Cheap Cash-In Movies Are Old News
It’s been a long few years since the last time I saw an Akira Kurosawa film, and I had forgotten how much I love them. Today, Sanjûrô reminded me.
Leading man Toshiro Mifune and Kurosawa were a high-quality, prolific team, and definitely one of the better combinations of actor and director in the history of film, not to mention one of my personal favorites. In my book, this coupling is eclipsed only by the Johnny Depp and Tim Burton team, and that’s mostly because I have a twisted sense of style. Great movies like that are few and far between.
It would be too easy to say that they don’t make movies like Sanjûrô anymore, and I’m not convinced that it’s altogether all that accurate, either. In an age when critics love to chastize Hollywood for cashing in on the blockbuster by churning out sequels, we forget that cheap cash-ins are nothing new. Sanjûrô is itself a sort of sequel to an earlier movie, and is, in my humble opinion, superior to Yojimbo, its antecedent.
Deep in the glory days of Hollywood — i.e., the mid-1940s — it was no accident for whole casts to get reunited for the cheap cash-in. After the surprise success of Casablanca, the studio powers that were got Humphrey Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Laurie and Claude Reins back together for an astoundingly poor flick titled Passage to Marseille within a year of Casablanca’s release. Naturally, the only reason Marseille has withstood the test of time rather than fade into obscurity, like so many other B-list-quality films with A-list-quality casts, is that it’s a carbon copy of the Casablanca cast.
The film industry has just about always worshipped at the throne of the almighty dollar — and yen, and rupee — and to say that it was any different back in the glory days is to fall victim to your grandparents’ nostalgia.
I hope nobody disagrees, partly because I really want to enjoy all 152 minutes of The Dark Knight and partly because I know that few of those minutes could compare to a Kurosawa film.