When Wild West outlaws Link (Charles Bronson) and Gauche (Alain Delon) rob a train carrying the Japanese Ambassador, they not only escape with a shipment of gold bullion, they also steal a precious samurai sword intended as a gift for US President Ulysses S. Grant. Or, at least, Gauche does. In the final moments of the heist he double-crosses Link and leaves him for dead beside the railroad tracks.
Shortly afterwards, a revived and reluctant Link is sent on a mission by the Japanese Ambassador to take Kuroda (Toshiro Mifune), his one surviving Samurai bodyguard, and recover the stolen sword. The only person who might be able to lead them to Gauche is Cristina (Ursula Andress), who works in a brothel run by Link’s old flame Pepita (Capucine). But Cristina is less than forthcoming, and before long Link and Kuroda have more than Gauche to worry about – a raiding party of Comanches are also on their tail.
Directed by Dr. No and From Russia with Love helmsman Terence Young, Red Sun is a fantastic combination of revenge Western and Samurai movie with Bronson and Mifune on solid form as the mismatched heroes. It’s good to see Bronson actually have fun in this part, especially considering the rather humourless and stone-faced roles he’s most famous for, and Mifune is as reliable as always, playing what is essentially a dour anachronistic character with humour and sensitivity. Kuroda is by far the most fascinating element in the film, the last descendent of a proud Samurai family who knows the world is changing and that this will be his last act in the service of a master. The price of failure, if he doesn’t recover the sword and return it to the Ambassador within seven days, is to commit ritual suicide.
Alain Delon, as the villain, is smooth and handsome and convincingly dangerous. Ursula Andress, a Terence Young veteran after her star-making turn in Dr. No almost a decade earlier, is passionate and fiery and more than a match for her male co-stars. Sharp-eyed viewers will also recognise Dr. No’s Anthony Dawson as a member of Delon’s gang.
Terence Young’s direction is as assured as one would expect, aided by a fine screenplay and a superb Maurice Jarre soundtrack. Not surprisingly, Young orchestrates the action sequences particularly well and although it has a running time of slightly over two hours the film never drags.
Studio Canal’s Blu-ray looks fantastic, the desert panoramas and frequent shots of the titular red sun being especially impressive. It’s great to see this quite neglected movie get the high-def treatment it deserves. Highly recommended, even for viewers who are normally allergic to cowboys.
RED SUN / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: TERENCE YOUNG / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: CHARLES BRONSON, ALAIN DELON, TOSHIRO MIFUNE, CAPUCINE, URSULA ANDRESS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW