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Film: Throne of Blood

If you choose the path of bloodshed, then climb to the pinnacle of evil!
If you choose to build a mountain of corpses, build its summit as high as you dare!
If you will make blood flow, let it be a river no, an ocean of blood!
— The Forest Spirit, to Washizu

Kumonosu Jō (Spider Web Castle), distributed with the English title Throne of Blood, is Akira Kurosawa's version of Macbeth. Kurosawa fuses Shakespeare's plot with elements from Noh theater, and sets the story at an unspecified time and place in Sengoku-era Japan. The Macduff subplot is left out, leading to a different, but more thematic end for the Macbeth figure.

Has recently been adapted as a play for the Ashland Shakespeare Festival.


Throne of Blood includes examples of:

  • Bearer of Bad News: Messengers keep running into the various castles to deliver bad news, especially for Washizu towards the end.
  • Completely Different Title: The Japanese title is Spider Web Castle, but it was distributed in English-speaking markets and is still referred to in English by the catchier Throne of Blood.
  • Decapitation Presentation: The soldier who returns with Miki's head wrapped up in a sheet is interrupted before he can reveal the head.
  • Driven to Suicide: Averted, actually. The last scene with Asaji (Lady Macbeth) is the "out, damned spot" scene, and there is no exposition in the play indicating that she has killed herself.
  • Enforced Method Acting: The arrows striking the wall beside Washizu in the final scene were fired by real archers placed just off-camera. Toshiro Mifune's look of terror is not entirely feigned.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Miki's horse is all jumpy as Miki and son prepare to journey to Washizu's castle.
  • Fallen Hero: Washizu.
  • Heir Club for Men: Washizu is perfectly happy to have Miki's son as his heir, until Lady Asaji reveals she is pregnant.
  • Henpecked Husband: Washizu, possibly even more than Macbeth.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Lord Tsuzuki.
  • I've Come Too Far
  • Kabuki Sounds much of the score is like this.
  • Lady Macbeth: Asaji (not surprising, since she's based on the Trope Namer).
  • Lonely at the Top: Being king sure does seem like a bummer.
  • Mobile Shrubbery: Soldiers camouflaging themselves as trees, straight from the source material.
  • Ominous Fog: In spades. Washizu and Miki get lost in such a fog before finding the evil spirit in the woods.
  • Ominous Japanese Chanting: A song by an ominous-sounding chorus bookends the film, telling of how a mighty castle once stood on a now-blasted landscape, before being brought down by the corruption of those who lived in it.
  • Out, Damned Spot!: Isuzu Yamada does a terrific mad scene.
  • Prophecy Twist
  • Rain of Arrows: The first one comes as a surprise while Washizu is haranguing his soldiers. Then a lot more come.
  • Red Right Hand: Even though it was the style of the time, Lady Asaji's shaved off and repainted eyebrows give her such an inhuman look. Also, keen-eyed viewers will notice that she never blinks throughout the entire film (a direction from Kurosawa).
  • Samurai
  • Samurai Ponytail: Mifune sports a longer and fairly neat one near the top of his head, as a sign of his high rank.
  • Sanity Slippage: Washizu starts seeing ghosts, while his wife cracks completely.
  • Spear Carrier: A group of spearmen appear as a Greek Chorus to mark Act Breaks.
  • Stop Trick
  • Title Drop: Of the Japanese title, of course, several times.
  • Tragedy
  • Villain Protagonist
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: Lady Asaji is probably the best example of how this trope can be played villainously. She barely moves during the entire first half of the film, and always takes a polite tone with her husband, yet every word that pours from her mouth is honey laced with venom.
  • You Have Failed Me and You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Washizu kills the assassin he sent to collect Miki's head. This is either to get rid of someone who knows too much, or because the assassin failed to kill Miki's son as well (or both).


Seven SamuraiCreator/Akira KurosawaThe Hidden Fortress
Three Colors TrilogyCreator/The Criterion CollectionTime Bandits
The Three Faces of EveFilms of the 1950sThe Undead
Three ExtremesJapanese FilmsTokyo Gore Police

alternative title(s): Throneof Blood
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