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Some Westerns Come With a Side of Wasabi

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The Western might seem as native as apple pie, but in the 1960s gunslinging American filmmakers began to take their cues from Japan. Their biggest influence was the legendary director Akira Kurosawa. The John Sturges epic Magnificent Seven transformed Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai into a Western classic that wisely retained the original’s bittersweet ending. In A Fistful of Dollars , Sergio Leone swiped the plot of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo — and set Clint Eastwood on course to become nearly as big a star as his samurai counterpart, Toshiro Mifune. Kurosawa’s most famous film, Rashômon , provided the template for The Outrage , an existential border drama that cast Paul Newman as a Mexican bandito.

To be fair, such borrowings cut both ways: Kurosawa was himself deeply influenced by the aesthetic of the Western. Eschewing the deliberate pacing of traditionalists like Ozu, his films — on par with Hollywood product — had tight, suspenseful plots and thrilling action sequences.

The cross-cultural exchange continues. In 2007’s Sukiyaki Western Django , Japanese workhorse Takashi Miike adapted A Fistful of Dollars. It’s an East-West fusion that features, as the cherry on top, a Japanese-accented Quentin Tarantino.

(Oh, and did I mention Star Wars ? Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress helped inspire the epic. Billions of dollars in ticket sales later, Lucas repaid the debt by helping finance, in 1990, Kurosawa’s stunning Dreams , which included Martin Scorsese as Vincent van Gogh.)

Take a look at the adaptation that enabled the rest: The Magnificent Seven.

Click her for a complete schedule of The Magnificent Seven on AMC.

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