Wednesday, August 02, 2006
I remember fondly those days before cable TV and VCRs, before the complete media saturation we enjoy today with on-demand and Netflix and easily downloadable porn. Here in Baltimore County if we wanted to watch movies we had to watch what was on the broadcast channels: Channel 45, Channel 5, Channel 20, and Channel 11 would show the same rotation of films over and over, and typically Kelly's Heroes, Patton, Phantasm, Let's Scare Jessica to Death, or one of Sergio Leone's Clint Eastwood vehicles was on. One of the films I saw about a billion times was A Fistful of Dollars. Sergio Leone based that particular spaghetti western on Kurasawa's Yojimbo, and it's interesting to see the source material for a film I know inside-out.
Despite its reputation, I must admit Yojimbo was disappointing. It's certainly not bad, but compared to Hidden Fortress or Ran or Rashomon or any of a half-dozen other Kurasawa greats it's a quirky novelty, half Western, half French New Wave, half samurai pic. Yojimbo is a samurai with no master--he shows up in a run-down town beset by gangs competing for supremacy and decides to cash in using his skills as a swordsman. "I can make money killing here," he tells the innkeeper. "And this town is full of people who deserve to die." He plays both sides for cash, ends up doing the noble thing a couple times contrary to his fiscal benefit, and almost everybody gets whacked.
Most unusual are the presence of severe scratches at many points. Criterion did a reasonably good job with their DVD, but not the full monty digital repair.