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50 years ago today: Sanshiro Sugata remake released

Sanshiro Sugata 1965
29th of May, 1965 was the release date for the Akira Kurosawa produced remake of Sanshiro Sugata, the film which had been the director’s debut work 22 years earlier. The new version added parts from Kurosawa’s 1945 sequel to reach a running time of two and a half hours. The film was directed by Seiichirō Uchikawa, who had earlier worked as an assistant director for Kurosawa.

The film stars Yūzō Kayama as the titular hero and features Toshirō Mifune as the judo teacher Shōgorō Yano. The two actors had a similar dynamic in Kurosawa’s Red Beard, which was released only two months before Sanshiro Sugata. Sanshiro Sugata was in fact at least partly conceived as a quick way to recoup some of the costs that had gone into the long production of Kurosawa’s humanist epic. It was also the last time that the names of Kurosawa and Mifune shared credits on a film.

Although the remake follows the original(s) quite faithfully, at times even shot by shot, the end result is generally considered a disappointment, lacking the excitement and vigour of Kurosawa’s originals. And although the remake has been made available on home video at least in Russia and France, its general availability these days is quite bad.

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