Yojimbo


1h 50m 1961
Yojimbo

Brief Synopsis

A samurai-for-hire sets the warring factions of a Japanese town against each other.

Film Details

Genre
Action
Adventure
Historical
Foreign
Release Date
Jan 1961
Premiere Information
Los Angeles showing: Sep 1961
Production Company
Kurosawa Films; Toho Co.
Distribution Company
Seneca International, Ltd.
Country
Japan
Location
Japan

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 50m
Sound
Perspecta Stereo (Western Electric Recording)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

With the fall in the 19th century of Japan's feudal lords, samurai suddenly find that their services are no longer in demand. One of their number, unemployed Sanjuro, arrives in a village. Upon learning that the village is divided into two warring camps (one led by merchant Tazaemon and his henchman Seibei, the other by Tokuemon and his cohort Ushitora), Sanjuro calmly surveys the situation and concludes that neither side is worth defending. He needs money for food and lodging, however, and he considers Seibei's offer of 50 ryo to be his yojimbo (bodyguard). He turns down the offer, though, when he learns that Seibei intends to kill him after a battle they are planning, and instead Sanjuro tries to cause the two factions to destroy each other. The situation becomes more volatile when Unosuke (Ushitora's younger brother) arrives with a pistol, the only gun in town. Pretending to ally himself with Unosuke, Sanjuro secretly kills several of his men while helping a ravaged farmer, Kohei, to escape. Unosuke learns of Sanjuro's betrayal and has him captured and beaten. Gonji, the local innkeeper and sake seller, helps Sanjuro escape to a hut on the outskirts of town. Learning that Gonji has been captured, Sanjuro returns to town and finds the two factions burning homes and killing each other. In a duel with the armed Unosuke, Sanjuro prevails, and goes on to kill the rest of his enemies. After contemplating the piles of corpses strewn about, Sanjuro bids goodby to Gonji and the coffin maker and leaves town.

Film Details

Genre
Action
Adventure
Historical
Foreign
Release Date
Jan 1961
Premiere Information
Los Angeles showing: Sep 1961
Production Company
Kurosawa Films; Toho Co.
Distribution Company
Seneca International, Ltd.
Country
Japan
Location
Japan

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 50m
Sound
Perspecta Stereo (Western Electric Recording)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Costume Design

1961

Articles

Yojimbo


Rashomon (1950) and Ikiru (1952) may be cinematic poetry, but Akira Kurosawa's most financially successful film was Yojimbo (1961), an unexpectedly witty samurai yarn that owes a great deal to classic Hollywood Westerns. Its dusty streets and man-to-man standoffs echo everything from Shane (1953) to High Noon (1952) while retaining the evocative Old World flavor of Kurosawa's more emotionally sophisticated films. Yojimbo is so steeped in Westerns, it was eventually recycled by Italy's Sergio Leone as A Fistful of Dollars (1964), proving yet again that genre pictures, with a little bit of cultural retooling, translate smoothly into all languages.

Kurosawa regular Toshiro Mifune (he starred in 16 of the director's films before they had an unfortunate falling out) plays Sanjuro Kuwabatake, a traveling samurai who happens upon a town that's in the midst of a mini civil war. The town's factions are lead by Fujiwara, a silk merchant, and Shimura, a sake merchant, both of whom are brutal tyrants who will stop at nothing to gain complete power. Sanjuro, a warrior who's seen it all, takes advantage of the situation by hiring himself out to Fujiwara as a bodyguard (or "yojimbo.") After studying how the two men operate, Sanjuro accepts work with Shimura, then shrewdly orchestrates a situation that leads to a violent showdown. The townspeople, of course, are saved in the process, just as they would have been had John Wayne galloped in on horseback.

Kurosawa was entirely forthcoming about his influences. "Good Westerns," he once said, "are liked by everyone. Since humans are weak, they want to see good people and great heroes. Westerns have been done over and over again, and in the process a kind of grammar has evolved. I have learned from this grammar of the Western." What he added to the mix was an amused cynicism about the human condition.

