This 1961 Akira Kurosawa film is one of the great samurai pictures. Its darkly brilliant premise--the cynical mercenary/master swordsman who walks into a town feud and plays both equally evil sides against each other--has been copied endlessly, most notably in the Leone-Eastwood "Fistful of Dollars." But Kurosawa's treatment remains the most savage, focused and hideously funny. With Toshiro Mifune (right, being served by Seizaburo Kawazu) as the mercenary, in one of his best roles, and Tatsuya Nakadai as a kill-crazy rich boy (KCET Saturday at 9 p.m.).
Other four-star films airing this week:
To Have and Have Not / TMC, Tuesday, 6:10 a.m.