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Takakura Ken in Film


The Yakuza - 1974

The Yakuza


Robert Mitchum , Takakura Ken , Brian Keith , Richard Jordan , Keiko Kishi

Directed By: Sydney Pollack

In our ongoing look at the films starring Takakura Ken who passed away in November 2014 brings us to a cult classic which also starred American Icon Robert Mitchum

The Yakuza from 1974 is a film which explores the divide between American and Japanese culture.

Robert Mitchum plays Harry Kilmer a ex serviceman who served in Japan during the war and after as a MP. The film focuses on Harry in his later years who has held many jobs and looks back on his life as one with missed opportunity and complications.

But his past is about to catch up with Harry when his old friend George Tanner (Brian Keith) asks Harry for a favour.

After a visit from Jiro Kato (Kyosuke Machida) a messenger for the Yakuza who has come to the USA to offer George his boss's ultimatum on a business deal they are engaged in , George seeks Harry's help , he tells Harry that a business transaction has turned sour and that the Japanese Yakuza led by a man named Tono (Eiji Okada) has kidnapped his daughter for ransom.

Now Georges daughter is being held in Japan and he asks Harry to help him get her back by contacting his wartime love Eiko ( Keiko Kishi) and seeing if her brother Ken will help him due to his Yakuza connections.

Of course it's been more then twenty years since Harry has been in Japan and things have changed , everything but the values and traditions which are at odds with Western life.

Tagging along with Harry is Georges bodyguard 'Dusty' here played by Richard Jordan , George travels on a alternate flight as to not cause suspicion .

Once in Tokyo Harry and Dusty stay with another old wartime buddy , Oliver (Herb Edelman) who stayed on in Japan after the occupation ..

After more then twenty years Harry must visit Eiko at a bar he actually bought her as parting gift , Kilmer House. The reconciliation is a awkward one at first but becomes more curious for Eiko when Harry asks about her brother Ken (Takakura Ken).

She tells Harry that Ken now lives in Kyoto and runs a Kendo school and that she sees him on his rare visits to Tokyo. Ken and Harry are not men that see eye to eye as during the war and occupation of course tensions where high , Ken had returned after thought missing from the war to find Eiko living with a American ,he felt this brought dishonour to his family as he was in fact the enemy ..

But Ken was also grateful to Harry who had helped Eiko get medicine for her daughter Hanako Christina Kokubo) who was trying to do so herself through black market trading which could have got her killed at the time. In effect Harry saved their lives and looked after them ,but Eiko would never marry Harry .

So on the one hand you have two men who share no love or friendship for one another ,but for Ken he feels he owes Harry a debt he can not repay from all those years ago. In Japanese terms it's a debt where a unsuspecting person or associate has done something that they had no reason to do or commit to at the time , for Ken it's the selflessness act of saving Eiko and Hanako during the American occupation ..

But today Harry has come back to Japan and is here to see if he can collect this debt from a man who sees him as the enemy.

Bushido / Giri

The Yakuza is a film that for a American production is quite at odds for the time it was made, it's in depth look at Japanese tradition and Culture often used by the Yakuza and Samurai in their day . This tradition of Bushido is complex and to most Westerners is not that easy to grasp.

The fact that you can owe someone a debt that can not be repaid may seem very strange by Western standards , it's referred to in Japan as Giri, which means Obligation or Burdan. As a example loyalty in Japanese culture is very important, it works in many forms , a employee may work for a company and be very loyal to that company as the company has given them worth and life .

In turn that employee may only use that companies products as oppose to another who produces similar goods, that same employee may also not be friends or socialise with people who work for opposing companies in the same business.

It also works the other way where said companies will look after their employees ,often helping them in many facets of their life. Something which rarely happens in Western culture.

It's this type of loyalty that is Giri , and it is this that the director Sydney Pollack explores here in The Yakuza..

In Yakuza terms it's also the rules that go along with it. A Yakuza would never shoot someone holding a sword, he would pick a sword and fight in combat. As shooting him would be dishonourable and go against tradition.

