Sugata Sanshiro (Judo Saga) (Judo Story) - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Sugata Sanshiro (Judo Saga) (Judo Story) Reviews

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½ August 8, 2011
This is one of those films where the audience fore knowledge of culture, history and judo is required to enjoy the film. Still, there is enough info for non-Japanese to enjoy the period film 1880's Japan, and there are some surprising parallels to the much later Stallone Rocky films. One of the biggest strengths of these early Kurosawa films is his remarkable casting. He relies heavily on good actors to carry the limitations (budget/ resources) of a film made during WW2.
June 27, 2011
Good, solid flick. It's Kurosawa's first outing, so it was an education, no doubt, but it's still remarkably lush and entertaining. Oh, and the final fight scene is absolutely gorgeous . . .
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
½ June 25, 2011
In "Sanshiro Sugata," a group of jujitsu instructors get together to teach Yano(Denjiro Okochi) a lesson for having the gall to open a judo school of his own. Things do not go as planned as he takes on all comers with his back to a canal while hardly breaking a sweat. But it is not so easy with Sanshiro Sugata(Susumu Fujita), his star pupil, who keeps getting into fights outside of school. As Yano condemns him for his lack of humanity and contemplates kicking him out, Sanshiro dives into a pond in a fit of pique.

With his first film "Sanshiro Sugata," writer-director Akira Kurosawa already shows a great deal of promise in this compelling morality tale. As he proves, it is easy for somebody to be strong like Sanshiro but that does not mean he will make a great athlete.(Plus, I remember hearing somewhere that judo turns the opponent's strength back against himself.) That's not all as he also has to learn how to be humble and respect others. And I suppose it is also a mark of the times that the one seedy character is also the only one wearing western clothing.
May 23, 2011
Akira Kurosawa is widely known as one of the twentieth century's greatest directors, responsible for masterpieces like Rashoman, Ikiru, and The Seven Samurai. But every director must begin somewhere. John Ford got his start on B-westerns. Steven Spielberg began with Duel, the story of a man being chased down a desolate stretch of highway by a homicidal big-rig trucker. And Kurosawa started with that most Asian of genre films, the martial arts movie.
Sanshiro Sugata (subtitled Judo Saga) tells the story of a young man who seeks to learn jujitsu, but upon seeing his prospective sensei thwarted in an attack on a rival instructor chooses to follow this man and his new art of judo. Don't expect any nefarious plots by criminal syndicates with innocent lives hanging in the balance. Sanshiro Sugata is more like an American boxing film in that it focuses mainly on the hero's personal development and his rise to become a great fighter.
And rather than the flying kicks and fists of fury that characterize modern entries in the genre, this movie uses pure judo and jujitsu, which consists of the combatants struggling shoulder to shoulder seeking to throw the other, with only the occasional block or leg-sweep. The fighting here is simple but authentic, and fairly well staged. In between the fights, we see Sanshiro train, develop a budding romance, and learn that a warrior's spirit is as important as his skill. There is of course a villain, instantly recognizable as such because of his resemblance to Snidely Whiplash, and of course they fight before it's all over.
I must confess that the villain is never given much characterization, nor is his hatred for Sanshiro explained. More interesting is Murai, an aging jujitsu master who faces Sanshiro in the annual police tournament. He is fighting for the honor of his dojo, and to make his daughter proud. Their match, pitting Murai's skill and experience against Sanshiro's strength and agility was the movie's high point for me.
The film's low budget does show at times, mainly in the set pieces and the low quality of the night shooting. More seriously, the significance of some scenes isn't clear, and others felt like they should have been developed further, such as when the daughter of a fallen rival seeks vengeance on the hero. However, this may be due to the fact that wartime authorities cut a great deal of footage, most of which was never recovered.
Sanshiro Sugata is a long way from the kind of movies Kurosawa would be making just a few short years later, but it's not bad for a debut film, and there are signs of the greatness he would later achieve.
April 19, 2011
A very interesting and highly entertaining film with well-developed colorful characters. A little exaggerating for most parts but that added much flavor to the storyline. Loved it
April 17, 2011
Uma pena que o primeiro filme do mestre tenha sido triturado pela censura da Ă (C)poca.
½ March 10, 2011
Although there is a certain cliche and lack of depth in the plot (typical-i-am destined-to-fight kind of plot), many things are already outstanding in this 1st piece of work by the legendary Kurosawa. The camera angles, the style and the small moments, like the shy behaviour in those scenes prelude to romance, are some of the things ppl will rmb about this film.
½ February 14, 2011
Kursosawa really wears the Western influences on his sleeves in this, his debut feature. It's a shame that it exists only in a mangled form - the stuff described by the intertitles sounds fascinating. What survives works though, and there are a few really great stylistic moments that hint at what is to come from Kurosawa down the track. Honestly, it's basically like any other sports movie, I guess, except it's got a bit of moral enlightenment chucked in for good measure. It's not a great film, and it is derivative, but it's worth a look.
½ January 27, 2011
"Laugh at us. We are young and foolish"

Akira Kurosawa's directorial debut centers on judo master Shogoro Yano's zealous protégé, Sanshiro Sugata, who shuns jujitsu after being lured by the spiritual aspect of judo.