Surely, Kurosawa's tradition-based melancholy can be traced to the tragic figure of his older brother, Heigo: "He was artistic, and he loved films. During the end of the silent film period, he was benshi (film narrator-commentator) appearing under the name Teimi Tsuda at the Musaschino Cinema. He specialized in foreign silent films and used to fascinate his listeners with his detailed psychological descriptions. In father's eyes Heigo was always wrong. His way of life was too much for him because father was a former soldier and retained a soldier's outlook. Heigo liked to play around with art and it looked frivolous- that is why father always had it in for him."

"He would take me to yose (traditional Japanese vaudeville) and to kodan (a story-telling entertainment where traditional samurai tales were told) and to the movies. He had a pass since he worked for a theater, and I used to go to the movies for free. We used to talk a lot too...then one day he went into the mountains of Yugashima and killed himself. He had taken me to a movie in the Yamate district and afterwards he said that that was all for today, that I should go home. We parted at Shin Okubu station. He started up the stairs and I had started to walk off, then he stopped and called me back. He looked at me, looked into my eyes, and then we parted. I know now what he must have been feeling. He was a brother whom I loved very much and I have never gotten over this feeling of loss."

One can imagine Heigo being very proud of his younger brother's world-renowned career.

Producer: Ryuzo Kikushima, Akira Kurosawa, Tomoyuki Tanaka
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Screenplay: Ryuzo Kikushima, Akira Kurosawa, Dashiell Hammett (novel)
Cinematography: Kazuo Miyagawa
Film Editing: Akira Kurosawa
Art Direction: Yoshiro Muraki
Music: Masaru Sato
Cast: Toshiro Mifune (Sanjuro Kuwabatake), Tatsuya Nakadai (Unosuke), Yoko Tsukasa (Nui), Isuzu Yamada (Orin), Daisuke Kato (Inokichi), Seizaburo Kawazu (Seibei).
BW-111m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Paul Tatara

Yojimbo

Yojimbo

Rashomon (1950) and Ikiru (1952) may be cinematic poetry, but Akira Kurosawa's most financially successful film was Yojimbo (1961), an unexpectedly witty samurai yarn that owes a great deal to classic Hollywood Westerns. Its dusty streets and man-to-man standoffs echo everything from Shane (1953) to High Noon (1952) while retaining the evocative Old World flavor of Kurosawa's more emotionally sophisticated films. Yojimbo is so steeped in Westerns, it was eventually recycled by Italy's Sergio Leone as A Fistful of Dollars (1964), proving yet again that genre pictures, with a little bit of cultural retooling, translate smoothly into all languages. Kurosawa regular Toshiro Mifune (he starred in 16 of the director's films before they had an unfortunate falling out) plays Sanjuro Kuwabatake, a traveling samurai who happens upon a town that's in the midst of a mini civil war. The town's factions are lead by Fujiwara, a silk merchant, and Shimura, a sake merchant, both of whom are brutal tyrants who will stop at nothing to gain complete power. Sanjuro, a warrior who's seen it all, takes advantage of the situation by hiring himself out to Fujiwara as a bodyguard (or "yojimbo.") After studying how the two men operate, Sanjuro accepts work with Shimura, then shrewdly orchestrates a situation that leads to a violent showdown. The townspeople, of course, are saved in the process, just as they would have been had John Wayne galloped in on horseback. Kurosawa was entirely forthcoming about his influences. "Good Westerns," he once said, "are liked by everyone. Since humans are weak, they want to see good people and great heroes. Westerns have been done over and over again, and in the process a kind of grammar has evolved. I have learned from this grammar of the Western." What he added to the mix was an amused cynicism about the human condition. Surely, Kurosawa's tradition-based melancholy can be traced to the tragic figure of his older brother, Heigo: "He was artistic, and he loved films. During the end of the silent film period, he was benshi (film narrator-commentator) appearing under the name Teimi Tsuda at the Musaschino Cinema. He specialized in foreign silent films and used to fascinate his listeners with his detailed psychological descriptions. In father's eyes Heigo was always wrong. His way of life was too much for him because father was a former soldier and retained a soldier's outlook. Heigo liked to play around with art and it looked frivolous- that is why father always had it in for him." "He would take me to yose (traditional Japanese vaudeville) and to kodan (a story-telling entertainment where traditional samurai tales were told) and to the movies. He had a pass since he worked for a theater, and I used to go to the movies for free. We used to talk a lot too...then one day he went into the mountains of Yugashima and killed himself. He had taken me to a movie in the Yamate district and afterwards he said that that was all for today, that I should go home. We parted at Shin Okubu station. He started up the stairs and I had started to walk off, then he stopped and called me back. He looked at me, looked into my eyes, and then we parted. I know now what he must have been feeling. He was a brother whom I loved very much and I have never gotten over this feeling of loss." One can imagine Heigo being very proud of his younger brother's world-renowned career. Producer: Ryuzo Kikushima, Akira Kurosawa, Tomoyuki Tanaka Director: Akira Kurosawa Screenplay: Ryuzo Kikushima, Akira Kurosawa, Dashiell Hammett (novel) Cinematography: Kazuo Miyagawa Film Editing: Akira Kurosawa Art Direction: Yoshiro Muraki Music: Masaru Sato Cast: Toshiro Mifune (Sanjuro Kuwabatake), Tatsuya Nakadai (Unosuke), Yoko Tsukasa (Nui), Isuzu Yamada (Orin), Daisuke Kato (Inokichi), Seizaburo Kawazu (Seibei). BW-111m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. by Paul Tatara

Yojimbo/Sanjuro - YOJIMBO & SANJURO - Two Akira Kurosawa Masterpieces from The Criterion Collection


Now available from the Criterion Collection are new editions of director Akira Kurosawa's companion films, Yojimbo (1961) and Sanjuro (1962), both starring the incomparable Toshiro Mifune. Both of these films were previously issued by Criterion, but just as they did with Seven Samurai (1954), the boutique DVD line has found better elements and has provided supplemental material that more than justifies a new issue for both films (Yojimbo and Sanjuro are available separately, or they can be purchased as a set that comes in a slipcase box).

Each title boasts audio commentaries by film historian and Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince, as well as individual documentaries from the Toho Masterworks series, Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create. The trailers for the films are worth noting, particularly for Sanjuro; at the beginning and the end of the theatrical trailer we can see for the first time, Kurosawa rehearsing Mifune and his actors on the set. Overall, the trailers are interesting because they often contain alternate takes or behind-the-scenes footage, a common practice for Toho. As for the rest of the DVD features, each film has a densely detailed booklet featuring essays and interviews by other scholars, collaborators and Kurosawa himself. The films themselves are all-new, restored high-definition digital transfers, a remarkable improvement from Criterion's previous releases of the two films.

In Yojimbo, Toshiro Mifune is a scruffy, unkempt ronin named Sanjuro ('30 years old') Kuwabatake ('mulberry fields'), who decides his direction by throwing a stick into the air and allowing it to fall. It points to a town that's in the midst of a small, but vicious civil war, circa nineteenth century Japan. The town's factions are lead by Tazaemon (Kamatari Fujiwara), a silk merchant, and Tokuemon (Takashi Shimura), a sake merchant, brutal tyrants who will stop at nothing to wrest complete power from the other. Sanjuro, as world-weary a warrior as there ever was, takes advantage of this potentially lucrative situation by hiring himself out to both of the rival gang bosses as a bodyguard, or "yojimbo." After studying how the two men operate, Sanjuro cleverly orchestrates a situation that leads to a violent showdown, and a kind of salvation for the townspeople caught up in the war.

