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Kurosawa’s samurai films and the Westerns that were inspired by them

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  1. Introduction.
    1. The films of Akira Kurosawa.
    2. Adaptations.
    3. The vast, untapped resources and land in the West.
  2. Western towns.
    1. One of the most powerful scenes of 'seven Samurai'.
    2. Only one example of the lack of power in the law in 'Seven Samurai'.
    3. The film 'Stagecoach'.
  3. The lone hero type in Western films.
    1. Similar to one found in samurai films.
    2. He must live by more concrete ideals.
    3. No admirable emotions.
  4. 'Seven Samurai' and 'The Magnificent Seven'.
  5. A deceptively simple similarity between western and samurai films.
  6. The invention of firearm.
  7. Cowboys and Samurais.
  8. Conclusion.

The films of Akira Kurosawa, from his adaptations of Shakespeare's plays to his samurai films, have influenced filmmakers from the 1950's to the present. This influence is most obvious in the Westerns that were adapted from his samurai films. In 1960 ?Seven Samurai? (Kurosawa, 1954) was adapted into ?The Magnificent Seven? (John Sturges, 1960). This was followed by the adaptation of ?Yojimbo? (Kurosawa, 1961) into ?A Fistful of Dollars? (Sergio Leone, 1964). Then in the 1990's ?Yojimbo? was adapted into ?Last Man Standing? (Walter Hill, 1996). These adaptations raise an interesting question: Why do the Japanese samurai films of Akira Kurosawa lend themselves to being adapted into American Westerns? They are not identical films because the characters, settings, and genre conventions are extremely dissimilar. However, their connections are important. The films themselves are remarkably similar when one looks at the thematic conventions of heroic characters and action films. From the relation of cowboys and samurai to law and lawlessness, especially involving innocent people, one can draw a wide parallel between the two genres. The main differences lie in the general relation of the samurai and the cowboy to progress.

[...] The common thread through all of the samurai and western films mentioned is that they involve violence. Of course, both types of films involve much more than killing for killing's sake. But from skirmishes and standoffs to large-scale war and gunfights they are fundamentally action films. In ?Seven Samurai? and Magnificent Seven? a village is going to be robbed of all of their crops after the harvest. Seven hired samurai/cowboys come to help them and multiple small fights occur, culminating in a climactic battle to resolve the conflict. [...]


[...] Chris shoots the guns out of their hands with modesty and sends them off disappointed. Chris and Vin risked their lives for a corpse because the man deserved the dignity of being buried. The feeling you have done something you should have is important to them. The fighting in the village recreates that feeling for both the samurai and the cowboys. They realize the good they did, even though of the seven only three survive in each film. Though their numbers dwindle, they understand the reasons they fought for. [...]


[...] Not every aspect of the two genres overlap, but it is in the similarities that one finds a common thread between samurai films and films of the western genre. The relation of cowboys and samurai to law/lawlessness and the innocent is the first of their similarities. The character type found in both groups of films of the lone hero is another link between them. At the same time, both also involve groups of cowboys and samurai who fight for different reasons than the lone hero. [...]

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