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Toshiro Mifune is Sanjuro in Yojimbo.


Literally: The Bodyguard  
Year: 1961  
Director: Akira Kurosawa  
  Producer: Tomoyuki Tanaka, Ryuzo Kikushima
  Writer: Akira Kurosawa, Ryuzo Kikushima
  Cast: Toshiro Mifune, Eijiro Tono, Kamatari Fujiwara, Takashi Shiumura
  The Skinny: Highly influential samurai flick from Akira Kurosawa. If it weren't for Yojimbo, Clint Eastwood would never have had a career. That means no Unforgiven, no Dirty Harry, and certainly no Clyde, the orangutan.
Review by Calvin McMillin:

In perhaps his most memorable role, Toshiro Mifune takes up the sword as Sanjuro Kuwabatake, a wandering samurai looking for a little action in Japan's post-feudal era. When he enters a small town occupied by two rival gangs, Sanjuro realizes that he can play both sides against each other and make some money in the process. After some initial success hiring himself out as a bodyguard to both clans, Sanjuro's duplicitous plot is exposed, and the poor ronin gets beaten to a pulp for his trouble. Of course, our hero escapes death, tends to his wounds, and heads back into town to wreak bloody vengeance, but that's a given, right?

As the star of this samurai-gangster western (if such a genre exists), Toshiro Mifune is terrific in his portrayal of the crotchety, toothpick-chewing samurai whose gruff mercenary exterior hides a romantic, honor-bound soul. Sure, Yojimbo's story may seem clichéd now, but that's only because its plotline and bleak worldview have been referenced (or ripped off) in numerous films since its 1961 release (i.e., spaghetti westerns). And perhaps the influential status of Yojimbo is part of what makes it such a difficult film to review. I mean, what more can be said about a recognized cinema classic that hasn't already been said by various film critics worldwide? All I can really say is that with its winning combination of great action, good performances, and swell Masaru Sato soundtrack, Yojimbo is definitely worth a look. And hey, that Akira Kurosawa guy's pretty talented, too. (Calvin McMillin, 2003)

Notes: Yojimbo is actually based on Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest. The Bruce Willis-starred remake Last Man Standing falls somewhere in between.
Yojimbo inspired the Clint Eastwood "Man with No Name" trilogy that began with the Yojimbo remake A Fistful of Dollars, and continued with For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
• Tatsuya Nakadai, who portrays the pistol-packing antagonist in Yojimbo, is also the villain (though a completely different character) in Sanjuro (1962).
• Kuwabatake means "mulberry field." In both films, Sanjuro improvises a surname based on whatever plant life is nearby. For the record, his alias in the sequel is Tsubaki ("camellia").
Awards: 1961 Venice Film Festival
• Volpi Cup for Best Actor (Toshiro Mifune)
Availability: DVD (USA)
Region 1 NTSC
Japanese Language Track
Removable English Subtitles
Original Theatrical Trailer
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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image courtesy of the Criterion Collection Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen