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Kumonosu J (Throne of Blood) (Macbeth) (1957)



Average Rating: 8.8/10
Reviews Counted: 42
Fresh: 41 | Rotten: 1

A career high point for Akira Kurosawa -- and one of the best film adaptations of a Shakespeare play.


Average Rating: 7.1/10
Critic Reviews: 6
Fresh: 6 | Rotten: 0

A career high point for Akira Kurosawa -- and one of the best film adaptations of a Shakespeare play.



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Average Rating: 4.3/5
User Ratings: 19,327

My Rating

Movie Info

Macbeth is reimagined as a samurai in feudal Japan in director Akira Kurosawa's classic adaptation of the Shakespearean tragedy. Familiar with Orson Welles's more faithful adaptation, Kurosawa chose to place a more personal stamp on his version by translating the events and characters to historical Japan. The equivalent of the tragic Scottish lord is Taketoki Washizu (Toshiro Mifune), a valiant warrior whose life is transformed by an encounter with a ghostly female spirit. The spirit offers

May 27, 2003

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July 21, 2008:
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All Critics (43) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (41) | Rotten (1) | DVD (15)

No doubt about it now: Japan's Akira Kurosawa must be numbered with Sergei Eisenstein and D. W. Griffith among the supreme creators of cinema.

March 4, 2013 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

No stage production could match Kurosawa's Birnam Wood, and, in his final framing of the hero -- a human hedgehog, stuck with arrows -- he conjures a tragedy not laden with grandeur but pierced, like a dream, by the absurd.

March 4, 2013 Full Review Source: New Yorker
New Yorker
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Akira Kurosawa's remarkable 1957 restaging of Macbeth in samurai and expressionist terms is unquestionably one of his finest works -- charged with energy, imagination, and, in keeping with the subject, sheer horror.

July 1, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comment (1)
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's visually ravishing, as you would expect, employing compositional tableaux from the Noh drama, high contrast photography, and extraordinary images of rain, galloping horses, the birds fleeing from the forest.

February 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
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Widely regarded as one of the most successful film adaptations of a Bard play.

June 16, 2003
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic IconTop Critic

We label it amusing because lightly is the only way to take this substantially serio-comic rendering of the story of an ambitious Scot into a form that combines characteristics of the Japanese No theatre and the American Western film.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times | Comments (2)
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

One of the best Shakespearean adaptations ever made, and that director Akira Kurosawa topped himself by helming the brilliant King Lear-inspired Ran 28 years later only cements the fact that he will always be heralded as one of the greats.

April 18, 2014 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

Kurosawa grounds this downward spiral through the presence of Toshiro Mifune, who personalizes the Macbeth role while making it greater than his historical moment.

April 10, 2014 Full Review Source: Film International
Film International

These most powerful of men are just puppets or, more aptly, fools embracing the illusion that they are masters of a world that views them as ... a punchline to the cosmic joke

January 23, 2014 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

Unavoidable consequence of human ambition.

January 13, 2014 Full Review Source: The Dissolve
The Dissolve

Throne Of Blood captures the spirit of Shakespeare's writing, as the driving rain, swirling fog and screeching animals lend metaphorical weight to this tale of murderous human ambition.

March 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

Throne Of Blood defeats categorisation. It remains a landmark of visual strength, permeated by a particularly Japanese sensibility, and is possibly the finest Shakespearean adaptation ever committed to the screen.

March 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Guardian

More an impression of Macbeth than an actual Macbeth>/i>.

June 9, 2010 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

A potent adaptation that captures all the strange atmosphere of Shakespeare's play, and invests it an exhilarating, visceral aesthetic.

July 1, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4

One of Kurosawa's best and arguably the best Shakespeare ever filmed.

May 30, 2008 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

In fact, in the scene where Lady Asaji leaves a room and disappears into the darkness to get sake to make the guards drunk, the ominous rustling of her silk gown is as chilling as Lady Macbeth's lines.

October 6, 2007 | Comment (1)

Toshiro Mifune gives a winning quirky performance.

April 5, 2007 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Transplanted to medieval Japan, Kurosawa's brutal film is one of the best Shakesperean adaptations on screen, with a tour de force performance from Toshiro Mifune; it makes a fascinating double bill with the masterful Ran

January 4, 2007 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

With its all-pervading sense of doom, this is a serious contender for the finest celluloid Shakespeare of them all.

December 30, 2006 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

It is, in our opinion, one of the greatest of reasons to go to the movies.

March 9, 2004
F5 (Wichita, KS)

One of the best Shakespearean film adaptations out there.

February 22, 2004

Genius. No, really: Genius. Obviously.

