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The Yakuza (1975)

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The Yakuza
Theatrical Release Poster
Country Flag of the United States.jpgUnited States
Directed by Sydney Pollack
Release Date 1975
Studio Warner Brothers
Distributor Warner Brothers
Main Cast
Character Actor
Harry Kilmer Robert Mitchum
George Tanner Brian Keith
Tanaka Ken Takakura Ken
Dusty Richard Jordan
Goro Tanaka James Shigeta

The Yakuza is a 1974 thriller that was one of the first times that the Hollywood Tough Guy/Private Eye genre film met the Japanese Yakuza genre film. The film focuses on George Tanner (Brian Keith), an old World War II buddy who asks his friend Harry Kilmer (Robert Mitchum) to travel back to Japan and rescue his daughter from kidnappers. The kidnappers turn out to be Yakuza and things are more complicated than they appear on the surface. The cast included Takakura Ken (who was a massive star in Japan), James Shigeta, as well as a young Richard Jordan. The Yakuza was co-written by Robert Towne (Chinatown&Tequila Sunrise) and Paul Schrader (writer of Taxi Driver and Rolling Thunder) and was directed by Sydney Pollack. Warner Brothers expected a hit, but instead the movie was a bomb at the box office. However over the years, it achieved cult film status and became a staple at film schools and film festivals, notably on the European circuit. In the years before his death in 2008, Sydney Pollack was invited to speak at different universities around the world and stated that one of the movies he was most often asked about was The Yakuza. It's interesting to note that the movie was filmed almost entirely on location in Japan with a mostly Japanese crew and by all accounts, the production was trouble-free (as opposed to the politics and labor issues that plagued the production of the 1989 film Black Rain, which coincidentally co-starred Ken Takakura). It's unclear if Japan had changed or if the two production companies approached things in a different way.

The following weapons were used in the film The Yakuza (1975):



Smith & Wesson Model 10

Used by Harry Kilmer (Robert Mitchum) and his sidekick Dusty (Richard Jordan). It appears that Dusty is using an earlier model Smith & Wesson Model 10 based on the half-moon front sight, instead of a ramp sight.

Smith & Wesson Model 10 snub nose revolver - .38 Special. Early Model
Dusty helps Harry get George's daughter back from her kidnappers.
Dusty confronts the Yakuza gangsters after they invade Oliver's home.
After Dusty (Richard Jordan) is killed Harry (Robert Mitchum) goes to take out George Tanner (Brian Keith) after learning that George betrayed them and is actually working with the Yakuza. Harry wields both the 1911A1 and Dusty's S&W Model 10 akimbo style. Here he forces his way into Tanner's apartment. There is a bodyguard behind the door.
Appropriately it is Dusty's S&W Model 10 that Harry uses to take out the bodyguard.

Smith & Wesson Model 36

The Smith & Wesson Model 36 is used by different Yakuza soldiers throughout the movie.

Smith and Wesson Model 36 - .38 special - 5 shot
Yakuza gangsters invade Oliver's home.
A Yakuza gangster fires his S&W Model 36 at Kilmer.
A Yakuza at Tanner's office draws his S&W Model 36.


Used by Harry Kilmer (Robert Mitchum) both as a stand-alone weapon and akimbo with a Smith & Wesson Model 10 and a 12 Gauge Double Barreled Shotgun.

World War 2 issued Colt M1911A1 Pistol - .45 ACP.
Kilmer pulls the slide back on his M1911A1.
With Dusty now dead (Richard Jordan) and having learned that George Tanner (Brian Keith) lied to him and betrayed him Harry decides to take care of his old friend with a special delivery. A special delivery of lead. That's tough guy talk from the 40's.Tough just like Robert Mitchum
Harry empties all eight rounds into George.


12 Gauge Double Barreled Shotgun

A Double Barreled Shotgun is used by Harry Kilmer (Robert Mitchum) akimbo with a Colt 45 goverment. The manufacturer is unknown. It is a hammerless boxlock model with what appears to be either twenty - eight or thirty inch barrels.Only an old time tough guy movie star like Robert Mitchum could carry off using a full size double barreled shotgun and a Colt 45 automatic convincingly.

1960s Era Commercial Stevens hammerless side by side shotgun - 12 Gauge.
Harry moves into the Yakuza lair. Ready for action.
One of the Yakuza gangsters takes a shot at Harry.
Having taken out the gangster Harry continues to move. Good tactics
Yet another gangster tries to take out Harry. What's interesting to note is that this whole stunt is being done by Robert Mitchum. He was fifty - seven at the time this move was filmed and was not a big believer in working out. Pretty impressive.
It's a good thing that Japanese homes are not made out of concrete and steel.Good action shot nevertheless.
Once again that is Robert Mitchum performing his own stunt. The choreography is nicely done. Point and shoot. Not pretty. Just effective.
Keep shooting until the threat is neutralized.
Oh yeah? Want some of this?


Weapons Collection

When Harry Kilmer (Robert Mitchum) and Dusty (Richard Jordan) arrive in Tokyo they stay with Harry's old war buddy Oliver Wheat. Oliver is now a history professor at a local university in Tokyo having opted to stay in Japan after his enlistment ended. In his house there is a substantial display of old Japanese weapons, most of it are Tanegashimas. Swords, matchlocks, and other assorted cutlery. Out of sight there is a more modern collection of handguns. This little "historical" display of Oliver's provides both Harry and Dusty with the Colt 1911A1 and Smith & Wesson Model 10 that they use. In reality Japan has some of the strictest weapon laws (both firearms and blades) in the world. It's very unlikely that Oliver would be allowed to have such an arsenal in his home. But it makes for great visual effect and provides our heros with firearms. Call it poetic license.

Japanese "Tanegashima" matchlock arquebus.
Short-barrelled "Tanegashima" matchlock arquebus at the Ako Temple museum

Sword Action

There is a large battle between the heros and Yakuza at the end of the movie. Harry Kilmer (Robert Mitchum) and Tanaka Ken (Takakura Ken) invade the Yakuza Clan Headquarters. While Harry is busy blowing away numerous Yakuza gangsters with his Colt 45 automatic and double barreled shotgun Tanaka Ken takes out the head of the Yakuza clan and many of his followers with a sword. The swordfight is nicely choregraphed. Though this is imfdb and not ims(sword)db I thought there should be at least one screencap of the swordfight. Seems only proper considering the movie takes place in Japan.

Ken Takakura as Tanaka Ken in The Yakuza

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