Charles Bronson and Toshiro Mifune take on a gang of desperadoes led by Alain Delon. Add the decorative charms of Ursula Andress and Capucine to the mix, stir it all up under the watchful eye of original Bond director Terence Young, and the result is the 1971 samurai western Red Sun. How can you not love such a movie? While you can find a number of films, from The Magnificent Seven on, that took their cue from and remade Japanese stories, the mixing of genres is not so common (I could mention a recent movie that borrows the basic premise but I don’t want to dirty up this piece by referencing it).
The plot goes like this: the Japanese ambassador to the USA is travelling cross country to Washington when the train he’s using is held up by an outlaw gang. The robbery is masterminded by Link (Bronson) and Gauche (Delon), and their objective is a safe full of money. It’s just bad luck that the Asian diplomat happens to have chosen this train and gets himself robbed too. Having already murdered a few innocent people, Gauche shows just how ruthless he really is by knocking off one of the ambassador’s samurai guards, stealing a priceless sword, double-crossing Link, and leaving him for dead. So our two heroes, Mifune and Bronson, must set out in pursuit of the duplicitous Frenchman; one seeking to recover the sword and uphold his honour, and the other just seeking the stolen money that has been stolen from him. For Mifune there is the added complication that he has been given just seven days to accomplish his mission; should he fail to do so he will be forced to take his own life.
Red Sun came along towards the end of Spaghetti/Euro western cycle and it manages to add a new twist to it with the inclusion of the samurai angle. Now if someone were to offer you a meal consisting of a Spanish omelet, sushi and good old bacon & beans all mixed up together you’d probably feel a little queasy at the prospect. However, from a cinematic point of view, it doesn’t turn out so bad – in fact it manages to remain quite appetising. This is not a film that is trying to make any serious points and, as long as you keep that in mind, it provides some marvellous entertainment. Nevertheless it is nice to see the relationship between Bronson and Mifune’s characters blossom as each comes to acquire a respect for the other. Mifune is fine as the taciturn, honour bound warrior and Bronson (on the verge of international action stardom) is very likable as the wisecracking bandit. Alain Delon is a very one-dimensional villain, but the movie isn’t about character studies anyway. Capucine and Ursula Andress were really just along as eye candy, and that was alright by me. So, the film has copious amounts of gun and swordplay, the Cavalry, Mexican bandits, a marauding Comanche raiding party, and a catchy score by Maurice Jarre. It’s hard to imagine what else the producers could have thrown in.
Red Sun comes on DVD in R2 from Cinema Club in a fairly decent print, except it’s not OAR. The film should be shown 1.85:1 but the R2 is full frame. It looks like an open matte transfer, rather than pan & scan, since there is far too much headroom on view. I believe there is a widescreen version available somewhere, but I can’t recall where – Japan maybe? All in all, I found the movie undemanding and fun. Bon Appetit!