Yojimbo, directed by famous Japanese director Kurasawa, takes elements of various film styles and weaves them together in a narrative that is both traditional yet distinctly influenced by American Westerns. This movie also inspired the American film A Fistful of Dollars, which starred Clint Eastwood and followed the original plot closely.
It is obvious when watching Yojimbo that there is much influence from the American Western genre of film. A mysterious stranger arrives in a lawless town, only to become entangled in their affairs. He seems to have a chip on his shoulder and has no qualms about killing anyone who gets in his way. The lighting is used to flatten the landscape, creating a feeling of desolation. Also, while the costumes, names, and language were completely Japanese, the dialogue was translated into the English generally used by those in the Texas/Mexico territory around the “Western era.” This was evidenced by the presence of casual words like “ain’t” and “guy.”
While Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars shared an almost identical storyline and screenplay (save for the costumes, setting, and implicit culture differences) there was one aspect that struck me when comparing the two films. The main character in Yojimbo, while not a bad guy, was not a good guy by any means. He didn’t even really fit into the mold of the reluctant anti-hero. He seemed all to eager to practically tear down an entire village, and had no real reason for staying and wreaking the havoc that he did. He was honestly the lesser of three evils. Even in his grand moment of heroism (saving the man’s wife) he seems not to do it out of compassion, but merely out of convenience. He doesn’t end up liberating the village, just practically demolishing it.
This seems to be less of the case in A Fistful of Dollars. This may be due to the American expectation of a redeemable main character that one can ultimately root for and tie to the greater good. The way the main character is presented, you feel more like he is intentionally doing good as opposed to doing it out of his own search for a good fight. As stated earlier, this may be due to the fact that the American audience responds well to heroes and selflessness.
One major character similarity, though, was the apparent disregard and unimportance of money to both main characters, which I believe speaks more deeply about both characters than much of their actions.