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  Red Sun Sword Of Vengeance
Year: 1971
Director: Terence Young
Stars: Charles Bronson, Toshirô Mifune, Ursula Andress, Alain Delon, Capucine, Bernabe Barta Barri, Guido Lollobrigida, Anthony Dawson, Gianni Medici, Georges Lycan, Luc Merenda, Tetsu Nakamura
Genre: WesternBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: In the year 1870 Japan has made diplomatic ties with the United States of America, but neither country is as civilised as their leaders would like them to be. Outlaw Link Stuart (Charles Bronson) boards a train headed for Washington, but he doesn't plan to stay for the whole trip, no, what he has in mind is robbery. On one of the carriages he is recognised by a sheriff turned bounty hunter, but just as it looks as if the game is up, another man appears pointing a pistol at the sheriff - he's Link's partner in crime, Gauche (Alain Delon). The sheriff dispatched with, it's time to stop the train, and their gang herd a flock of sheep onto the line. When the soldiers on board get out to see what is happening, they are attacked and the bandits hijack the train. The gold in the safe is easily stolen with the help of dynamite, but there's something else in another carriage that's extremely valuable - something belonging to the Japanese ambassador...

Red Sun was an international co-production between a group of European countries, which shows in the international cast they secured to play in it. A bit of a mishmash as a result, it was scripted by Denne Bart Petitclerc, William Roberts and Laurence Roman from a story by Laird Koenig who take an East meets West set up and turn it into what would come to be known as a buddy movie. When Gauche enters the ambassador's carriage, he notices a ceremonial sword that is being taken to Washington as a gift, and claims it as his own, killing one of the guards in the process. That's not all he claims as his own, as Link is blown up and left for dead while Gauche and the rest of the gang head off with the loot. Now the ambassador's other guard, Kuroda Jubie (Toshiro Mifune) and Link have something in common - they both want to see Gauche again.

At first they are wary of each other, and Link doesn't want to spend any time in Kuroda's company at all, but has to be forced. They set off to follow Gauche on foot, and some character building business is employed. Bronson is at his most laid back here, with a sly smile and some funny lines: when he hears the details of Kuroda's potential ritual suicide if the sword is not returned in a week, he says, intrigued, "Heh, that's something I'd like to see!" Mifune is as you would expect, the stoic samurai with a code of honour that he strictly adheres to, but he gets some amusing moments too, as when a trying-to-escape Link complains about mosquitos, of which Kuroda can only count one, which he slices in half with his blade: "No mosquito!"

As much a road movie as a Western, the film sees its two heroes forming an uneasy alliance. Presently they find a small farmhouse where an offshoot of Gauche's gang are terrorising the inhabitants; the villains are swiftly killed by Link and Kuroda, and two of their horses are taken as prizes to make their journey easier. Next stop, after another, brief falling out, is a brothel owned by Pepita (Capucine), where they will find the whore that Gauche loves, Cristina (Ursula Andress). To ensure that she doesn't get away, Link locks the woman in her room and nails up her window shutters, then they wait for Gauche, or his men, to arrive. Unfortunately the man in black doesn't go in person, and another gunfight erupts, leaving one of the bandits still alive to tell Gauche of what has occurred.

While the varied cast provides much of the entertainment value - and who wouldn't want to see Bronson and Mifune team up? - the plot meanders after a while, and you grow impatient for the stylish Delon to return to the screen. One thing in the film's favour are the striking locations, ranging from snowy mountains to ghost towns and plains of long grass, and director Terence Young makes the most of them. Soon, Link and Kuroda are riding with the feisty and reluctant Cristina (catchphrase: "You bastard!") towards Gauche's hideout, but there's the added problem of Comanche Indians to add an obstacle on the path to the goodies. This raises the question, why do Indians in westerns ride around in circles, whooping and getting picked off by their enemies' gunfire? Surely there's a less dangerous way of approaching? Anyway, Red Sun could have done with a script that better exploited the differences (and similarities for that matter) between its two stars, but is of sufficient quality to be the very thing for Euro-western fans. Music by Maurice Jarre.

Aka: Soleil Rouge.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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