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DVD Pick: Seven Samurai

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A Buffoon Becomes the Seventh Samurai
Thus, six samurai set out on foot to travel to the village they have agreed to defend, but they are trailed by a crude joker named Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune). Kikuchiyo would like to join the samurai, but they fear he will only be a liability. When the samurai reach the village, they find that all the villagers have hidden and won't come out. While the samurai ponder what to do, they suddenly hear an alarm indicating the approach of the bandits. The villagers come streaming out, and the samurai immediately take charge of them. But the samurai soon discover that the alarm was sounded by the clown Kikuchiyo, and he did it—not because the bandits were coming—but because he knew it would establish the necessary relationship between the villagers and the samurai. Recognizing that Kikuchiyo can make a valuable contribution after all, the samurai permit him into their group, and Kikuchiyo becomes the seventh samurai.

Interaction Between the Samurai and the Villagers
We soon see that Kambei, the leader of the seven samurai, is a master strategist as he develops a plan to defend twenty of the village houses, but he makes an unpopular decision to sacrifice three outlying houses and the mill. As the other experienced samurai train the villagers in military discipline and the use of bamboo spears, the uneasy alliance between the samurai and the villagers becomes gradually more cohesive. Meanwhile, a taboo romantic relationship develops between Katsushiro and Manzo's daughter Shino.

The Truth About Kikuchiyo Emerges
One day Kikuchiyo brings to Kambei and the other five samurai a cache of armor that Manzo has acquired by killing samurai in the past. Kikuchiyo expects that the samurai will be grateful, but instead they are angry, prompting the disappointed Kikuchiyo to give them an impassioned lecture on the relationship between farmers and samurai: "What do you all think of farmers? Saints? Bah! ... They pose as saints but are full of lies! ... Farmers are stingy, foxy, blubbering, mean, stupid, and murderous! ... But then who made them such beasts? You did! You samurai did it! You burn their villages! Destroy their farms! Steal their food! Force them to labor! Take their women! And kill them if they resist!" It is at this point that Kambei realizes that Kikuchiyo is the son of a farmer. But this is precisely the reason that Kikuchiyo is so valuable to the mission: he is the bridge between the samurai and the farmers.

Defense of the Village Against the Bandits
After the film's intermission, the villagers harvest their barley, and final preparations are made for the anticipated bandit attack. Then the samurai decide to use the four horses they have to stage a surprise attack on the bandit's lair. With the villager Rikichi serving as guide, three of the samurai ride to the lair and attack it. Several bandits are killed, but when Rikichi encounters his captured wife emerging from a burning building, events are set in motion that result in the death of one of the samurai.

Soon after the surviving samurai and Rikichi return to the village, the bandits attack it. The bloody battle goes on for three days, and many bandits are killed, but three more samurai die as well. Along the way, the hapless Yohei kills a bandit and young Katsushiro has his first sexual experience and kills his first man. When the long battle is finally over, only three of the seven samurai remain alive, and the romance between Katsushiro and Shino is resolved.

Next Page: An Attempt at Identifying the Core of the Story
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