Now Takaura Ken was famous in Japan for playing the traditional honourable Yakuza in many films like Chivalrous Geisha , Brave Tales of Fury and many more. But here was a Western film showcasing this style of cinema for a Western audience .. The Yakuza did not do mega business when released but has since become a cult film , more so in recent years as Asian culture has become popular in mainstream cinema .

But The Yakuza is not a all out action film ,it explores the rituals of the culture , it also focuses on lost love and how one debt paid can lead to another owed. This is a brooding film which leads up to a violent and bloody battle where betrayal becomes evident.

At the same time it reveals new revelations to the characters in question which impose new found loyalties and obligation on them.

1974 was a era for film which brought many Asian stars to the Western eyes. Of course Bruce Lee was the one which started the craze for films with these cultures within them. It was a time when cinema was most exciting as new ideas and studios took more risks with the subject matter. From films like One Armed Swordsman,Enter the Dragon , Street Fighter, Seven Golden Vampires , each giving a different view of these cultural styles , The Yakuza delivers these views in a violent but passionate way with two Icons of cinema whose filmography spanned many years before the aforementioned stars and films.

Takakura Ken was one of those iconic stars whose films never really got the worldwide audience they deserved.

Now where watching this film because of paying tribute to the Late Takakura Ken but I can not finish here without adding something to make you think.

For fans of this film and the time it is from when viewing I would like you to take note that most of the main cast and the director are no longer with us .

The Yakuza is a must see for all fans of Cultural cinema , as a introduction to Takakura Ken it is a fine example of his excellence in portraying these type of characters . He was often labelled as the Japanese Clint Eastwood for his tough guy persona.

And please don't forget the other stars of this film which together encompass to make a film which leaves a lasting impression for some time..

    Cast                                                     Alternative Film Known For    

Takakura Ken - 1931-2014 – age 83 - Black Rain – 1989

Robert Mitchum -1917 -1997 – age 79 - Cape Fear - 1962

Brain Keith - 1921 -1997 – age 75 - The Russians are Coming ' The Russians are Coming - 1966

Herb Edelman – 1933 -1996 – age 62 - The Odd Couple -1968 / Wheels on Meals - 1984

Richard Jordan – 1937 – 1993 – age 56 - Logans Run -1976

Eiji Okada -1920 -1995 – age 75 - Lady Snowblood -1973

James Shigeta – 1929 -2014 – age 85 - Die Hard -1988

Christina Kokubo -1950 -2007 – age 56 - Midway - 1976

Eiji Go – 1937 -1992 – age 55 - Graveyard of Honour – 1975

Keiko Kishi – 1932 – Present - The Makioka Sisters -1983


Sydney Pollack – 1934 -2008 - age 73 - Out of Africa -1985

Review Date : March 29th 2015

Review By : Sertes Nake

Image (c) Warner Bros 1974


Stills - Posters 




Directed by Sydney Pollack
Produced by Michael Hamilburg
Sydney Pollack
Koji Shundo
Written by Leonard Schrader
Paul Schrader
Robert Towne
Starring Robert Mitchum
Ken Takakura
Kishi Keiko
Richard Jordan
Music by Dave Grusin
Edited by Don Guidice
Thomas Stanford
Fredric Steinkamp (supervising)
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
December 28, 1974 (Japan)
March 15, 1975 (US)
Running time
123 minutes (Japan)
112 minutes (US)
Country United States
Language English / Japanese



Robert Mitchum as Harry Kilmer

Ken Takakura as Ken Tanaka

Brian Keith as George Tanner

Herb Edelman as Oliver Wheat

Richard Jordan as Dusty

Keiko Kishi as Eiko Tanaka

Eiji Okada as Toshiro Tono

James Shigeta as Goro Tanaka

Kyosuke Machida as Jiro Kato

Christina Kokubo as Hanako Tanaka

Eiji Go as Spider


source : wikipedia

Trailers and Galleries


Some stills from the 1974 classic with Robert Mitchum and Takakura Ken . full review and galleries on site now at www.kickemintheghoulies.com/theyakuzatk.htm

Posted by Kick'em in the Ghoulies on Saturday, 4 April 2015




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