Review: Films Set In Japan – ‘The Bushido Blade’ (1981)

An all-star cast turned up for this fictional sideline to a key incident in both American and Japanese history but ultimately they were let down by a poor script as well as a lack of direction, choreography and editing.

The story centres around a treaty which Commodore Matthew Perry came to Japan to get signed by the Shogun in 1854. He brought American technology with him and in return the Shogun wanted to send a national treasure back to the American President as a gift. From that exchange we have our film title! The Bushido Blade is a sword representing the Samurai code and all that Japan holds dear.

Anyway, this ceremonial sword is stolen by a group of rebels led by Lord Yamato (played by Tetsuru Tamba who was Tiger Tanaka in 1967′s Bond film ‘You Only Live Twice‘) who are against the modernisation of Japan and want to keep it’s isolationist policy. The Shogun then refuse to sign the treaty until the sword has been recovered.

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Three American sailors are despatched in pursuit of the blade where they come across Prince Ido (played by Sonny Chiba who appeared in ‘Kill Bill: Volume I’) and a number of prisoners led by a shipwrecked captain played by a much under-used James Earl Jones. They amazingly encounter Japanese people (such as the guy from ‘Conan The Barbarian‘) who seem to speak English which is highly unlikely in 1854 Japan when the country was completely closed off.

There are numerous encounters with a variety of Japanese women in the countryside including a half-Japanese, English-speaking Samurai lady called Tomoe (played by Laura Gemser of ‘Emmanuelle‘ fame). She may have provided some good eye candy (and take her clothes off!) but I found many of her scenes to be unintentionally funny at times. When she’s accused of not appearing to look Japanese she defends herself with somepoorly delivered line about her father being a foreigner, her mother from a respected samurai family and that she was born in a traders compound in Nagasaki. As for the Japanese actresses they didn’t even get any substantial lines including the woman who played Yuki who was a half important character.

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When I purchased this dvd online a couple of years ago I didn’t realise I would be getting a German-language copy. After some nervy moments at the start I was relieved to be able to switch the language to English not that it really mattered too much in the end given the poor dialogue the actors were given to work with. Furthermore, when they weren’t reading badly scripted lines the actors were doing other “filler” activities like a rather silly pointless scene in the middle of the movie at a shrine where there’s a sumo match involving one of the burly sailors taking on a sumo wrestler in one of the film’s needless comical detours.

Overall, the premise of the story and the cast involved promised way more than what we got in this low budget film which was an average film at best and may only be of interest to Japan buffs and samurai fans. The storyline is easy to follow, the film is short but there are many unanswered questions like how on earth it was stolen in the first place. Surely a legendary blade would be better guarded! Would the Shogun really send it to America? Did any of this really matter since ultimately the treaty was signed with the blade not present thereby meaning that the 80 minutes adventure preceding it was entirely void and pointless?!!

Tokyo Fox Rating 4/10

Review: Books Set In Japan – ‘The Man With The Red Tattoo’ (2002)

A slight tweak on my ‘Review: Films Set In Japan…’ series for this one-off special book review. I’ve never read any 007 novels and I only came across this a couple of years back when I was surfing the net in search of the filming locations for the 1967 film ‘You Only Live Twice’. I’d forgotten all about it until I saw it in a second hand book shop a few weeks ago so I picked it up (I paid for it too!) as I was interested to see what parts of Japan the story takes place in.

  

This James Bond adventure was written by Raymond Benson and is in some ways the natural follow-up to the aforementioned movie even though they are over thirty years apart. Of course Bond never really ages and his ally Tiger Tanaka is back albeit not in tip-top condition following a triple bypass.

The book doesn’t stray too far from the film formula with a host of symmetrical characters and sets. For example, Agent Rieko Tamura is a carbon-copy of Agent Aki in ‘You Only Live Twice’ and Bond experiences traditional Japanese culture this time via a chase through the Kabuki theatre as opposed to going to see some sumo action in ‘You Only Live Twice’.

Unlike the Bourne franchise, Bond stories have always taken place at famous sites around the world and this book is no exception as it features Hachiko, Meiji shrine, Yoyogi Park, Kabuki-cho in Shinjuku, Tsukiji fish market, Kabuki-za theatre, the Great Buddha in Kamakura as well as places up in Hokkaido which I’m not familiar with. As a locations geek I’m never too keen to see such landmark places appear in stories and this particular one did feel like a guide-book at times as the history of the places was worked into the story. Maybe thats ok for readers who don’t know about Japan but personally I didn’t see a need for such lengthy background of the places featured. Chases through both Tsukiji fish market and Kabuki-za seem to only happen in order to give the author a chance to pad out the book with some facts about those places.

I found the book fairly easy to read and therein lies a kind-of problem as I often fail to get a proper real grasp of the plots in the movies but thats almost of secondary concern among the gadgets, girls, catchphrases and action.

The photos below are of places that feature in ‘The Man With The Red Tattoo”:

Top line: Hachiko statue outside Shibuya station & Meiji Shrine in Harajuku

2nd line: Mejiji Shrine outer gate, Harajuku & Studio Alta in Shinjuku

3rd line: Kabukicho area in Shinjuku

4th line: Bond stays on the 30th floor of the Imperial Tower which is part of the Imperial Hotel & Tsukiji fish market

5th line: The remains of Kabuki-za theatre in Ginza & The Great Buddha, Kamakura

Bottom line: Takanawa Prince Hotel in Shinagawa