The movie was made in Spain in 1971 and released in the United States a year later. With the apparent goal of attracting an international audience, the four stars were from different countries: Charles Bronson (U.S); Alain Delon (France); Ursula Andress (Switzerland); and Toshiro Mifune (Japan). Bronson had become a popular European performer by the early 1970s and had starred in several previous Westerns. Delon was known for his roles as a handsome man who often gets in trouble with the ladies. One of his most famous movies is 1960’s Plein Soleil (aka Purple Noon), which was remade as The Talented Mr. Ripley in 1999 with Matt Damon. Ursula Andress played the first Bond girl in Dr. No. Toshiro Mifune was Japan’s most well-known star, mostly due to his roles in Akira Kurosawa films like The Seven Samurai (which was remade in the U.S. as The Magnificent Seven with Bronson). Many critics consider the Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson movie, Shanghai Noon ( 2000), a spoof of Red Sun.
Director Terence Young had already scored huge hits with several James Bond movies such as: Dr. No (1962) with Ursula Andress; From Russia with Love (1963); and Thunderball (1965). He also directed The Valachi Papers in 1972 with Charles Bronson in the lead role again.
Set in the mid-19th century, Red Sun opens with a Japanese ambassador traveling by train from the Western U.S. to Washington, DC. His mission is to deliver an ancient samurai sword as a gift to the President of the U.S. The ambassador is accompanied by two samurai body guards, one of which is Toshiro Mifune who plays Kuroda. Gauche (Alain Delon), a bandit leader, and his partner Link (Bronson) rob the train. They have no idea where this train is going or who is traveling on it. After the robbery, Gauche turns on Link and tries to kill him. Then, he takes all the money and the samurai sword and kills Kuroda’s samurai friend. The Japanese ambassador tells Kuroda to find the samurai sword in seven days and return it in the same place when the train returns. If Kuroda does not retrieve the sword and kill Gauche for taking it, he will have to commit suicide because of his failure.
Link knows that Gauche is traveling to a whorehouse to see his girlfriend Cristina, a beautiful prostitute played by Ursula Andress. Link forces Cristina to take him to Gauche’s hideout. Andress’s performance as the prostitute, who Gauche loves and spoils, is priceless. She is not only whiny, but has a very nasty temper. Cristina agrees to take Link and Kuroda to Gauche, but she escapes and goes to find Gauche herself. Unfortunately, she is quickly surrounded by Indians who want to torture her to death. What Link and Kuroda do for Cristina shows their respect and compassion for her. Link reveals that he may be a bandit, but is also a man with goodness in him.
The climax of Red Sun is not only exciting, but creatively filmed. It is one of my favorite scenes in a Western movie. The ending is a nice surprise, too. Despite its emphasis on action, Red Sun is a well-done story about the friendship between East versus West.
The film also features a memorable score by veteran film composer Maurice Jarre. He wrote quite a few impressive musical scores for film and television, winning Oscars for the following: Lawrence of Arabia (1962); Doctor Zhivago (1965); and A Passage to India (1984). My favorite of his scores is Red Sun and the title theme is on my iPod.
Charles Bronson was a man who loved horses. The horse he rides in this movie is his own. Notice the beautiful Spanish Andalusian horse that Andress rides too.
Red Sun is a hard movie to find on video and has not been released on DVD. Unfortunately, I do not own it on video, but I saw it recently on AMC. If you like Spaghetti Westerns and are a Charles Bronson fan, this is a must-see movie.