A wandering gunfighter plays two rival families against each other in a town torn apart by greed, pride, and revenge.A wandering gunfighter plays two rival families against each other in a town torn apart by greed, pride, and revenge.A wandering gunfighter plays two rival families against each other in a town torn apart by greed, pride, and revenge.
I believe "Red Harvest" did make it to film in the '30's, but I haven't been able to track that down and never saw it.
In 1961, Akira Kurosawa brought a version of the story to the screen in "Yojimbo', with Toshiro Mifune playing the nameless hero. Kurosawa and Mifune add an earthiness to the hero lacking in Hammett's tension filled original: Mifune's samurai is always scratching, eating, cringing or sneering. Perhaps this is to make up for the subtraction of the element of alcoholism that was the chief weakness of Hammett's anti-hero. But it also has the effect of rounding out the character so that he becomes human to us in a way Hammett's anti-hero is not.
In 1965, an Italian director, not yet credited with completed film, Sergio Leone, was hired to do a typical "spaghetti western" of the era. Instead, he remade 'Yojimbo" (without giving credit to the original, by the way) as "A Fistful of Dollars". The failure to credit "Yojimbo" as inspiration raises some ethical questions - but it must be noted that Kurosawa himself made no reference to Hammett in the credits to "Yojimbo"! In any event, "A Fistful.(...)" is a young director's film, full of flaws; but it has an undeniable black-humor and is crisply directed, with some striking visuals that seem to come out of nowhere, given the genre context in which the film is made. The nameless hero is played with a particular coolness by Clint Eastwood, which undercuts the earthiness- the scratching and scruffiness - that remains from the Mifune version - Eastwood's anti-hero rarely eats, and never cringes or sneers. The pivotal torture scene from Yojimbo remains, given a peculiar brutality by the addition of a pan of the expressionless faces of the onlooking outlaws. This scene - predicated on Eastwood's unwillingness to give up the young family he has saved, is finally what makes him a hero. Is it enough? Well. if not, he's certainly one stinky of a masochist, taking a beating like that for nothing. In a world as corrupt as that in which our hero finds himself, it is the smaller sacrifices that determine the ethics of a man. Remaining silent is sometimes the boldest statement to make; it was good enough for Kurosawa and Leone; it's good enough for me.
- Jun 25, 2006