Here is yet another mid-length review of Criterion’s take on Kurosawa’s Yojimbo and Sanjuro movies by Audiophile Audition. The films get 5/5 stars, and the discussion is similar to what we have been reading before in other reviews.
Looking at the DVD reviews that we have so far read, there seem to be two major issues that the reviewers have picked in terms of the movies themselves (as opposed to the films’ technical specs).
One topic is how much Yojimbo took from John Ford and the genre of westerns in general, as well as how it influenced that genre back not only with Sergio Leone making A Fistful of Dollars, but also in more general terms. What I have found curious is how eager some reviewers (as well as people on various discussion forums) seem to be to point fingers at “who influenced whom”, asking the question who “originally” came up with these ideas and concepts. I personally think that this question is almost meaningless in terms of cinema as an art form, although certainly interesting in terms of the history and development of cinema.
The other issue, I feel, is actually even less meaningful, although something that is more fun to ponder about. This is whether Sanjuro is a sequel or a prequel to Yojimbo, and what the relationship between the two films, and their central characters, actually is meant to be. My personal take is that the two films are related only on the level of cinema, and not on the level of their stories or continuity — Mifune’s characters, while similar, to me represent different individuals, and to me it seems that the universes that they inhabit are also clearly very different.