Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Forgotten Film: Red Sun

It's funny how fish-out-of-water story concepts make their way on to films. Specifically, when characters and cultures find themselves literally on foreign soil. For instance, East meets West tales have been almost a staple in television and film through the decades. One manner deployed in such tales can have a lone protagonist struggle their way through a foreign culture as a method of discovery or exposition in the yarn (and for the audience). This was effectively done in the Kung Fu TV series (1972-75), and the 1990 film Quigley Down Under. You'll note that my examples purposely looked at the western ilk. I know it's not a genre with universal appeal, but it remains a favorite of mine through the years.

While I've wandered into crime/mystery literature of late, I guess I feel that style of writing has a kinship with the western. Like the venerable oater, crime fiction shares similar core motifs of "love, danger, and death". Honor and a code of ethics can also be attributed to both. Each genre has a tremendous versatility in their morality plays to express a point of view and comment on history, injustice, and the commonality among societies and peoples. For me, those parallels make another very effective reason why Joss Whedon's short-lived 'space' western series, Firefly, was so damn good (and why the Fox Network canceling it seems so dimwitted years later). In fact, some of the great fiction writers of recent time have penned great stories in both the crime and western sets (Elmore Leonard and Robert B. Parker would be two of the very best).

The rest of this post has been updated and moved over to my current blog, found here.


  1. Hmm... I have not heard of this film before but your post certainly makes me curious to wanna check it out.

  2. If you're a fan of either Bronson and/or Mifune, I recommend this film, J.D. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Nice review, now on que. Bronson and Fonda in Once upon a time .... is a fav. Completely off the radar for me


  4. I'm with you, Herb. Once Upon a Time in the West is one of my all-time favorites, too. Time to tee that up, too. Thanks, my friend.

  5. I've never seen this film, but I well recall how Mifune dominated his scenes in Shogun.

  6. Red Sun really has been a lost western for decades. I think I know only 1 or 2 people who've seen it. And it's worth seeing for Mifune alone. Thanks, Naomi.

  7. Wow.  I have to second that emotion J.D. mentioned. 

    This was a major surprise to me.  Thanks for bringing it to our attention.  It's like a weird all-star cast to boot.  Ursula and Tosh in the same film with Bronson.  That sounds like a crazy concept that got past a room full of suits, but I love it.

    Great point in the irony that Bronson starred in The Magnificent Seven, an American take on Kurosawa's Seven Samurai with Mifune.  Mifune was terrific in that film.  I have the Criterion DVD on that one.  It makes me want to see a lot of other Mifune films and your selection of Red Sun has entered my queue.

    You mentioned the Western being a personal favorite as genres go and I have to tell you, you sparked the strangest train of thought in me about that. 

    There was a time I simply had no interest in the Western.  If I saw dirt, dust, horses and pistols I would turn and run the other way.  The sci-fi guy in me felt the whole thing was too analog and I couldn't appreciate it for whatever reason.  My father, who I loved dearly mind you, loved westerns.  He loved them.  He had a collection in his house.  Shane, Silverado, you name it. He had them on VHS.  I would look them, smile and just scoff at the whole thing.

    One day, and I'm not exactly sure when it happened, the genre started to win me over.  I started to appreciate the Western.  Sure, all of the Clint Eastwoods were classic but I never paid them any mind either.

    I think the change in the wind for me came with The Unforgiven.  It was enough to make me reconsider the genre although it wasn't my favorite film.  Open Range, The Proposition all soon followed, 3:10 To Yuma and Tombstone.  I've been gradually checking them out and really loving the genre.

    In an odd way it's like reconnecting with my late father.  But L13, I love these Westerns more than ever.  I hope I didn't bore you with my personal anecdote, but you inspired me to write it.  Up next, The Quick And The Dead, and thanks to you, Red Sun. And based on the comments Leone's Once Upon A TIme In The West I hear is a classic and I will need to check that one too. 

    Thanks for a surprising and intriguing write up.  My film queue is getting large.

  8. I very much appreciated your thoughts and personal anecdote, my friend. I found your reminiscence quite affecting -- no way I was bored reading it. That this post made a reconnection is a positive for both of us, I believe.

    As someone who has seen the greatness of Mifune, I highly recommend this film and others in his filmography. SFF, you've also mentioned some exceptional westerns. I can't recommend enough Sergio Leone's Once Upon A time In The West (you'll never look at Henry Fonda's blue eyes the same way ever again), along with his The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

    If you have a continuing interest in the western genre, I recommend a friend and film blogger from across the pond. Livius writes Riding the High Country (which uses the name of an early 60's western by the great Sam Peckinpah) and specializes in that grand genre (along with Film Noir, Mystery/Thrillers, and War films). He's recently returned from a blogging hiatus, too.

    I hear you about an ever expanding film queue. Reading the likes of JKM, J.D. and others sure has done that to me. Thanks very much for your comment, my friend.