For the story of Yojimbo, Kurosawa was supposedly inspired by Red Harvest, a Dashiell Hammett novel in which the Sanjuro character is a detective playing gangs off each other. Indeed, the mercenary character is more akin to a Sam Spade anti-hero than to an unambiguous Western hero. Variety's later review of Sanjuro said that Mifune's signature character is "a well-rounded figure: physically epic, mentally agile, emotionally normal-a kind of cross between Robin Hood and a typical Humphrey Bogart character." And while Sanjuro is not your typical samurai ronin, the town into which he throws a most sizable monkey wrench is not the typical place you'd find squeaky-clean heroes either. When Sanjuro first walks into town, he's greeted by a grotesque and absurd sight: a mangy mutt happily trots down the street with a severed hand in its mouth. French filmmaker Rene Clair said that not even Salvador Dali could have imagined the surreal scene. Kurosawa did though, after mistaking a workman's latex gloves on the ground for real hands. (This macabre sight gag was recently echoed in an episode of ABC's Lost.)

But more than make surrealists happy, the severed hand scene instantly suggests the violence that will take place in Yojimbo. The depiction of violence was unprecedented in Japan, and it would become a spiritual predecessor to films of the post-studio system and the New Hollywood era. The violence stunned Japanese audiences. Ryu Kuze was hired to create the elaborate swordplay choreography for the film. Kuze's son-in-law, Minoruo Nakano said of the audience's reaction to the violence, "Believe it or not, the first reaction was laughter. They hadn't seen this type of bloodshed in jidai-geki movies. Before Yojimbo, the jidai-geki was a kind of child of Kabuki (Theater), with very formalized movements and samurai mannerisms. So the first reaction was surprise. They didn't know how to react."

There certainly was savage violence in previous Japanese jidai-geki and other Kurosawa films. But it was the attention to detail and the visible blood-letting that was most disturbing, right down to the sound effects. Sound mixer Ichiro Minawa experimented with various cuts of beef and pork to create just the right sound of flesh being cut with a samurai sword. (The rejected meats were later used for the crew's lunch.) Finally, Minawa hit upon the right effect; he took a whole raw chicken, inserted bamboo chopsticks into it, then stabbed it with a butcher knife. He would also smack wet towels. The combination of these two sound effects created the aural sense of steel slicing through muscle. (The documentary on the Sanjuro disc features Minawa demonstrating this sound effect.)

Shooting Yojimbo began on January 14, 1961, wrapped on April 16th, and premiered just four days later on April 20, 1961. The extraordinarily fast premiere date was due to Kurosawa's handy habit of editing during production. The film was a hit at the box office, becoming more profitable than Seven Samurai, and the year's third-biggest domestic money earner. In America, Yojimbo was met with mixed critical reaction. The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther, always good for a laugh, dismissed the film with typical nearsightedness. "Beyond any question, a straight transposition of Western film clichés..." Of Mifune, Crowther said, "Always an interesting actor, commanding and apt at imagining strain. He passes well in this picture for a Japanese Gary Cooper or John Wayne." But Time magazine's unnamed reviewer spoke up for the film as "both a wow of a show and a masterpiece of misanthropy. Kurosawa emerges as a bone-cracking satirist who with red-toothed glee chews out his century as no dramatist has done since Bertolt Brecht...All the players play with successive intensity, but Mifune, a magnificent athlete-actor, dominates the scene. Looped in a soggy kimono, crusted with stubble and sweat, gliding like a tiger, scratching like an ape, he presents a ferocious and ironical portrait of a military monk, a Galahad with lice."

As for the American box-office, Yojimbo fared well, becoming a hit on the art-house circuit. A dubious sign of the film's worldwide success was the unauthorized remake, A Fistful of Dollars (1964), directed by Sergio Leone. Leone's film created a firestorm of controversy between the Italian filmmaker and Kurosawa. The Japanese auteur naturally demanded compensation for Leone's use of his story, a demand that was eventually met with an agreement to pay Kurosawa 15 percent of Fistful's worldwide receipts, with a guarantee of around $100,000. In 1996, New Line cinema released a legitimate remake of Yojimbo called Last Man Standing, starring Bruce Willis, and directed by Walter Hill, set in the milieu of 1930s gangsters. (Ironically, in its original review, Variety said Yojimbo was "ideal remake material for a Yank company.")

But more importantly than illegal and acknowledged remakes, Yojimbo inspired Toho to ask Kurosawa for a sequel of sorts. That follow-up became Sanjuro (1962). In this film, a group of formal, naïve samurai is determined to clean up the corruption in their town. But from the very beginning of their crusade, they make a fateful blunder by putting their trust in the wrong people. Fortunately, a scruffy, cynical samurai named Sanjuro Tsubaki (meaning "camellias"), one who does not at all fit their concept of a noble warrior, crosses swords with the corrupt noblemen out to wipe out the young samurai.

Kurosawa was not interested in making just any sequel, so he reworked an earlier script that was based on Hibi Heian ("A Break in the Tranquility"), by Shugoro Yamamoto. There was actually a draft completed before the production of Yojimbo, but according to Kurosawa, the hero was not particularly skilled. So when Kurosawa took on Sanjuro, he and his co-writers added more swordplay and more comic elements, characteristics befitting a story with the Sanjuro character. Several of the same actors appear in Yojimbo and Sanjuro, most notably Tatsuya Nakadei, playing Mifune's main adversary in both. In the latter film, Nakadei and Mifune square off in one of film history's most shocking and unexpected endings. As is written in the screenplay, "The duel between the two men cannot be described in words. After a long, frightening pause, the outcome is decided by a single flash of a sword." The supplementary extras give invaluable background information on how the ending of Sanjuro was achieved.

Sanjuro commenced filming on September 25, 1961, wrapped on December 20th, and opened on New Year's Day, 1962. In Japan, it proved to be even more popular than its older brother, and an equally critical success. Sanjuro was met with some of the best American reviews Kurosawa ever received, with high marks from Variety and The Hollywood Reporter ("a superb picture and should be seen by everyone in Hollywood interested in films..."). And of course, there were the typically obtuse remarks from Bosley Crowther of the New York Times; Crowther thought the subtitles to be inadequate, and that "dubbed English dialogue is what most foreign films should have." Oh, Bosley...

For more information about Yojimbo & Sanjuro, visit The Criterion Collection.

by Scott McGee

Yojimbo/Sanjuro - YOJIMBO & SANJURO - Two Akira Kurosawa Masterpieces from The Criterion Collection

