The Yakuza (1974) Love, Honor and Kickass Robert Mitchum

The Yakuza (1974) poster movie film robert mitchum

What! Robert Mitchum against The Yakuza! I’m sold, drop very thing and press play now.

Tagline – 100 years ago they were called Samurai.

The Yakuza (1974) a sydney pollack film opening credits

How I had never heard of this film is beyond me but what a pleasure it was to excitedly stumble across it and watch this perfect beautifully paced thriller set in Tokyo.

Robert Mitchum plays Harry Kilmer, a humble retired detective who receives a distressing call from his old World War Two buddy George Tanner (Brian Keith). George had set up an arms deal with a guy called Tono (Eiji Okada) who happens to be a ruthless yakuza gangster. The deal goes south pretty quickly resulting in George’s daughter being kidnapped as ransom for the deal. George knows he can only turn to his trusted loyal friend Harry to help in this unfortunate turn of events.

The Yakuza (1974) Robert Mitchum and Ken Takakura 2 toykoThe Yakuza (1974) Robert Mitchum and Ken Takakura

Both Harry and George had been stationed in Tokyo after the post-war occupation. Harry being the decent upright man he was had helped a young lady called Eiko (Keiko Kishi) in an unfortunate incident, effectively saving her life. Falling deeply in love with Eiko and moving in with her causes a rift between herself and her returning brother Ken (Ken Takakura), an ex Imperial Japanese soldier.  Seeing his sister living with the enemy as a deep dishonor but ultimately conflicted with the knowledge that Harry had saved his sister, he leaves and retreats into the criminal underworld of the yakuza.

The Yakuza (1974) Eiko (Keiko Kishi) and robert mitchum 2The Yakuza (1974) Eiko (Keiko Kishi) and robert mitchum

In a time and culture devoid of showing true emotions, Harry and Eiko go their separate ways. However even time can’t break the love he has had for Eiko and what with his mission to find his friends daughter he decides to pay her a visit. Is there still passion bubbling away under all that forbidden love, pondering brooding looks of loves lost throughout the years? But all that will have to wait! as the Yakuza are coming!!

The Yakuza (1974) gangsters toyko japan

Opening Credits – “To this day it is said the yakuza abide by a code of honor as rigorous as the samurai code of bushido.”

The pace of this film is just perfect, slowly moving through the story revealing little pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. You meet various friends and enemies along the way with everything tuned beautifully into the traditions of Japanese culture. This film is abound with respects, shame, honor, duty and obligation.

The Yakuza (1974) fight battle end Ken Takakura 2 toykoThe Yakuza (1974) Robert Mitchum kick ass

Now that pace might be slow but don’t get you knickers in a twist, sit back and enjoy the build up because there are a few sweet pay offs, none more so than the end. Man it’s a set piece to make you wanna knock back half a bottle of sake to calm you down.

The Yakuza (1974) sword fight battleThe Yakuza (1974) blu-ray Robert Mitchum end battle

This superb film is by director Sydney Pollack who went straight into the outstanding CIA political thriller Three Days Of The Condor. Someone who has a connection to both The Yakuza and Three Days Of The Condor is American jazz pianist and composer Dave Grusin who brings a mellow jazz score to the film but what is special is he manages to merge both American and Japanese cultures in the soundtrack giving both a feel of a gritty 70’s film but embracing the traditions of Japanese life. It was never released on vinyl at the time however the label Film Score Monthly released the CD in 2005.

The Yakuza (1974) blu-ray Robert Mitchum and Ken Takakura honor

Here’s a documentary from Sydney Pollack about the making of the film. It’s really very good but I would be hesitant to watch it if you haven’t seen the film yet. Pop back when you have or if you don’t mind spoilers, then jump on in.

What did you think of this one back in the day, or are you like me and just getting to see it? It’s a fantastic film wouldn’t you say?

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8 thoughts on “The Yakuza (1974) Love, Honor and Kickass Robert Mitchum

  1. Easily one of Mitch’s top 5 flicks. I’ve seen this numerous times and introduced it to number 2 son on Mitch’s 100th birthday not long ago. So happy to have the one sheet in my collection. Proof positive that Mitch has what they call STAR POWER. Special mention has to go to Takakura Ken, he’s captivating here and would be equally so in Black Rain opposite Michael Douglas a decade later. Well done!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Mike. Apart from the superb “The Friends Of Eddie Coyle” I do beleive this is the only other film I’ve seen Mitchum in in the seventies. I’ve not seen “Farewell, My Lovely” which I see gets excellent reviews.
      The twists in the plot of Yakuza were amazing and like you say Takakura Ken is captivatingly brilliant. Totally forgot he was in Black Rain. That is very much in need for a re-run, not seen it since it was first released on VHS. Remember it being very good. I certainly will be revisiting Yakuza again as I thought it was a masterpiece. Ticked all the right buttons for me. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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