Journal of Romance studies

Variations on a theme: Yojimbo, A Fistful of Dollars and the ‘servant of two masters’

Journal of Romance studies (2004), 4, (1), 79–90.

Abstract

Sergio Leone’s ‘spaghetti’ western A Fistful of Dollars (1964) is known to be in many respects a derivation from Akira Kurosawa’s swordfighting film Yojimbo (1961), which in turns borrows from Dashiell Hammett’s novel Red Harvest. But the two films have never to our knowledge been subjected to detailed comparison in relation to each other or to shared common origins. In this article we look at the known facts about Leone’s ‘borrowing’ from Kurosawa and then compare the two films in respect of narrative similarity, character, genre attachment and ethical-cultural factors. We conclude that a very close narrative similarity goes hand-in-hand with substantial differences at other levels, and raise the more general question of the adaptability of a central narrative core to a wide variety of possible workings-out.

Access Token
£25.00
READ THIS ARTICLE
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Desser, David (1992) ‘Toward a structural analysis of the postwar Samurai film’, in Reframing Japanese Cinema: Authorship, Genre, History, ed. Arthur Nolletti Jr and David Desser (Bloomington: Indiana University Press), 145–64. Toward a structural analysis of the postwar Samurai film Reframing Japanese Cinema: Authorship, Genre, History 145 64 Google Scholar

Frayling, Christopher (2000a) Spaghetti Westerns: Cowboys and Europeans from Karl May to Sergio Leone (London: I. B. Tauris; rev. edn). Spaghetti Westerns: Cowboys and Europeans from Karl May to Sergio Leone Google Scholar

Frayling, Christopher (2000b) Sergio Leone: Something to Do with Death (London: Faber and Faber). Sergio Leone: Something to Do with Death Google Scholar

Goldoni, Carlo (1969) [1745] The Servant of Two Masters, trans. Edward J. Dent (London: Cambridge University Press). The Servant of Two Masters Google Scholar

Hammett, Dashiell (1982a) The Glass Key, in Dashiell Hammett, The Four Great Novels (London: Picador). The Glass Key Google Scholar

Hammett, Dashiell (1982b) Red Harvest, in Dashiell Hammett, The Four Great Novels (London: Picador). Red Harvest Google Scholar

Levi, Carlo (1945) Cristo si è fermato a Eboli (Turin: Einaudi, 1945). Cristo si è fermato a Eboli Google Scholar

McDonald, Keiko (1980) ‘Swordsmanship and gamesmanship: Kurosawa’s historical milieu in Yojimbo’, in Literature/Film Quarterly 8.3, 188–96. Swordsmanship and gamesmanship: Kurosawa’s historical milieu in Yojimbo Literature/Film Quarterly 8.3 188 96 Google Scholar

Richie, Donald (1996) [1965] The Films of Akira Kurosawa (Berkeley: University of California Press). The Films of Akira Kurosawa Google Scholar

Desser, David (1992) ‘Toward a structural analysis of the postwar Samurai film’, in Reframing Japanese Cinema: Authorship, Genre, History, ed. Arthur Nolletti Jr and David Desser (Bloomington: Indiana University Press), 145–64. Toward a structural analysis of the postwar Samurai film Reframing Japanese Cinema: Authorship, Genre, History 145 64 Google Scholar

Frayling, Christopher (2000a) Spaghetti Westerns: Cowboys and Europeans from Karl May to Sergio Leone (London: I. B. Tauris; rev. edn). Spaghetti Westerns: Cowboys and Europeans from Karl May to Sergio Leone Google Scholar

Frayling, Christopher (2000b) Sergio Leone: Something to Do with Death (London: Faber and Faber). Sergio Leone: Something to Do with Death Google Scholar

Goldoni, Carlo (1969) [1745] The Servant of Two Masters, trans. Edward J. Dent (London: Cambridge University Press). The Servant of Two Masters Google Scholar

Hammett, Dashiell (1982a) The Glass Key, in Dashiell Hammett, The Four Great Novels (London: Picador). The Glass Key Google Scholar

Hammett, Dashiell (1982b) Red Harvest, in Dashiell Hammett, The Four Great Novels (London: Picador). Red Harvest Google Scholar

Levi, Carlo (1945) Cristo si è fermato a Eboli (Turin: Einaudi, 1945). Cristo si è fermato a Eboli Google Scholar

McDonald, Keiko (1980) ‘Swordsmanship and gamesmanship: Kurosawa’s historical milieu in Yojimbo’, in Literature/Film Quarterly 8.3, 188–96. Swordsmanship and gamesmanship: Kurosawa’s historical milieu in Yojimbo Literature/Film Quarterly 8.3 188 96 Google Scholar

Richie, Donald (1996) [1965] The Films of Akira Kurosawa (Berkeley: University of California Press). The Films of Akira Kurosawa Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey

Sullivan, Joseph