5.0 out of 5 stars Gunslinger and Samurai
I am amazed that I have lived so much of my life without even knowing this flick existed. This is the sort of thing I should have seen years ago, and watched over and over again. Think about it. A Western staring Charles Bronson (The Magnificent Seven) and Mifune Toshiro (Seven Samurai), facing off against Alain Delon (Le Samourai). As a little icing we get Ursula Andress (Dr. No). Bliss.
Getting these four international actors together in the same plot isn’t as strange as you think. Mifune is Kuroda Jubie, a guard for the Ambassador from Japan who is currently en-route to Washington D.C. where he is to deliver a magnificent sword as a present from the Emperor of Japan to the President of the US. Their train is robbed by Bronson, playing outlaw Link Stuart, but he is betrayed mid-robbery by his partner Gauche (Alain Delon) who takes the gold-encrusted sword. Joining together in a wary truce, Mifune and Bronson hunt Delon to recover their lost honor and stolen treasures. Andress is Delon’s woman, but someone who can easily be convinced to switch her loyalties if the price is right.
What is so amazing about this film is that, aside from its impressive international cast, is that is just a really good movie. What could have been played for laughs, as happened in the much later Shanghai Noon, is instead treated entirely straight, and a subtle story of honor and revenge is laid out with patience and perfection. Although technically a “Spaghetti Western”, none of the tropes are brought into play, and everything is handled with respect and intention. Mifune is not Bronson’s wacky sidekick, and Delon is no French buffoon.
As an interesting note, this is the first film I have seen where Mifune speaks English. It was quite a surprise, and he does an able job with his lines, although they are not flawless. His character here is a straight-laced servant to his lord rather than the dangerous rouge from Yojimbo, and the scenes between him and Bronson are fantastic.
This DVD presentation is a little lacking. It is strictly bare-bones, and the video looks to be a PAL transfer. It would be nice to see this gem get a deluxe Region 1 release, but until then I am just happy to have it in any format.