• Paul Schrader’s first screenplay—coming from a story by his brother (who spent a lot of time in Japan), touched up by Robert Towne (wow), directed by a hot Sydney Pollack (coming off of Jeremiah Johnson and The Way We Were). It was the most expensive script sold at the time.
  • Many veteran actors had a look at the lead, I don’t know if they turned it down or if Mitchum beat them out—but as Tarantino says (he has a nice essay on the film https://thenewbev.com/tarantinos-reviews/the-yakuza/) it is really the last time Mitchum would be good in a lead part
  • It may have the trappings of a B-movie or gangster movie (we’re in the height of Blaxploitation, kung-fu movies)—but this is an A-budget picture, location shooting and again the price of the script and Pollack’s involvement after one of the biggest successes of 1973 financially (The Way We Were was #5 domestically in US)
  • The beautiful credit scenes feel like a Bond-movie—this is inspired throughout
  • The wall of samurai swords and guns by the collector of Japanese items- there’s an opening statement comparing the modern day Yakuza to the samurai as well
  • Dissolve heavy in the editing- a nice sequence when Mitchum is walking through Tokyo (and his memories of Tokyo and a past love)—perfect choice by Pollack. The film does have that The Way We Were flashback/lost love aspect to it
  • A great shot at 30 minutes- Mitchum in profile with the “Kilmer House” white sign behind him
  • Really a film about unwritten codes and honor—strong writing throughout
  • At 42 minutes another Pollack standout shot—exaggerated car headlights behind the Kato character
  • I wonder if Ricard Jordan (young here) and Mitchum were buddies- Jordan is in this and 1973’s The Friends of Eddie Coyle (another later era great Mitchum vehicle)
  • Rapid montage editing during action—nicely done—Pollack isn’t Peckinpah or anything but he’s no slouch
  • Reoccurring overhead shots during the final showdown. An orgy of violence—exaggerated. One could write a paper comparing it to the finale of Taxi Driver (Schrader’s second script)
  • I guess one of the reasons it made so much money is it was sold as a sort of The Godfather in Japan and you can see it in the script with the family tree and the slow reveals of who everyone really is
  • A breathtakingly beautiful shot at the end when Mitchum loses the pinky—another profile shot with the circular lantern in the background—at the 111 minute mark. We go back and forth between profile shots of Mitchum and Ken Takakura here
  • Recommend – maybe Highly Recommend border but not quite in the top 10 of 1974