Bushido Blade
Richard Boone - 1979

A color historical adventure loosly about Commodore Perry's expedition to Japan. A co-production between Japan and U.S. company Rankin/Bass,

The Bushido Blade (1979) was an attempt to capitalize on a growing interest in Japanese history which culminated the following year in the successful Shogun TV mini series.

A fanciful account of Americans in Japan in 1854 set at the time of Commodore Matthew C. Perry's second trip to Japan, in February 1854, and his attempt to get a signed treaty with the Japan. The basic plot borrows more than a little from the 1972 samurai western, Red Sun, and has to do with the theft of a sword, intended for the U.S. president, by a Japanese faction opposed to the treaty. A steel samurai blade that was to be given to the U.S. President by the Shogun. Three Americans - a marine captain and two sailors, one of whom speaks a little Japanese and a Japanese samuari - go off in pursuit of the sword and have numerous encounters in the Japanese countryside before the big confrontation at the castle of Lord Yamato, the nobleman behind the theft of the blade. The Americans encounter more than a few Japanese - five in all - who happen to speak adequate English, one of whom, Enjiro (played by Japanese-American actor Mako), is based on an actual historical figure, the fisherman Manjiro, who had been shipwrecked and taken to America some years earlier.

The other Japanese characters are all rather unlikely candidates to be proficient English speakers in 1854 Japan, but they include some big name actors. Toshiro Mifune plays the Shogun's Commander; Sonny Chiba (The Street Fighter) plays Prince Ido, a foe of Yamato; and Tetsuro Tamba plays Lord Yamato. Laura Gemser plays a half-Japanese, half-foreign English-speaking female samurai who beds the American captain. The only big names in the American cast are Richard Boone, (Have Gun, Will Travel) and character actor in his final film role (as Commodore Perry), and James Earl Jones, who has a cameo as a shipwrecked sailor who's been held by the Japanese for two years. The biggest American part, Captain Hawk, is played by Frank Converse, primarily a TV actor (NYPD), who is quite good at portraying America's particular 19th century brand of arrogance and self-importance. Timothy Murphy plays the young American lieutenant who becomes enamored of Japanese culture (and falls for a Japanese woman). Mike Starr, later a prominent character actor and comic player (Goodfellas, Ed Wood & Dumb and Dumber), appears in his first film as burly sailor Cave Johnson, who takes on a sumo wrestler in one of the film's comic sidebars. Overall, the film is of interest to Japan buffs and samurai fans but lacking in historical relevance. The film got very little theatrical release in the US and went straight to television in most areas.

Director: Directed by Tom Kotani

Writing credits: William Overgard Genre

Cast - Role:

Frank Converse - Captain Hawk
Richard Boone - Commodore Matthew C. Perry
Mayumi Atano - Yuki
Sonny Chiba - Prince Edo
Laura Gemser - Edo's Cousin
James Earl Jones - Harpooner
Mako - Friend Toshirô (Enjiro)
Mifune - Shogun's Commander
Mike Starr - Cave Johnson
Tetsuro Tamba - Lord Yamato

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