(There’s spoiler over yonder, pardner) First, why have I never heard of Red Sun until a few weeks ago? A lot of people may have heard of Red Sun before and many may have already seen it. Some people may have even seen it on the big screen. For the rest of us Warner Archive has released a new DVD of this classic western and if it’s not a classic it darn well better be, pardner.
The story itself is quite simple. In 1870, the Japanese emperor sends his ambassador to Washington, D.C. with a gift for the president. Once off the boat from Japan the ambassador and his entourage board a train heading across the west to to the east. Unfortunately, the train is robbed by Link Stuart (Charles Bronson) with Gauche Kink (Alain Delon) and his gang of bandidos.
It was a robbery for gold, but turned into the theft of the emperor’s gift of a Samurai sword by Gauche. A betrayed Link is forced to join forces with the ambassador’s right hand samurai, Kuroda Jubei (Toshiro Mifune). The catch is Link wants Gauche alive so he can find out where the gold is hidden. Jubei wants Gauche dead for bringing dishonor to his master. To further muddy the waters Jubei only has seven days to find Gauche and retrieve the sword. If he fails he must commit ritual seppuku.
Red Sun follows the formula of your typical western. There’s the obligatory blowing up a train car to get the gold. Link and Jubei don’t get along at the beginning of the movie, but by the end of the movie the two become reluctant friends. It can’t be a western without the brothel, a fight with Native Americans, and the eventual showdown between the hero and the villain.
The cast more than makes up for the movie if it stumbles in parts or follows a predictable path. Charles Bronson, who had already co-starred in Once Upon A Time In The West, The Dirty Dozen, and The Great Escape, gets to flex his leading man muscles. Bronson’s Link may not be as mysterious as Clint Eastwood’s man with no name, but he perfectly fits the mold of the spaghetti western hero.
Toshiro Mifune was already an international star when Red Sun was released. Mifune, who already had countless roles as roles as a samurai, once again plays a samurai. This time the samurai is taken out of feudal Japan and transplanted to the 19th Century American west. The treatment of the Comanche is the typical movie treatment of the time, but the movie stays clear of making the stereotypical Asian jokes. Instead, a casual remark or two is made about the language barrier between the two characters. To the more sensitive viewer these remarks may come off as racist. However, these comments are played more for laughs than anything mean.
If we learned anything from westerns it’s that bad guys wear black. From the black hat all the way to the black boots bad guys wear black. Alain Delon, who had ironically enough starred in Le Samourai, dawns the black of the villain as Gauche Kink. It’s obvious from the moment we meet him on the train he’s up to no good. He may have stolen all the gold and attempted to blow up Link, but you have to like his style through out the movie.
Rounding out the small cast is Ursula Andress. Andress was no stranger to the western genre or the action genre before she co-starred in Red Sun. Andress was in Terrance Young’s Dr. No as Honey Ryder, Casino Royale, 4 For Texas, and The Southern Star. Her role in Red Sun is less ambitious than in her previous roles. In Red Sun she plays Crista, Guache’s main squeeze, and causes no small amount of trouble for Link.
The international cast was brought together by director Terrance Young. Young had already made a name for himself directing three James Bond movies and the classic Wait Until Dark. The action and suspense genre were definitely in Young’s wheelhouse. However, some of what he brought to his previous movies were lost in Red Sun.
As much fun as the movie sounds Red Sun can’t decide if it wants to be comedy, a western, or something else entirely. There are humorous scenes between Link and Jubei that quickly turn serious. After the duo has freed Crista from the Comanche Link shoots off the leather strap strangling her because Jubei’s sword might cut her neck. At the end of the movie things once again turn serious as the Comanche surround all four of the main characters inside a broken down house.
As far as westerns go it’s a decent movie. In the world of the spaghetti western it’s top notch. If you haven’t seen Red Sun you are in for a treat. If you know all the actors and have yet to see Red Sun you’re in for real treat.