If you take even the quickest of glances at Yojimbo (Thurs, 11.00 Film4), you might just say: ‘Hey, that’s a Clint movie.’
Well, you almost got it. Yojimbo, made in 1961 by Japanese master director Akira Kurosawa is the template, the king daddy, for those spaghetti westerns we all love and loathe.
In fact, Clint’s debut, A Fistful of Dollars, was held up for release for 3 years (until 1967) because re-make rights couldn’t at first be secured.
So, Yojimbo is the original for those Clint Made In Spain horse operas: a samurai with no name enters a woebegone little town ravaged by a warfare between two gangs of baddies. He plays one off against the other (yes, just like Clint did a couple of years later`) until justice is achieved and the samurai, played by Toshiro Mifune, quietly leaves town.
Actually, Yojimbo (which is Japanese for bodyguard, by the way, for those of you who aren’t fluent in that language) is in itself a replica of a Dashiell Hammett novel (never filmed) called Red Harvest about an unnamed detective who arrives to sort things out between gangs in the US.
So, let’s have a recap here: Red Harvest is the model for Yojimbo which is the model for Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars which, yes, you guessed, is a model for Last Man Standing starring Bruce Wiliis. Movie nerds among you will also meekly hold up your hand and mention Lucky Number Sle7in to me and, OK, you are right. It too is based on the Red Harvest/Yojimbo template about the strange loner caught between rival gangs.
But why not settle for the daddy of them all? Kurasawa is an artist with the camera; Mifune is a superstar and the battles with sword, pistols and knives are balletic, if not a tad gory.
And if you are a sound nut and like the aurals, you’ll be delighted to know how Kurosawa found the right effect for when a sword cuts through the human body.
Y’see, he had an assistant take a….no, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?