The Men Who Tread On The Tiger’s Tail (Tora no o wo fumu otokotachi) is a Japanese film that was both written and directed by the highly acclaimed Akira Kurosawa. It was released in 1945 and was originally banned from being shown because of how it unflatteringly portrays feudal values. It was not until 1952, when the Treaty of San Francisco was signed that the movie was allowed to be shown. It is based on an old kabuki play, which is a form of highly stylized theater that involves a large amount of both make-up and drama. The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tale was released in black and white.
The Men Who Tread On The Tiger’s Tale tells the story about a prince and his followers who are traveling together. Yoshitsune is that prince. His brother, Yoritomo, seeks Yoshitsune’s death and in order to capture him, orders barriers put up all over japan. Yoshitsune manages to escape with his six friends, including a famous warrior monk named Benkei. The band disguise themselves as monks in order to try to leave the area to search for a better life.
Eventually the band comes upon a barrier where the soldiers have been told to kill any strange monks that come trying to cross through the barrier. It is true, in fact, that three monks had already been killed at that crossing. At this point Yoshitsune has given up his monk disguise and is instead dressed as a porter. The guards look at him very suspiciously until Benkei manages to stop Yoshitsune from being discovered. In order to do this, Benkei takes a rod that he carries around and beats Yoshitsune until he can barely walk, during which he shouts repeatedly, “You always cause us trouble!” Because the guards are sure that no lord would ever let their servant treat them in such a way, they let the group pass through the barrier. It is only a short time later when a group of soldiers catches up with the “monks” and offers them apologies for how the magistrate treated them. They give them plenty of alcohol and everybody gets extremely drunk.
The movie has been both revered and hated for being so short. The running time is only a short 80 minutes, and during which there is not a lot of action that goes on. The movie is, however, extremely funny and is meant to make the viewer laugh continuously.
The true story, however, is not so funny. Legend has it that although Yohitsune is able to pass through the barrier, he is not allowed to remain alive for long. According to the story, two years after Yohitsune passes through the barrier alive he is tracked down. Benkei does his best to save his lord but there is no hope. Yohitsune is forced to commit suicide. The true legend does not have as happy an ending as the movie does.