FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Sergio Leone |||
Sergio Leone

Leone’s career is remarkable in its unrelenting attention to both American culture and the American genre film, exploring the mythic America he created with each successive film examining the established characters in greater depth.

Only his second feature (a remake of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo), Leone's landmark "spaghetti western" caused a revolution and features Clint Eastwood in his breakthrough role as "The Man With No Name". This classic brutal drama of feuding families wasn’t the first spaghetti Western, but it was far and away the most successful up to that time.

Plot is of minimal interest, but character is everything to Leone, who places immense meaning in the slightest flick of an eyelid, extensively using the extreme close-up on the eyes to reveal any feeling, as demonstrated by Clint, who squints his way through this slam-bang sequel to A Fistful of Dollars as a wandering gunslinger that must combine forces with his nemesis to track down a wanted killer.

The final chapter in the groundbreaking trilogy follows Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach as they form an uneasy alliance to find a stash of hidden gold. Leone focuses on his central theme as they find themselves facing greed, treachery, and murder, showing that the desire for wealth and power turns men into ruthless creatures who violate land and family and believe that a man’s death is less important than how he faces it.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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Throne Of Blood

By EdwardHavens

August 9th, 2002

For most readers of this review, they will never get the opportunity to see classic films on the big screen. As great as having the ability to watch practically anything you want at any time you want is, nothing beats going to a real movie theatre to watch a real motion picture with a group of like minded people. I don’t care if you spent $175,000 on a Proceed Home Theatre Pre-Amp/Processor, Mark Levinson 125 Watt Mono Block Amplifier, Runco HDTV Ready Front Projection System with Faroudja Video Processor and a Stewart 110in Film Screen, Wilson Speakers, Transparent cables and power conditioners and an AMX Touch Screen Remote. Short of building your own movie theatre in your basement with authentic movie theatre seats and a 35mm projector with all four properly aligned lenses and aperture plates, you are never going to match that feeling you get when you sit down in that movie house, when the lights begin to dim, the curtain opens (if you’re lucky) and that first image comes across the silver screen.


Do I sound bitter? It’s not my intention. I’m so much a movie geek that I moved to New York City so I would be able to frequent the veritable cornucopia of movie theatres that have regular screenings of older titles and outside the norm features that just won’t show at your local googleplex. Back in my high school days, my friends and I used to go to the Sash Mill Cinema in Santa Cruz at least once a week to catch whatever old film noir or series of short films that would be playing. We all would have the Sash Mill calendar hanging in our rooms somewhere, so we were sure not to miss a single important title. The theatre closed in the early 1990s, while some of us had moved to Los Angeles to seek our fame and fortune. I was angry when I first learned the owners had closed the theatre, but eventually I came to realize I was lucky to have the theatre last as long as it did. Most rep houses closed half a decade before, shortly after the explosion of home video. Thankfully, in New York City, revival screenings not only still happen, but several locations are dedicated to keep the hope alive. One such theatre is the Film Forum, a not-for-profit venue which has dedicated one of its three screens to the exclusive showing of older features. Sometimes these features run solo, such as the recent engagements of The Producers and Metropolis. More often than not, however, films are scheduled into block themes. One such theme is the Kurosawa/Mifune series featuring all twelve features the two made together.

The series began with 1957’s Throne of Blood. Six years after the pair became world famous thanks to the Oscar winning Rashomon, Throne marked the duo’s sixth collaboration in almost a decade. A fond adaptor of the works of Shakespeare, Throne is Kurosawa’s magical transference of Macbeth to medieval Japan, with Mifune in the lead role as Washizu, the trusted general of a warlord, who slowly goes mad after his future is foretold by a spirit in the woods which surround his master’s castle.

Charlton Heston once remarked that Mifune would have conquered the acting world had he been able to act in English. With all due respect to Mr Heston, I would have to both agree and disagree. Mifune was a powerful presence who demanded your attention whenever he was on screen. However, I doubt Mifune would have ever been given the same types of opportunities in Hollywood he received in his homeland. Had Mifune come to the United States after the success of Rashomon or Seven Samurai, he would have wasted away his talents one one stereotypical role after another. His few forays into American filmmaking, long after becoming a legend, showed filmmakers over here had no idea how to use him properly. Mifune was a primal force to be reckoned with, and in films like Throne of Blood, that animal instinct shone brightly.

Kurosawa’s magic as a filmmaker is quite evident in Throne of Blood, where he is able to set a definite tone and atmosphere without luxury of a Hollywood budget. From the opening shot of dense fog obscuring a fallen fortress to the final scroll down a lonely piece of beam where the tale ends, you are under the mystical spell of one of the greatest filmmakers the world has ever known. When Washizu and his friend and comrade Miki come across the spirit in the woods, Kurosawa is able to, with nothing more than a pull in and a pull out, make both the spirit and his shack disappear. And in the final conflict, when Washiza is being fired upon, Kurosawa had real archers just off camera firing real arrows into Mifune. I can only imagine how amazing this film looked to the eyes of movie lovers a half century ago.

There are many films that I will not see until I have the chance to see them first in a movie theatre, and I am thankful to Cowboy Pictures, Janus Films and Film Forum for allowing this film fanatic to enjoy seeing Throne of Blood for the first time this way.

As if it really needs to be said, I give Throne of Blood an A+ for effort and an A+ for execution.

My rating: A+