  9. Why do you consider this a "lost" film? It's had many, many VHS releases over the years and at least two DVD pressings. I've also seen it on cable and it used to play on free TV quite regularly. It never seemed very obscure to me.

  10. Thanks for that link!

  11. I neglected to mention I picked up Lonesome Dove on Blu-Ray with some excitement in watching Duvall.  Any other suggestions are always welcomed.   Cheers.

  12. I'm very glad that you've decided to highlight this massively underrated movie that just gets better and more enjoyable with subsequent viewings. I normally avoid double-dipping where possible but I think I'm going to have to break that rule for the new widescreen edition of the film that's recently been released in the UK.

    I'd also like to say thanks for flagging up my site once again. I can't tell you how much extra traffic you've driven to my blog through your generosity. Again, many thanks friend.

  13. Good point. I see it had a South Korean (NTSC) release that I obviously missed, besides the Region 2 (PAL) discs. I did purposely skip over the VHS versions as they appeared to be of the cropped variety (and one Fox Lober DVD that was again only full screen) as I really do seek out films in their original aspect ratio. Still, it's IMO an under-appreciated film that doesn't seem to as recalled as much as some other, so named, spaghetti westerns. Perhaps, my circle is more limited. Oh, well. Thank you for bringing that up and for your comment.

  14. You're welcome.  8-)

  15. Lonesome Dove is a must have for any western fan. If you're looking for more recommendations, I'm happy to oblige :) .

    I'll list two films each by directors who are known for this category (though there are a hell of lot more), and each are quite different. I hope I capture the versatility of the genre with the selection, along with how they display their content, theme, and contemporary comment (I've already mentioned the Sergio Leone duo):

    Clint Eastwood: Unforgiven, The Outlaw Josey Wales
    Howard Hawks: Red River, Rio Bravo
    John Ford: The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
    Anthony Mann: Winchester '73, Naked Spur
    Robert Aldrich: Vera Cruz, Ulzana's Raid
    Sam Peckinpah: Ride the High Country, The Wild Bunch
    John Sturges: Escape From Fort Bravo, Bad Day at Black Rock
    Simon Wincer: Quigley Down Under, Crossfire Trail

    William Wellman: The Ox-Bow Incident, Yellow Sky (who Livius is currently spotlighting)
    Budd Boetticher: Seven Men From Now, The Tall T

    Then there those made by director's not necessarily known for westerns, but who nonetheless created something great in the genre:

    Arthur Penn - Little Big Man (a personal favorite of J.D.'s, BTW)
    George Roy Hill - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
    Jim Jarmusch - Dead Man
    Ralph Nelson - Duel at Diablo
    Robert Altman - McCabe & Mrs. Miller
    William Wyler - The Big Country

    Sorry to drone on, but there's quite a lot of great stuff out there. HTH

  16. I very much agree that this film gets better and more enjoyable with subsequent viewings, Colin. And I'm more than happy to pass the word on regarding your site and content. Glad to see you back online, my friend.

  17. Which version did you finally watch? The 2007 DVD? And was the quality of the print what you hoped for?

  18. Yes, it was the 2007 Evergreen Entertainment disc. Quality wasn't bad, but it wasn't pristine (Amazon reviewers think it was a PAL transfer). Still, it was an unedited and widescreen presentation, so that goes a long way for me. I'd recommend it. HTH

  19. Perfect.  Thanks for al the insight on the genre.  I appreciate it.  I kind of passed over Quigley, but maybe I'll take a look at that.  I also recently mentioned Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid in my review of The Killer and I kind of didn't think of it that way.  But you're right, very much a Western wuality to a great film.  I will need to put that one on the queue.  It's been awhile.

    I also have all of the Clint films on Blu-Ray on the queue.  What is your take on The Magnficent Seven Blu-Ray Collection Box?  Worth it? 

    And how about Walter Hill's Broken Trail [2006] and Wild Bill [1995].

    Finally, Appaloosa?   Thanks my friend.  So many interesting films within the genre.

  20. I'd prefer it if The Magnificent Seven was in Blu-ray by itself and not just in that Collection set. The rest of sequels have diminishing returns. Brynner was in the first sequel, but not McQueen. Then, George Kennedy and Lee Van Cleef stepped into the role of Chris. I love those actors, but nothing compares with the first one. TMS must look and sound great, though, in BD.

    Good that you mention Walter Hill. If I'd have recalled him previously, I would I picked his The Long Riders and Broken Trail. Wild Bill is very good, but those two are my favorite Walter Hill westerns. Appaloosa, which is based upon a Robert B. Parker novel, I've not seen yet. It has a great set of actors in it (Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Jeremy Irons, and even Lance Henriksen!), though. That has to count for somethin'  ;) .

    Yep. The western is filled a lot of interesting and great films. I've been at it for years, and I'm not close to seeing them all. Thanks, Gordon.

  21. This has been on my too watch list for far too long (Mifune! Bronson! Delon! Andress! Whatta cast), must remedy that quickly. Great write-up!

  22. um, that would be "to watch list"