Sanshiro Sugata is an impressive directorial debut if nothing else. Here Kurosawa takes a real simple (and now cliche'd) story and manages to find interesting ways of telling the tale. Many elements that would later become Kurosawa signatures are on display; such as using Meteorology to convey setting and the tone of the scene. In fact, one really gets the impression that Kurosawa was highly confident in this debut. There are some images in this picture that rank up there with Kurosawa's best; the muddy pond scene and the finale with the villain are the most noteworthy, but there are more.

However, though already very well developed as a filmmaker, he seemed a bit overzealous. He sometimes tries too hard to capture the imagination of his audience, the camera strays a tad too often and other times it lingers, resulting in a picture with excellent craftsmanship but poor pacing.

Luckily, the pacing is really the only downside to the film. The set decoration and costume designs are fabulous, the acting strong, likewise with cinematography, resulting in a 1940's picture thats undeniably pleasant to look at.

So yes, Legendary Kurosawa's directorial debut has it's flaws, but it's an entertaining work, and a proud and boisterous exclamation of the arrival of a cinema auteur.
January 18, 2011
Wow, even his first film is a masterpiece. After watching this, it's no wonder Kurosawa became a master of film, and my favorite director of all time. Though the fights aren't really all that stylistic or intense by todays standards, they still remain visually awesome, especially the opening scene between Yano and the jujitsu warriors where only natural light is used and literally everyone's figure is hidden by shadows. Is it Kurosawa's greatest? Not even close, but as I mentioned before, it is still a masterpiece.
½ January 12, 2011
Good fight scenes and interesting actors. Lesser Kurosawa to be sure, but I liked it a lot more than I did the first time I saw it years ago. I wonder if the disclaimer saying that 17 minutes of footage had been cut out by the Japanese government was not on the version I saw before, because the choppiness of the narrative seemed much more acceptable to me this time, with that disclaimer.
January 8, 2011
With 17 minutes of original footage missing, Kurosawa's debut film is somewhat weak on flow and coherence. But what remains is still a visually strong film, beautifully composed and edited.
½ December 18, 2010
It's easy to see why Kurosawa went on to be known as "The Master" by watching his first entry. This is an extremely captivating film that feels way ahead of it's time.

A shame that the original version is unavailable.
½ November 11, 2010
Kurosawa's first film, already showcases his trademarks with frame wipes, dslow motion, long dolly shots, but at the same time, for a movie about Judo, it's amazing that the Judo scenes are the least inspired, as the drama was much better directed. It's not his finest, but interesting to see where he started, The 91 minute version restored contains a few extra scenes, like the murder plot, Sanshiro with his master, which were cut in 1944, without Kurosawa's consent. Either way, doesn't change the movie too much.... But my favorite part? The geta left on the street shown in montage. Incidental, but essential, and amazingly done.
September 16, 2010
its a real treat to finally have these avalible for viewing from eclipse. even here in his first film kurosawa showcases the traits that would go onto defining his unique style through out the other 30 or so movies he would do after this, specifically his use of weather, and his remarkable ability to block and stage action for the camera to pull off great compositions.

the only thing that really hurts it is it's disjointed narrative which was caused by censorship.
July 31, 2010
Sugata rolls into town to learn the ways of Japanese fighting. When he sees an old dude beat down a bunch of motherfuckas, he joins that guy's fighting school. The story becomes like a classic gang turf war between two fighting schools in the town. Sugata fights by throwing motherfuckas around the room until their dead, just like my homie JR's special cousin Tyrone, who has retard strength. Finally Sugata has to fight the baddest motherfucka in town over a ho they both wanna fuck.

Throw that cockblocker, Sugata! Throw him hard!
July 15, 2010
Kurosawa's debut film is very conventional, but entertaining none the less.
June 26, 2010
Kurosawa's Debut film, would love to see a non ww2 cut of the film...If Criterion couldn't get it then it must not exist :(
June 22, 2010
Since I count Seven Samurai as a top Western, this must be one of the best boxing movies ever made.
March 23, 2010
The characters aren't as fleshed out as Kurosawa's later films, and this movie doesn't have anything as influential as them. It still has his trademark type of cinematography, though, with shots of the sky and such. The story and movie just aren't that great, and around 20 minutes were lost. Watch some of his famous films, if you have heard of this without for some reason, first if you plan on watching this.
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