeth, though they trim a great deal of the fat. The main character, Washizu, is an ambitious general who fights for a Great Lord who doesn't give him the respect and title he deserves. One day, he and his friend Miki happen upon a sorcerer in the woods who promises that one day Washizu will be the Great Lord. From there, Washizu's scheming wife convinces him to kill the Great Lord and take power, starting the descent into Crazy Town that every Macbeth adaptation ends with. I think that if Kurosawa had cut every scene by at least five minutes, the pacing problem would completely disappear and I would've been able to be absorbed into a story that's actually quite captivating.
Throne of Blood is hardly enough to put me off of the rest of Kurosawa's work. The bar has simply been set at an average notch and there's nowhere to go but up. It has a lot to like about it, but it ends up being just a little ridiculous because of the constant overacting and screaming during scenes that don't need screaming. I doubt I'll watch it again, but it was a film that needed seeing.