HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
Dead
Death at Broadcasting House
Huracan
Ghost Strata
Call to Spy, A
Tailgate
Other Lamb, The
Every Time I Die
Lynn + Lucy
Topsy-Turvy
Honest Thief
Blood and Money
Rose: A Love Story
Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made
Om Dar-B-Dar
Silencing, The
J.R. 'Bob' Dobbs and the Church of SubGenius
Dick Johnson is Dead
Two/One
Cognition
Legacy of Lies
I Am Woman
Alien Addiction
Dare, The
South Terminal
Little Monsters
Yield to the Night
My Zoe
Young Playthings
End of Summer
Times of Harvey Milk, The
Buddies
Threshold
Perfectly Normal Family, A
Ravage
Honeymoon Phase, The
One Summer
Bird Island
Variety
Devil to Pay, The
   
 
Newest Articles
Herding Cats: Sleepwalkers on Blu-ray
Confessions of a Porn Star: Adult Material on DVD
They're Still Not Sure It is a Baby: Eraserhead on Blu-ray
Werewolves are Real: Dog Soldiers on Digital
Rose: A Love Story - Producers April Kelley and Sara Huxley Interview
Phone Phreak: 976-EVIL on Blu-ray
Living the Nightmare: Dementia on Blu-ray
Becky and The Devil to Pay: Ruckus and Lane Skye Interview
Big Top Bloodbath: Circus of Horrors on Blu-ray
A Knock on the Door at 4 O'clock in the Morning: The Strangers on Blu-ray
Wives of the Skies: Honey Lauren Interview
To Catch a Thief: After the Fox on Blu-ray
Tackling the Football Film: The Arsenal Stadium Mystery on Blu-ray
Film Noir's Golden Couple: This Gun for Hire on Blu-ray
The Doctor Who Connection: Invasion on Blu-ray
Hill's Angles: Benny Hill and Who Done It? on Blu-ray
Big Willie Style: Keep It Up Downstairs on Blu-ray
Walt's Vault: 5 Cult Movies on Disney+
Paradise Lost: Walkabout on Blu-ray
Buster Makes Us Feel Good: Buster Keaton - 3 Films (Volume 3) on Blu-ray
Network On Air: Nights In with ABC 3 - Don't Go Away - I Could Do with a Bit of Cheer Now!
What Use is Grief to a Horse? Equus on Blu-ray
For God's Sake Strap Yourselves Down: Flash Gordon on 4K UHD Collector's Edition
Party Hard: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure on Blu-ray
Network On Air: Nights In with ABC 2 - Your Faces are All Blurred!
   
 
  Red Lion Hair of a hero
Year: 1969
Director: Kihachi Okamoto
Stars: Toshirô Mifune, Shima Iwashita, Etsushi Takahashi, Minori Terada, Nobuko Otawa, Yuko Mochizuki, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Kawai Okada, Shigeru Koyama, Hideyo Amamoto, Tokue Hanazawa, Shin Kishida, Hideo Sunazuka, Bokuzen Hidari, Goro Mutsumi
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Historical, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Around 1860, Japan is in the midst of major social upheaval. After centuries the emperor is reasserting his authority and stripping the Tokugawa shogunate of its power. Into this chaos blunders Gonzo (Toshirô Mifune), a brash but none too bright soldier in the Imperial Restoration Force who is called upon to deliver official news to his home village. Gonzo dons the fiery red mane worn by officers of the Sekiko troop, so he can pose as an officer and swagger around town like a big shot. However, his efforts to tell the villagers about a new tax cut are thrown into disarray. They mistakenly assume Gonzo is here to rid them of the corrupt officials who have swindled them for years and forced wives and daughters into prostitution to pay off their fathers and husbands debts. All the attention goes to Gonzo’s head as he frees the women, including his old girlfriend Tomi (Shima Iwashita), and earns the gratitude of young Sanji (Minori Terada) and his fiancé (Kawai Okada) who tag along as he spreads a new message of freedom among the people.

Some claim this offbeat chanbara film was inspired by French director Henri Verneuil’s lone Hollywood western, Guns for San Sebastian (1968), but the stories aren’t all that similar. Red Lion’s opening narration does not provide enough historical context for non-Japanese viewers to get to grips with the unfolding plot. For the record, in the late 1850s, the arrival of US ships on Japanese shores enabled the emperor to forge relations with the west, something that ran against the wishes of the Tokugawa shogunate. Consequently the emperor, who although revered was hitherto a figurehead without significant power, had the opportunity to seize power from the various clans controlling the country. The people of Japan awoke to find their world had been turned almost literally upside down and a new hope of freedom spread amongst the people in what became known as the Meiji period.

Kihachi Okamoto’s film is an odd beast that starts out as a knockabout farce but ends up surprisingly grim, with a blood-splattered finale that slaughters almost the entire cast. It is a brave stab at something a little different that doesn’t quite come off. While it might sound heretical to say so, in concept the plot is quite similar to Kevin Costner’s much-derided The Postman (1997). In both films a lone, fraudulent hero spreads a white lie creating the illusion of law and order, restoring hope and optimism and giving oppressed peasant folk back their fighting spirit. However, in spite of its comic tone the film’s outlook is pragmatic to the point of fatalism. As surly ronin Hanzo Ichinose (Minori Terada) remarks, the flowers on the imperial crest may change, but the plight of the poor remains the same. The humour is broad but often amusing, yet while the film is lively it is also overlong. Comedy should never outstay its welcome. The narrative rambles and does not get its message across.

Produced by Mifune’s own company, the film provides an atypical role for Japan’s most celebrated actor. Mifune is superbly charismatic, exhibiting his vast range as the strutting, stuttering braggart and buffoon whose intentions may be good, but prove disastrous nonetheless. The beautiful Shima Iwashita - who shared a strong screen collaboration with her director husband Masahiro Shinoda, e.g. Double Suicide (1969) and Under the Cherry Blossoms (1975), and later thrilled audiences as a gun-toting lady gangster in Gokudo Wives (1986) which spawned several sequels - is typically excellent as Gonzo’s not-quite-so-innocent love interest. Yet Red Lion remains a film that is more interesting than likeable, unpersuasive as satire and too gloomy for farce.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 2033 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 

Kihachi Okamoto  (1923 - 2005)

Veteran Japanese director who used his experiences during the Second World War to shape the outlook and tone of numerous anti-war films, such as 1959's Dokuritsugu Gurentai, and 1968's Nikudan (aka The Human Bullet). Okamoto also directed gangster pictures such as The Age of Assassins (1967) and samurai epics like Sword of Doom (1966) and Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo (1970), frequently casting the great Japanese actor Toshirô Mifune. Okamoto slowed his work-rate afterwards, but still continued to direct for TV and cinema until his death.

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star is the best at shouting?
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Brian Blessed
Tiffany Haddish
Steve Carell
Olivia Colman
Captain Caveman
Sylvester Stallone
Gerard Butler
Samuel L. Jackson
Bipasha Basu
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Paul Smith
Darren Jones
Andrew Pragasam
  Lee Fiveash
  Mick Stewart
Enoch Sneed
  Dsfgsdfg Dsgdsgsdg
   

 

Last Updated: