Re: RARA-AVIS:Hammett and Kurosawa & Analytic Methods

From: Keith Alan Deutsch (
Date: 19 Apr 2000

> Dick Lochte wrote:
> Read the Hammett article, and noticed that it repeated as fact, a claim I've
> seen at times in discussions here, namely that Kurosawa got his idea for
> Yojimbo
> from Red Harvest.
> I do see some similarities, but I sure see some big differences too. Who
> of the Kurosawa or Hammett biographers has made this claim and what basis
> did he
> or she give? I'd like something more substantial than similarities......
> Bill Hagen
> I'm not sure who, if any, of the Hammett biographers made the claim.
> Kurosawa denied the Hammett connection, just as Leone denied that "Fistful
> of Dollars" was inspired by "Yojimbo." But the films' plots speak for
> themselves. ........ To my mind, the similarities are
> substantial enough to justify the claim.
> Dick Lochte

Dear Dick and Bill,

I recently made the same claim that Red Harvest & Yojimbo were very similar; I think I stopped at saying Kurosowa was influenced by Hammett in that post to RARA-AVIS. (might not have gotten through--software problems).

The rogue Samurai, Ronin, who plays one faction off of another, is a traditional theme in Japanese popular fiction and swordsman ship mythology. See my reference to "Musashi" (in the "missing?" post) the film that won the 1955 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film--not by Kurosawa, but starring a very young Toshiro Mifune. "Musashi" is also the title of an epic novel in 5 books written by of Japan's most popular author's between 1932 or so to 1940, I believe--classic hard boiled American pulp period. Finally Musashi is a real person who wrote the most famous Japanese book on strategy, The Book of Five Rings. He is Ja[an's greatest Samurai swordsman from the classic 1600's on Shogunate introduced by Clavell. Musashi's biography could make a great hard boiled tale set in a foreign land.

Bruce Willis starred a few years ago in a film, title escapes me (Last Man Standing?), that is very dependent on Red Harvest/Yojimbo. Producers--for obvious reasons---say it had nothing to do with Hammett's story, the rights to which were (at minimum film rights) sold some years back to, I believe, an Italian producer.

A friend I met through my Hollywood Agent, when I had a Hollywood agent, :Larry Bishop (director of a recent offbeat hard boiled film and son of Joey "rat pack" Bishop) was writing scripts of Red Harvest over and over again for the producer whose name escapes me. I read the scripts and they were good.

In any case, for a variety of rights reason's, film people are hesitant to give acknowledgment to influences. As I mentioned before, in the post that may not have gotten through, George Lucas has stated that Kurosawa's Castle of Blood was the primary inspiration for the first Star Wars film.

Of course it is one thing to see the similarities (and differences) in works of art, but quite a different matter to claim a direct influence (this problem occurs all the time in infringement litigation.).

So I have to disagree with Bill's reasoning and side with Dick Lochte's analytic model for establishing influences.

Even if a biographer or historian mentioned he knew Kurosawa was influenced by Hammett's Red Harvest in Yojimbo (and I seem to recall reading that somewhere) it is another matter to provide documentary evidence. For instance, Chandler wrote that he practiced writing an Erle Stanley Gardner Black Mask story from memory as a warm up lesson on how to write for Black Mask. I could look up the reference and the name of the story he used. I think it is in Dr. Frank MacShane's authorized biography of Chandler.


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