A sequel was inevitable, and Kurosawa responded to public demand as only a true artist would, with the equally impressive Sanjuro, quite different from Yojimbo while allowing Mifune to reprise his signature role with a lighter comedic touch. This time, Sanjuro is recruited by a group of young, idealistic samurai to eliminate corruption in their clan, and in the process he completely subverts their overly reverent notions of "proper" samurai behavior. And while both Yojimbo and Sanjuro were milestones in movie violence (featuring the spurting geysers of arterial blood that would become a staple of chambara from this point forward), the calmer, more comically subdued Sanjuro actually boasts a higher body count, and both films rank among the finest examples of Kurosawa's peerless mastery of action.
The Criterion Collection's double-disc set is a must-have for any serious cinephile. Both films (also available separately) are presented with all-new, fully restored high-definition digital transfers, representing (as in the case of Seven Samurai) a significant improvement over Criterion's previous DVD releases. Both films feature full-length commentaries by Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince (with eloquent emphasis on camera movement and composition) in addition to retrospective documentaries culled from the priceless Japanese Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create, featuring illuminating interviews with many of Kurosawa's closest collaborators. Theatrical trailers and behind-the-scenes photo galleries are also included, along with new-and-improved subtitles, insightful booklet essays by critics Michael Sragow and Alexander Sesonske, and rarely seen production notes by Kurosawa and members of his casts & crew. With this two-disc reissue, Criterion's previous releases of Yojimbo and Sanjuro should now be considered officially obsolete. --Jeff Shannon