The Japanese ambassador is traveling through the Wild West by train, when gangsters hold up the train, to rob a gold shipment. They also carry an ancient Japanese sword the ambassador was carrying as a present for the US president. The ambassador's bodyguard (Toshiro Mifune) will go after them, with the aid of one of the gang's leaders betrayed by his pals...Written by
This Franco-Italian "Eastern Western" has intrigued me since I read about it on a magazine, in view of its then-upcoming showing on Italian TV, when I was about 7 years old but it literally seemed to vanish from the face of the earth in the interim! Given that fact and Leonard Maltin's unpromising ** rating, I had suspected that it was going to be a big disappointment when I eventually catch up with it but, happily, it turned out not to be the case. It is actually a very enjoyable large-scale action film which, while perhaps lacking the touch of greatness, deserves to be re-evaluated more positively.
The four international leads Charles Bronson, Toshiro Mifune, Alain Delon, Ursula Andress are top-notch and the supporting cast also includes Capucine, Anthony Dawson and Luc (here billed as Luke) Merenda. The chemistry between betrayed outlaw Bronson and samurai warrior Mifune is especially successful and provides the film with some nice humorous touches (as well as a couple of good lines); their casting is all the more interesting for its pairing one of THE SEVEN SAMURAI (1954) with a member of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960), that film's equally popular Americanization! Delon has a smaller part than I was expecting but he does well as Bronson's double-crossing partner-in-crime who, apart from the pre-requisite European sophistication, has a vicious streak about him. Andress adds the required eye-candy as his sluttish girlfriend and, along with Monica Randall (playing Mifune's inexperienced one night stand at Capucine's rundown brothel), provides the film with some unexpected if very welcome dashes of nudity.
Besides, there's a fine if subdued score from Maurice Jarre; as befits the film's title, too, renowned cinematographer Henri Alekan often bathes the scenery in a warm golden hue and the use of remote locations throughout is inspired. Still, the film could probably do with a few trims here and there, as some scenes tend to go on too long such as the afore-mentioned mid-section revolving around Bronson and Mifune, and the climactic Indian attack. The full-frame presentation is not too bad considering: I can only complain of excessive headroom on occasion and a general washed-out look to the print on the U.K. disc I watched.
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