Sunday, December 21, 2014

Drifting Avenger

After Tony Anthony’s “Silent Stranger” wrapped shooting Toei productions made a Japanese called “The Drifting Avenger”.
Koya no toseinin (Drifter in the Wilderness)
荒野の渡世人(Frontier Drifter)
Matantza, o skliros timorous - Greek title
Matanza – The Cruel Punisher - Greek translated title
σφαγή - ο σκληρος τιμωρος'
Matanza, il volto della morte – Italian title
Matanza Massacre thhe Face of Death' - Italian translated title
Drifting Avenger (English)
A 1968 Japanese production [Toei Company (Tokyo)]
Producer: Hiroshi Okawa
Director: Junya Satô
Story: Yoshihiro Ishimatsu
Screenplay: Yoshihiro Ishimatsu
Cinematography: Ichirô Hoshijima, [Eastmancolor, Cinemascope]
Music: Masao Yagi
Running time: 107 minutes
Goichi Oda - Ken Takakura 
Carson - John Sherwood (Pat Twohill)
Marvin - Ken Goodlet (Ken Kato)
Rosa – Judith Roberts (Judith Gorman)
Mike - Kevin Cooney
Franco - Ronald Norman Lea
Billy - Clive Saxon
Doctor – Reginald Collins
Sheriff – Ray Lamont
Laker – Mike Dunning
Rogers – Stan Rogers (Stanley Rogers)
Duncan – John Yusef
Jack – Tony Alla (Anthony Allen)
Ricky – Chuck Kehoe
Otto - Reg Gorman
Wayne – Carlo Manchii
Manager – Hans Horner
Wess – Graham Keating
Cowboys – Peter Armstrong, Larry Miller,
With: Jean Brian, Joseph Martin, Norbert Taschl

Ken Kato has a Japanese samurai master for a father. His father migrated to California in the mid-1800s in search of gold, and there he married an English-speaking woman. When five bandits steal gold and kill his parents, Ken swears revenge. The head of the gang, Carson puts a bounty of a thousand dollars on Ken's head.
Ken learns gunfighting skills from an old gunfighter, Marvin, then rides the west for three years, managing to kill all the outlaws. While Ken is handy with his pistols, he also deploys a samurai sword in honor in his father's memory. As he battles the bandits, Ken meets up with a kindly woman, Rosa, and her son Mike. Mike blames Ken for the death of his father. “She knew he was a bad man”, Rosa tells Ken, but why, she asks him, “did he have to kill him like an animal?”
Ken can't quite come up with a decent explanation or apology, but all the same, as things get rough for Ken, Rosa tends the wounded man back to health. Eventually, however, she tells Ken he must leave the ranch because Mike hates him more than ever - the boy even aims a rifle at Ken.
But then the gang causes a stampede of Rosa's cattle, and Mike is caught in front of the herd of rampaging cows. Bravely Ken hurls his body on top of the boy to save him from the thundering hooves. It takes all the skill of the town doctor to save the boy, and then, knowing what Ken did, the boy's fever of hate seems to pass along with the physical crisis.
Meanwhile, Carson and the gang turn up for a final showdown, and the bodies fly. The job finished Ken leaves behind woman and boy. “Ken, don't leave us, come back”, shouts Mike after the departing figure, and Rosa joins in his pleas, but a samurai cowboy's got to do what a samurai's got to do, and Ken rides out from the ranch.
A gesture suggests he might have left something behind, and Rosa races up to discover Ken's dropped his gun and his holster to the ground.
She caresses the gun, and wonders what might have been, as woman and boy gaze after the lonely warrior, who becomes a dot amidst the golden, sunlight dappled gums of the north west slopes and plains ... and the music swells, as the credits appear over a blood-red sun waiting to disappear below the horizon.
Comment: [Filmed at the Goonoo Goonoo Station, Peel River, Tamworth, New South Wales, Australia]. Although filmed in Australia, the film was never released theatrically there.
Mike Ferguson

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