January 21, 2004
New Times

Audience Reviews for Kumonosu J (Throne of Blood) (Macbeth)

Akira Kuroswa crafts yet again another stunning, bold; epic that is Throne of Blood. Brilliantly acted and directed, the film features an intense atmosphere that elevates the story and is a stunning picture from start to finish. I really enjoy Kurosawa's Samurai films, and he brought something to the genre that made his work truly standout. Seven Samurai was his masterpiece, but Throne of Blood continues the tradition of telling a very good story set during the time of the Samurai. With tense atmosphere to really elevate the plot, Throne of Blood delivers a stunning film experience that captivates you from start to finish. Akira Kurosawa's always managed to tell sweeping stories with his films, and in doing so, he was able to make several highly entertaining and memorable pictures. The tone of the film is dark, and like Seven Samurai before it, unfolds steadily to really grab your attention with strong visuals and breathtaking set pieces. Overall this is a beautiful piece of cinema that wonderfully shot, and Kurosawa's always knew how to craft picture that used breathtaking cinematography to really elevate the film in a way that it needed to be. In the case of this film, the cinematography helps set the tone, atmosphere that is needed to tell such a story, and it makes for a truly engrossing and highly memorable picture that is sure to appeal to genre fans looking for bold, atmospheric and ultimately epic films that tell simple, yet good stories to really grab your attention. Thrones of Blood is yet another finely crafted epic from a director who has mastered the genre, and after this film, I am surprised that Kurosawa has always kept making consistent films. With that being said, he's one of the few filmmakers who has delivered time after time, and he never disappointed. Throne of Blood is a stunning film that is a must see.
June 3, 2014
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

Akira Kurosawa sure leaves no stone unturned when it comes to delivering a product that is an adaptation of a literary work of William Shakespeare. And of course, one wouldn't expect anything less from a prolific director like Kurosawa...he would be the last filmmaker on earth to make the Bard turn in his grave!

"Throne of Blood" is Kurosawa's rendition of "The Tragedy of Macbeth". Those familiar with the story of Macbeth would know how it plays out. Despite the predictability of the story (only because the story is known to many and there have been various adaptations of the play over the years), Kurosawa crafts a powerful and gripping drama, transposing the plot of Macbeth to feudal Japan.

The film tells the story of a Samurai Commander, Washizu (Toshiro Mifune), a valiant warrior working under Lord Tzuzuki. Triggered by an ominous prediction by an 'evil spirit', and further fuelled by the poisoning of his mind by his wife, Lady Asaji, Washizu turns greedy and his lust for power makes him commit regicide. The rest of the film details the bitter aftermath of his actions.

Akira Kurosawa supposedly takes significant liberties with the original plot but the differences are insignificant, as the focus lies on the heinous acts committed by the central character, abetted by his wife, and the eventual catastrophe that lies in store for the both of them. There is a lot of ironical symbolism going on in the film. So while the evil spirit (akin to the three witches in Macbeth) makes prophecies about what the future holds for Washizu, there is that long yet outstanding sequence in which Washizu and Commander Miki are trying to find their way to the castle through the dense fog...they cannot really "see ahead". At one point, they are shown riding into the fog, into the screen and away from the viewer, they soon come back riding to the same point, visible again on the screen, showing how uncertain they are of their direction. The fog then probably represents the inherent inability of a human being to see "what lies ahead"!

There is a constant sense of doom and despair in the latter part of the film, just like in Kurosawa's adaptation of another tragedy of Shakespeare ('King Lear'), the magnificent "Ran". Kurosawa's use of some Japanese chants in the beginning and the end of the film add an eerie touch to the narrative. Especially the beginning which shows the remains of what used to be Cobweb Castle. "Throne of Blood" also has one of the best, masterfully filmed climaxes in the history of Kurosawa, during which you are likely to skip a beat!

The camerawork is astounding as usual...which is not entirely a surprise, for this is, after all, a Kurosawa film! I can't help but mention here that Kurosawa would've excelled in making a horror film as well, and it shows with the manifestation of his vivid imagination of a radiating ghostly being spinning a yarn on a wheel deep in the dark woods....and its reappearance later amidst some excellent sound effects..these scenes are spine-chilling to say the least!

There are some shortcomings though, which albeit minor, must be highlighted. Although the main focus of the film is the character of Washizu, some other very important characters are hardly developed or get almost no screen time! Best examples are the characters of Miki (Minoru Chiaki) and Noriyasu (Takashi Shimura). Takashi Shimura is one of the finest talents from the Kurosawa camp, yet he gets about five minutes of screen time in this! Ditto for Minoru Chiaki (who played the memorable role of Heihachi in "Seven Samurai"), who I think gets about five minutes more than Shimura!

