Takakaura Ken in Kon Ichikawa's 47 Ronin - 1994
Takakura Ken a Cinematic Legend
Born : Goichi Oda ,February 16th 1931
Passed Away : November 10th 2014
Anyone of lets say slightly older years would know of Takakura Ken , a legend in Japanese cinema since the fifties Takakura Ken became a world wide star in the seventies with parts in Hollywood films starting in ''To Late the Hero '' a war film which starred Michael Caine ,Henry Fonda ,set in the Pacific in 1942 Takakura Ken would play the role of the Japanese Major, Yamaguchi.
But for most Westerners his role in 1989 film Black Rain with Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia would probably give him his biggest and widest known role in Western Cinema as Japanese Policeman Masahiro Matsumoto.
Takakura Ken in Ridley Scotts Black Rain - 1989
But if you like your Japanese cinema your realise that Takakura Ken was one of Japan's biggest stars in the sixties and seventies. He became famous as the Yakuza gangster characters he played in many films, A character he would portray in sleeper Hollywood hit ''The Yakuza '' starring alongside Robert Mitchum.
Copyright© Warner Brothers 1974
Sleeper hit The Yakuza in 1974 /5 brought Takakura Ken to a larger audience
Funny thing was Takakura Ken never intended to become a film star , after concluding his University studies in 1955 he applied for a managerial job at Toei , he ended up taking a audition and the rest was history.
His first film was in 1956 film Denko Karate Uchi. By 1965 he had starred in over forty films and it was then that his role to stardom was sealed with his appearance in 1965 film Abashiri Bangaichi (Abashiri Prison) , the film spawned a sequel as well as a series of later films which went well into the early seventies.
1973 would see Takakura Ken take the lead role in the live action adaptation of Manga Golgo 13 by Takao Saito , often known as the Duke ,Golgo 13 is a international assassin with no identity and a mystery to worldwide enforcement agencies . His trade mark is his scoped M16 rifle.
The Manga is the longest running Manga in Japan and has had a Anime series and film adapted as well, a sequel to the live action film was produced in 1977 by Toei with Shinichi Chiba in the title role , a star who starred with Takakura Ken in the 1975 film Bullet Train.
Bullet Train is the film that probably inspired the likes of Speed , a train and it's passengers are held to ransom , a bomb has been planted and if the trains speed goes below 80km/h it will go of.
Bullet train was released in the USA but was heavily cut from it's 152min running time down to a more cinema friendly 115minutes.But lucky enough both versions are readily available as part of the Sonny Chiba collection of films in both the USA and UK.
1978 saw the release of Never Give Up , which is about a young girl who survives a massacre by the Japanese army in her village .
1992 would see Takakura Ken return for a Hollywood film ,this time with Tom Selleck in Mr Baseball about a American Baseball player Jack Elliot ( Selleck) who gets traded and ends up going to play for a Japanese team, of course the culture shock and new Manager Uchiyama ( Takakura Ken) make for some visual moments in this comedy.
Of course in later years Takakura Ken's output in film slowed but his role in Chinese director Zhang Yimou's Riding Along for Thousand of Miles would again bring him worldwide recognition, Takakura Ken played the role of a Japanese father who has not been in contact with his son since his wife's death , when he finds out his son has cancer he travels to China to full fill a wish of his son.
There are so many films that Takakura Ken starred in , unfortunately most are not available in the West and even though they can be purchased from Japan ,with out a knowledge of the Japanese language they would be hard to understand.
Unlike other stars like Toshiro Mifune ,Meiki Kaji Shinichi Chiba ,Takakura Ken's early films have never seen a world wide release on DVD with subtitles.
Takaura Ken passed away on the 10th November 2014 from Lymphoma. He was 83 years of age.
Takakura Ken receiving the Japanese Order of Culture in 2013 from His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Japan
We will be looking at a few of the great man's films the first of which is featured on site right now.
Our first film is his 1994 film 47 Ronin by Kon Ichikawa a award winning film for which Takakura Ken was nominated for Best Actor.
His portrayal of Oishi Kuranosuke ,the chief retainer of the 47 Ronin is mesmerising and shows even in his later years he still captivated his audience.
Takakura Ken is another legendary actor that will be sorely missed, we hope that maybe his earlier films will be picked up for a wider release on DVD ,so more can witness this great actor.
R.I.P. Takakura San
Golgo 13 Banner Poster 1973 (left) Brutal Tales of Chivalry 1965 (right)
Tales of Chivalrous Women, Chivalrous 1969 Geisha (above ) starred Fuji Junko with Takakura Ken and Wakayama Tomisaburo
Never Give Up - 1978 - This film is available in the UK on region 2 DVD
Look out for stills from all the films we review in our Takakaura Ken Tribute
This is a interesting video of a interview with Takakura Ken where he talks about his films - Unfortunatly it's only in Japanese , no subtitles.
Like i have mentioned above, Takakaura Ken's films are not easily available in the West. Some of his more recent releases have seen Western release and of course the Hollywood and co- productions are possible to get hold of if you try.
We will be adding the films featured in our Takakura Ken Special here , Just click the Poster to go to the Film Review. This will increase as time goes on and we acquire more films to review.
2005 1994 1969
Bullet Train - 1975
Never Give Up - 1978 ( Waiting on Lovefilm)
Brutal Tale of Chivalry (Showa Zankyoden ) - 1965
Black Rain - 1989 ( if my VHS plays without killing my machine) ?
Just a few more films to go till we wrap our retrospective of the Late Takakura Ken.When and if more films become available we will add the reviews here.
And i am desperately trying to see if i have Mr Baseball on VHS ,Because i remember seeing it years ago. But if i actually owned it or rented it i don't know ,it may have been on TV and i recorded it.
But i am going through my VHS collection which is everywhere , including my shed. Lucky enough i found Black Rain on VHS ,the tapes a bit dusty and if it plays OK i will do a review and post another gallery of pictures for that film.. Watch this space.