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Article: 4
Date: 8/12/04
Last Update: 9/23/10

        Living proof that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, comes a collection of films, done outside of Japan, which were heavily influenced by Toho produced, and distributed, movies. As expected, Akira Kurosawa's movies are easily the most influential films to have come out of Toho, or Japan for that matter, and their impact is reflected below. However, in more recent years, there has been a outreach to pay homage to other films to have gone through Toho by different directors. As a general note, GODZILLA (1998) is not listed in this section, as that particular film is featured on the site.

Magnificent Seven (1960)

John Sturges' western picture about seven gunfighters who are hired to protect a Mexican village from their bandit oppressors. The film is the first, of many, to take their own swing at Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (1954) moving the story to a western setting, which would become a very popular trend in adapting Kurosawa's work. The film does credit its source material, though, listing: "This picture is based on the Japanese film Seven Samurai, Toho Company, Ltd." Magnificent Seven starred Yul Brynner in Takashi Shimura's role, and has Horst Buchholz playing a hybrid of Toshiro Mifune's role and Isao Kimura's role. The film was followed up in 1966 with Return of the Magnificent Seven.

A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

Sergio Leone's first entry in his "Dollars Trilogy" comes this Italian remake of Kurosawa's Yojimbo (1961) starring Clint Eastwood in Mifune's role. The film is set in the old west with the "Man With No Name", the story's mercenary protagonist, going up against two rival gangs, who he pits against each other. The film keeps the slightly humorist approach to the story, that was a trademark of Yojimbo. At the time, though, the film really redefined the western genre as it removed some clichés, such as Indians as the antagonists, and was more violent than movies of the same genre before it. The film was followed up in 1965 with For a Few Dollars More.

Star Wars (1977)

Without question, the most famous film which was inspired from a Toho movie. George Lucas' Star Wars follows the basic principles of The Hidden Fortress (1958). The movie is told from the perspective of two droids, R2-D2 and C-3PO who are obviously playing out the roles of the two thieves in The Hidden Fortress, with the first twenty minutes of Star Wars being remarkably similar to the same scenes in Kurosawa's 1958 film. Star Wars shares numerous similar plot points with its inspiration as well, including Obi-Wan (playing Mifune's role, more or less) attempting to escort the princess to safety. Star Wars is a rather large deviation from the source material, though, with numerous twists and characters added in. The film was followed up in 1980 with The Empire Strikes Back.

The Warrior and the Sorceress (1984)

Produced in the 1980's, this production attempts to adapt the story of Yojimbo (1961) in a sword and sorcery setting with science fiction overtones. Although drastically more outlandish than its inspiration, the remake, although never fairly credited as such (though star David Carradine freely admits it), lifts numerous segments wholesale from the original besides the fact that the plots are identical.

Last Man Standing (1996)

This mid 1990's offering by Walter Hill is a different take on Kurosawa's masterpiece Yojimbo (1961). This Bruce Willis vehicle moves the story to a western setting with a mercenary getting caught between the conflict of local Italian and Irish gangs. This film is a little more faithful to the source, Dashiell Hammett's The Red Harvest, than Kurosawa was, but still borrows more from Yojimbo than anything else. The film has Bruce Willis in Mifune's role and Christopher Walken in Tatsuya Nakadai's role.

A Bug's Life (1998)

The Disney/Pixar production which is a gross reenvisioning of Seven Samurai (1954). The movie places ants in the role of the peasants, with a group of grasshoppers as the film's bandit antagonists. This time around, a group of eight circus performers are hired to get rid of the colony of bandits. The film has a ultimately different climax, compared with the source material, with none of the cast dying. Furthermore, the film's characters are rather large deviations from the characters in Seven Samurai (1954).

The Ring (2002)

Gore Verbinski's remake of the 1998 film The Ring. Like its Japanese counterpart, The Ring focuses on a cursed tape which will kill those who watch it seven days later. The film is, more or less, a direct remake with several scenes added in to explain the origin of the film's antagonist, Samara (instead of Sadako) in this version, adding a lot of back story that wasn't in the 1998 offering. The film was followed up in 2005 by The Ring Two, which is directed by Hideo Nakata, the director behind the original 1998 film.

Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)

Quentin Tarantino's largely different take on the 1973 film Lady Snowblood, which was released in a two volume series. It would be unfair to credit Lady Snowblood full heartily for Kill Bill, as the series is really a homage to so many different sources; however, it would not be unfair to credit Lady Snowblood as the prime inspiration. To put it bluntly, Kill Bill merges the role of Yuki Shurayuki and her mother into one, and adds one member to the roster of murderers. Kill Bill still keeps the chapter story approach, along with several shots (such as when the murders are peering down at the defeated Mother/Bride) and keeps the main title theme of Lady Snowblood (Flower of Carnage by Masaaki Hirao). The film was followed up in 2004 with Kill Bill: Volume 2.

Shall We Dance? (2004)

A remake of the 1996 movie of the same name, Shall We Dance?. Produced by Miramax, the same company which had released the original Japanese production in the United States in 1997, the film took the overall story and made it a vehicle for stars Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez and Susan Sarandon. Although with a similar plot, the new movie focuses more on the supporting cast than the original did.

Dark Water (2005)

Staring Jennifer Connelly, the film is a reimagining of the original 2002 production Dark Water. The movie is one of the more faithful remakes of a Japanese production committed to a Toho film, although still adds and removes sequences that in turn separates it from the original. Unlike other horror remakes, the movie keeps the grim ending of the original source with only minor changes.

Pulse (2006)

Following the wave of Japanese horror remakes, this production adapts Pulse (2001) for the US market. Although with a similar plot, the movie is 30 minutes shorter than the original and takes a vastly different approach to the material wherein trying to elaborate on the strange occurrences rather than falling back on a sense of mystery that the 2001 feature did. The film was followed up in 2008 by Pulse 2: Afterlife.

One Missed Call (2008)

A remake of the 2003 film One Missed Call, which is faithful to the overall plot but adds new sequences and a totally different ending. This particular "influence" is an interesting scenario as the original 2003 movie was actually made with hopes that it would be remade in the United States, as there was a "remake me" fervor in the Japanese horror genre after The Ring's success. In the end, it took five years and the original production studio Kadokawa working with Warner Bros themselves to get the remake they wanted.