Sanjuro, (Toshiro Mifune) is a scruffy samurai wandering the countryside. Undecided in which direction to go to get hired, he settles for a town nearby. Once there, he finds out there’s a conflict going on between two powerful factions that control all the business in the place and have the townspeople living behind closed doors afraid to venture outside.
The first side he encounters, includes among a dozen gang members, an impressive giant warrior with a sledge hammer for a weapon. Our samurai bodyguard (Yojimbo in Japanese) stares at them studying his odds. Although surrounded, he manages to walk away while they make fun of him. Once inside a deserted small restaurant, the old man who owns it, explains in detail the causes and intricacies of the bloody disagreement warning and asking Sanjuro to eat and leave, but this one has other plans.
Swiftly, Sanjuro, schemes to overpower his enemies and make money out of them at the same time. He does it masterfully until discovered nearly paying with his life, were it not for a helping hand and his own skillful handling of the sword.
Directed by Akira Kurosawa in 1961, this influential movie was remade in color six years later by Sergio Leone who made it into a Western (as originally conceived by Kurosawa) and called it: A Fistful of Dollars, starring Clint Eastwood as the cunning gunman for hire. It’s the Japanese black and white film, however, which has become a cult favorite for many film lovers because of its originality, unpredictable and fast short action sequences combined with the cold, and at the same time, humane character played gracefully by Toshiro Mifune, and also for the different new approach brought to this eastern-western action genre by Kurosawa.
Noteworthy is Masaru Sato‘s score also. A very distinctive mix of slow mambo-like melody with a haunting horn section and traditional Japanese percussion, these sounds became one important unifying element throughout the film.