Sunday, August 22, 2010

Summer Of Samurai: Red Sun

There’s a category of film that I like to refer to as “Wallace Beery Wrestling Pictures”. These films do not belong to any one genre or era, but are simply films whose appeal is so self evident that writing about them is simply beside the point. Event the films themselves are somewhat beside the point. No matter how far they fall from meeting their potential, no matter how truly dreadful they are The Wallace Beery Wrestling Picture will never be able to escape that one bit of perfection inherent in their concept or casting.

Red Sun might be the king of The Wallace Beery Wrestling Pictures. Born of the brief “West meets East” craze that swept the seventies, a movement that resulted in films like the Lo Lieh/Van Cleef pairing The Stranger And The Gunfighter, and Eli Wallach’s Samurai (No Really. Look it up. Sergio Corbucci made it. I know right?) Red Son is a Buddy film starring Charles Bronson and Toshiro Mifune, two of the most charismatic action stars to ever appear in a film., that’s a tantalizing cast before one factors in Ursalla Andress (Nigh incomprehensible) and Alain Delon as the bad guy. It combines The Western and The Samurai film, two disreputable genres that blend surprisingly well together. No its not some beautiful dream.

Mifune plays the body guard of a Japanese diplomat traveling through the American West. The diplomat’s train is robbed by Bronson and crew, only to have Delon double cross Bronsan and leave him for dead. Mifune and Bronsan team up together to take their revenge on Delon and things start to get pretty great.

That the film plays broad almost goes without saying. Bronson was at that point in his career where he’s pretty obviously coasting comfortably. Mifune’s character on the other hand trips over the line of mystic orientalism a time too often, sleeping while he walks, and disappearing and reappearing at will in the frame like he’s Cain from Kung Fu. In all fairness though, the film does seem at least partially aware of this, usually playing it for laughs with Mifune having the upper hand. Like the bit where Mifune continually demonstrates his Judo to an increasingly haggard Bronson. And the chummy and seemingly genuine interplay between Bronson and Mifune, keeps the film from staggering over the line of offensive.

The action scenes are directed with economy and creativity, particularly a shoot out in a whore house that demonstrates such great efficiency that its over almost before it begins. I’m willing to attribute most of this to Terrence Young. The director behind some of the best Connery Bonds, Wait Until Dark, and the bizarre The Klansmen. Oh and also Inchon, but lets not hold that against him. On the whole a more competent director then you expect to find on this type of film.

The film’s not perfect. Its low budget to the point of being minimalistic, and there’s really no damn reason it should last just a hairsbreadth under two hours. Particularly when there’s so much filler so readily evident.

Still its hard to be too hard on Red Sun especially as its one of those movies that is exactly what it appears to be. There’s little in the film but people being impossibly charismatic, but sometimes that’s enough. It’s a solid little B movie that takes its concept and runs with it. I suppose it is possible that there is someone out there with a soul so dead that they are not intriugued by the idea of a Charles Bronson, Toshiro Mifune buddy picture, in which they take on Alan Delon. But it is not I.

(Unsurprisingly some awesome posters were put together for a film with this irrestiple of a concept. Thought I'd share a few I came across. )

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