By Mike Derderian
Stronger and stronger the red Sun glows burning through our tattered clothes. A fierce Samurai thrusts the rusty blade of his sword in his loins; he failed and this was his reward. Alas all what warriors do now is follow the glitter of coins.
The samurai in Terence Young’s 1977 Soleil Rouge aka Red Sun is different from the samurai featured in this week’s prologue. Instead of committing suicide after the assassination of his master (Tetsu Nakamura) and the theft of a golden sword Kuroda Jubie (Toshirô Mifune) decides to go after the responsible gang of bandits.
I was glued to the television set when I last saw this 112-minute Western on television 13 years ago. Red Sun was really entertaining or maybe it felt so because I was just hitting my teens.
Red Sun stars Ursula Andress, Alain Delon, Capucine, Bernabe Barta Barri, Guido Lollobrigida and Charles Bronson as Link Stuart, a ruthless bandit with a soft spot for angry Japanese samurais. Now back to the synopsis of the movie that is set in the 19th century.
Stuart (Bronson) and Gotch Kink (Delon) are the leaders of a gang of merciless bandits, who attack a special train heading to Washington. The gang dynamites the ambassador’s train cart and brutally massacres him and his entourage.
After failing to kill his long time partner, Kink and his gang escape with the samurai sword that was going to be presented as a gift to the president of the United States. This leaves Stuart all alone to face the wrath of the ambassador’s loyal bodyguard Jubie.
The language barrier between the two—Stuart and Jubie—is barely overcome as both men communicate with what resembles a primitive sign language. Farfetched…could be…but it worked and Bronson’s craggy charisma clicked well with Mifune’s.
Both actors became famous for portraying man-against-the-world type of heroes in their countries and internationally. The shockwave resulting from the Bronson-Mifune combo in this film was certainly powerful.
Three years before his reputation as a fearsome vigilante in the 1974 Death Wish was established, Charles Bronson still looked like a man whose actions were louder than words—thanks to a large pistol in most cases. His tougher than nails face would make a person think twice before messing around with him.
In this movie, someone did mess with Bronson’s character and eventually paid for it. Come on it’s a good-guys-win-in-the-end-movie. Together both men decide to track down Kink. They find a lead to his trail through his voluptuous girlfriend Cristina.
The Swiss bombshell was immortalized in another Terence Young film. Does the image of a skimpy bikini clad siren emerging from the sea ring a bell? Andress starred with Sean Connery in the first 1962 James Bond movie Dr. No as Honey Ryder.
In addition to Dr. No, Young directed two more James Bond movies starring Connery, From Russia with Love (1963) and Thunderball (1965).
Mifune’s portrayal of the disgraced samurai was subtly fierce and touching. His passionate dogged persona through the course of the movie starts to mellow as his friendship with Stuart evolves. However, this very same friendship brings forth his tragic demise near the end.
The western camaraderie cliché, of having two totally opposite characters, is what Terence uses to titillate our senses. The camera angles were mostly wide and its movement was slow except for the scenes that included a sword wielding Jubie against a group of miscreants.
Alain Delon, one of France’s brilliant actors and screen legends, was ice cold as the cold-blooded and backstabbing Gotch Kink. Delon’s characterization of Kink, sharp-tongued and witty, would captivate any one with his charm. To survive his company you simply shouldn’t trust him.
The only scene that I still see clearly in my head after all this time involves Ursula Andress, whose character was left behind in the desert to die. With a tight and wet leather rope wrapped around her neck Cristina (Andress) was bound by Apaches and left to die under the sun. How will she die? Exposed to the scorching rays the wet leather rope would shrink and slowly choke her to death.
All of the above blended with Bronson’s reputation as a man-out-for-justice and a key sentence for a plot that spells, revenge is sweet and bitter at the same time, makes Red Sun a highly enjoyable sit-through western movie that has the sharp edge of a good drama.
Must-see-scenes: Ursula Andress in any scene; the Apache assault on the farmhouse where Stuart, Jubie, Cristina and Kink took cover; Mifune’s performance; and the heart-wrenching finale.