Now available from the Criterion Collection are new editions of director Akira Kurosawa's companion films, Yojimbo (1961) and Sanjuro (1962), both starring the incomparable Toshiro Mifune. Both of these films were previously issued by Criterion, but just as they did with Seven Samurai (1954), the boutique DVD line has found better elements and has provided supplemental material that more than justifies a new issue for both films (Yojimbo and Sanjuro are available separately, or they can be purchased as a set that comes in a slipcase box). Each title boasts audio commentaries by film historian and Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince, as well as individual documentaries from the Toho Masterworks series, Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create. The trailers for the films are worth noting, particularly for Sanjuro; at the beginning and the end of the theatrical trailer we can see for the first time, Kurosawa rehearsing Mifune and his actors on the set. Overall, the trailers are interesting because they often contain alternate takes or behind-the-scenes footage, a common practice for Toho. As for the rest of the DVD features, each film has a densely detailed booklet featuring essays and interviews by other scholars, collaborators and Kurosawa himself. The films themselves are all-new, restored high-definition digital transfers, a remarkable improvement from Criterion's previous releases of the two films. In Yojimbo, Toshiro Mifune is a scruffy, unkempt ronin named Sanjuro ('30 years old') Kuwabatake ('mulberry fields'), who decides his direction by throwing a stick into the air and allowing it to fall. It points to a town that's in the midst of a small, but vicious civil war, circa nineteenth century Japan. The town's factions are lead by Tazaemon (Kamatari Fujiwara), a silk merchant, and Tokuemon (Takashi Shimura), a sake merchant, brutal tyrants who will stop at nothing to wrest complete power from the other. Sanjuro, as world-weary a warrior as there ever was, takes advantage of this potentially lucrative situation by hiring himself out to both of the rival gang bosses as a bodyguard, or "yojimbo." After studying how the two men operate, Sanjuro cleverly orchestrates a situation that leads to a violent showdown, and a kind of salvation for the townspeople caught up in the war. For the story of Yojimbo, Kurosawa was supposedly inspired by Red Harvest, a Dashiell Hammett novel in which the Sanjuro character is a detective playing gangs off each other. Indeed, the mercenary character is more akin to a Sam Spade anti-hero than to an unambiguous Western hero. Variety's later review of Sanjuro said that Mifune's signature character is "a well-rounded figure: physically epic, mentally agile, emotionally normal-a kind of cross between Robin Hood and a typical Humphrey Bogart character." And while Sanjuro is not your typical samurai ronin, the town into which he throws a most sizable monkey wrench is not the typical place you'd find squeaky-clean heroes either. When Sanjuro first walks into town, he's greeted by a grotesque and absurd sight: a mangy mutt happily trots down the street with a severed hand in its mouth. French filmmaker Rene Clair said that not even Salvador Dali could have imagined the surreal scene. Kurosawa did though, after mistaking a workman's latex gloves on the ground for real hands. (This macabre sight gag was recently echoed in an episode of ABC's Lost.) But more than make surrealists happy, the severed hand scene instantly suggests the violence that will take place in Yojimbo. The depiction of violence was unprecedented in Japan, and it would become a spiritual predecessor to films of the post-studio system and the New Hollywood era. The violence stunned Japanese audiences. Ryu Kuze was hired to create the elaborate swordplay choreography for the film. Kuze's son-in-law, Minoruo Nakano said of the audience's reaction to the violence, "Believe it or not, the first reaction was laughter. They hadn't seen this type of bloodshed in jidai-geki movies. Before Yojimbo, the jidai-geki was a kind of child of Kabuki (Theater), with very formalized movements and samurai mannerisms. So the first reaction was surprise. They didn't know how to react." There certainly was savage violence in previous Japanese jidai-geki and other Kurosawa films. But it was the attention to detail and the visible blood-letting that was most disturbing, right down to the sound effects. Sound mixer Ichiro Minawa experimented with various cuts of beef and pork to create just the right sound of flesh being cut with a samurai sword. (The rejected meats were later used for the crew's lunch.) Finally, Minawa hit upon the right effect; he took a whole raw chicken, inserted bamboo chopsticks into it, then stabbed it with a butcher knife. He would also smack wet towels. The combination of these two sound effects created the aural sense of steel slicing through muscle. (The documentary on the Sanjuro disc features Minawa demonstrating this sound effect.) Shooting Yojimbo began on January 14, 1961, wrapped on April 16th, and premiered just four days later on April 20, 1961. The extraordinarily fast premiere date was due to Kurosawa's handy habit of editing during production. The film was a hit at the box office, becoming more profitable than Seven Samurai, and the year's third-biggest domestic money earner. In America, Yojimbo was met with mixed critical reaction. The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther, always good for a laugh, dismissed the film with typical nearsightedness. "Beyond any question, a straight transposition of Western film clichés..." Of Mifune, Crowther said, "Always an interesting actor, commanding and apt at imagining strain. He passes well in this picture for a Japanese Gary Cooper or John Wayne." But Time magazine's unnamed reviewer spoke up for the film as "both a wow of a show and a masterpiece of misanthropy. Kurosawa emerges as a bone-cracking satirist who with red-toothed glee chews out his century as no dramatist has done since Bertolt Brecht...All the players play with successive intensity, but Mifune, a magnificent athlete-actor, dominates the scene. Looped in a soggy kimono, crusted with stubble and sweat, gliding like a tiger, scratching like an ape, he presents a ferocious and ironical portrait of a military monk, a Galahad with lice." As for the American box-office, Yojimbo fared well, becoming a hit on the art-house circuit. A dubious sign of the film's worldwide success was the unauthorized remake, A Fistful of Dollars (1964), directed by Sergio Leone. Leone's film created a firestorm of controversy between the Italian filmmaker and Kurosawa. The Japanese auteur naturally demanded compensation for Leone's use of his story, a demand that was eventually met with an agreement to pay Kurosawa 15 percent of Fistful's worldwide receipts, with a guarantee of around $100,000. In 1996, New Line cinema released a legitimate remake of Yojimbo called Last Man Standing, starring Bruce Willis, and directed by Walter Hill, set in the milieu of 1930s gangsters. (Ironically, in its original review, Variety said Yojimbo was "ideal remake material for a Yank company.") But more importantly than illegal and acknowledged remakes, Yojimbo inspired Toho to ask Kurosawa for a sequel of sorts. That follow-up became Sanjuro (1962). In this film, a group of formal, naïve samurai is determined to clean up the corruption in their town. But from the very beginning of their crusade, they make a fateful blunder by putting their trust in the wrong people. Fortunately, a scruffy, cynical samurai named Sanjuro Tsubaki (meaning "camellias"), one who does not at all fit their concept of a noble warrior, crosses swords with the corrupt noblemen out to wipe out the young samurai. Kurosawa was not interested in making just any sequel, so he reworked an earlier script that was based on Hibi Heian ("A Break in the Tranquility"), by Shugoro Yamamoto. There was actually a draft completed before the production of Yojimbo, but according to Kurosawa, the hero was not particularly skilled. So when Kurosawa took on Sanjuro, he and his co-writers added more swordplay and more comic elements, characteristics befitting a story with the Sanjuro character. Several of the same actors appear in Yojimbo and Sanjuro, most notably Tatsuya Nakadei, playing Mifune's main adversary in both. In the latter film, Nakadei and Mifune square off in one of film history's most shocking and unexpected endings. As is written in the screenplay, "The duel between the two men cannot be described in words. After a long, frightening pause, the outcome is decided by a single flash of a sword." The supplementary extras give invaluable background information on how the ending of Sanjuro was achieved. Sanjuro commenced filming on September 25, 1961, wrapped on December 20th, and opened on New Year's Day, 1962. In Japan, it proved to be even more popular than its older brother, and an equally critical success. Sanjuro was met with some of the best American reviews Kurosawa ever received, with high marks from Variety and The Hollywood Reporter ("a superb picture and should be seen by everyone in Hollywood interested in films..."). And of course, there were the typically obtuse remarks from Bosley Crowther of the New York Times; Crowther thought the subtitles to be inadequate, and that "dubbed English dialogue is what most foreign films should have." Oh, Bosley... For more information about Yojimbo & Sanjuro, visit The Criterion Collection. by Scott McGee

Quotes

You don't mind if I kill all of you?
- Sanjuro
What? Kill me if you can!
- Gambler
It'll hurt.
- Sanjuro
Have two coffins ready.
- Sanjuro
No, make that three.
- Sanjuro

Trivia

Later remade into the western Per un pugno di dollari (1964) or "A Fist Full of Dollars" (1964) with Clint Eastwood.

"Yojimbo" is an uncredited film version of Dashiell Hammett's novel "Red Harvest". "Red Harvest" is about a detective who comes to a small city and sets two sides of a gang war against one another until both are almost completely wiped out.

Tatsuya Nakadai, who plays the flamboyant, pistol-waving Unosuke here, also plays the main villain role in the Yojimbo sequel, _Sanjuro (1962)_ .

"Yojimbo" means "bodyguard" in Japanese.

Notes

Released in Japan in April 1961.

Miscellaneous Notes

Winner of the Best Actor Prize (Mifune) at the 1961 Venice Film Festival.

Released in United States 1961

Released in United States on Video March 1986

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1961

Restored print shown at Venice International Film Festival (Out of Competition - Venice Nights) August 29-September 8, 2007.

Shown at the 1961 Venice Film Festival.

A remake of Akira Kurosawa's "Yojimbo" (Japan/1961).

Director-writer Leone was credited onscreen as Bob Robertson in original European prints of the film.

Released in USA on video.

First of the "Spaghetti Western" collaborations with Leone and Clint Eastwood. Followed by "For A Few Dollars More" and "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly".

Re-released in Paris February 6, 1991.

Tohoscope

Released in United States 1961 (Shown at the 1961 Venice Film Festival.)

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1961

Released in United States on Video March 1986