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The Challenge
1983, c., 106 min.: A Great River Films Production for CBS Films.

(Review from A Tribute to Toshiro Mifune: 40 Films Starring Japan's Greatest Actor)

Director: John Frankenheimer. Screenplay: Richard Maxwell and John Sayles. Photography: Kozo Okazaki. Music: Jerry Goldsmith. Co-stars: Scott Glenn, Atsuo Nakamura, Donna Kei Benz, Clyde Kusatsu, Sab Shimono.

Bearded and silver-haired, Mifune plays the head of a martial arts school in Kyoto whose family had possessed a pair of priceless heirloom swords, The Equals, which were to have been kept together always. But his younger brother (Atsuo Nakamura) has treacherously taken one of the swords and the other has disappeared in America. When the lost sword turns up, there is a vicious battle to retrieve it and place it with its equal.

Scott Glenn co-stars as a down-and-out Americna Boxer in need of some quick cash who becomes caught up in all these murderous machinations and learned a thing or two about Japan along the way. He most especially learns from Mifune, who is portrayed not only as an instructor of tangible skills but as a man of wisdom and principle who teaches a way of right thinking. The young American becomes his passionate and loyal follower.

This marks another example of Mifune being cast in the role of teacher, an increasingly frequent occurrence since Red Beard. This has been true of the small character parts he has played in numerous recent Japanese films (as wise business leader, or savvy yakuza godfather), as well as his work here. It says a great deal about the regard in which he is held as an actor.

Mifune Productions coordinated this film's location shooting in Kyoto and also oversaw other aspects of the production.

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