As for Lady Asaji, the scheming wife of Washizu, played by Isuzu Yamada; this character makes quite an impression, but one wonders why Kurosawa had to get such inconsistent and hence, unnatural acting done from her. For example, when she is doing some of her brainwashing acts on Washizu, she appears deadpan, stares at the wall and acts almost ghost-like with hardly any expression and talks without any tone modulation. But then again in other scenes, particularly during a feast and in a later, very important scene she seems to go overboard with animated emotions! She pulls both these extreme acts really well, but then the inconsistency in mannerisms of the character renders the character unnatural! Perhaps she is supposed to be another 'evil spirit' personified and hence such a representation?! Maybe....

But the man who rules the film in the acting department has to be the great Toshiro Mifune, whose fantabulous performance leaves you breathless and gasping for more! His amazing display of a range of emotions and the sheer energy he puts into his performance is applause-worthy.

All said, "Throne of Blood" is a terrific film, and one of Kurosawa's greatest works. But it is very short by Kurosawa standards with a running time of about 105 minutes. The film itself is captivating and reaches its end before you know it. However,...and I rarely say this, the film should've been longer by at least another half hour; to focus more on the aforementioned important characters that drive the story.....or simply for giving Takashi Shimura some more screen time!
April 7, 2013
Aditya Gokhale
Aditya Gokhale

Super Reviewer

From the Criterion Collection Spine Number 190.

Throne of Blood is a masterpiece by one of the world's greatest film makers at the height of his powers.

Only Kurosawa could take the essence of Shakespearian stage drama and incorporate it into the medium of film as a dynamic tour de force. Yet at the same time he remains faithful to elements of Noh (a stagy traditional Japanese play-form in which design and movement are minimalized). A seeming contradiction, dynamism and static-ness yet Kurosawa masters both in the same medium. As usual; acting, writing, cinematography, sound, direction and production are all pitch perfect.

In this second Shakespearian based film by Kurosawa, focus is on the interplay of fate, free will and the fine thread the human psyche uses to weave the two together. On a more simpler level it is a man living and dying by the sword. In short what goes around comes around. What comes around for Toshiro Mifune as he gets his just deserts is a scene with straight as an arrow, perfect direction by Kurosawa leading to quite a pointed culminatin of events (pun intended...see the movie you'll understand).

Bonus features include excellent linear notes as well as the superb commentary of Donald Richie. Few people are more knowledgeable about film and Japanese film then he. The commentary is almost as interesting as the movie itself.

As usual Criterion presents its film in pristine condition. Some may complain that Criterion is too pricey but with them you get the best cinema has to offer. You cannot go wrong. One Kurosawa masterpiece packs more poignancy, punch and philosophy then 10 lesser films thus you get 10 times the movie at 5 times the price, really quite a deal if you look at it that way, 3-8-13
March 11, 2013
Bruce Bruce

Super Reviewer

Throne of Blood is basically William Shakespeare's Macbeth, only set in Feudal Japan. The setting is quite fitting given the subject matter, and in the hands of a master like Akira Kurosawa, you know the results will be great.

And great they are. I'm familair with the source material (I read it way back in high school), but even though I don't have it committed to memory, I know enough to be able to say that, despite taking some liberties with the material, Kurosawa did a great job of getting the general point across. So, while it succeeds as an adaptation, it really works best as just an epic character study about power, control, paranoia, ambition, and guilt.

The costumes, sets, and period details are all top notch and brimming with accuracy. The cinematography is quite gorgeous, and I love the repeated shots of fog. The only thing that really sorte of bugged me (and even then only from time to time was the music. It's period appropriate, but it sometiems comes in very jarringly, and isn't always easy on the ear.

As for the acting, I probably don't need to say much. Mifune is perfect as always, and his work only solidifies the fact that he was and still is the greatest Japanese actor of all time. Isuzu Yamads is great as the Lady Macbeth counterpart, and whoever played the forest spirit is effectively creepy and forboding.

There's a great sense of style and mood here, and the battles are quite thrilling (both the fighting kind and the emotional/mental). The end sequence is quite brilliant, as we see Mifune's Washizu give a daring and intense final stand against an approaching group of soldiers.

All in all, this is excellent stuff. Then again, Kurosawa almost always delivered, so everything I just wrote pretty much goes without saying. Whether you dig Shakespeare or not, give this film a go. It's awesome.
April 6, 2012
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

    1. Taketoki Washizu: I am terribly drunk...
    – Submitted by Francis L (2 years ago)
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Foreign Titles

  • Das Schloss im Spinnwebwald (DE)
  • Throne of Blood (UK)
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