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The Yakuza
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The Yakuza (1974) More at IMDbPro »

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The Yakuza -- Academy Award-winning director Sidney Pollack ("The Firm," "Absence of Malice") with a suspenseful adventure about a Harry Kilmer (Oscar-nominee Robert Mitchum, "Cape Fear"), an American man determined to rescue his employer's kidnapped daughter


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Up 25% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Paul Schrader (screenplay) and
Robert Towne (screenplay) ...
View company contact information for The Yakuza on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
March 1975 (USA) See more »
A man never forgets. A man pays his debts. See more »
Harry Kilmer returns to Japan after several years in order to rescue his friend George's kidnapped daughter... See more » | Full synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
(28 articles)
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User Reviews:
One of the great films of the 70s See more (43 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Robert Mitchum ... Harry Kilmer

Ken Takakura ... Tanaka Ken (as Takakura Ken)

Brian Keith ... George Tanner

Herb Edelman ... Wheat

Richard Jordan ... Dusty
Keiko Kishi ... Eiko (as Kishi Keiko)

Eiji Okada ... Tono (as Okada Eiji)

James Shigeta ... Goro
Kyôsuke Machida ... Kato
Christina Kokubo ... Hanako
Eiji Gô ... Spider (as Go Eiji)
Lee Chirillo ... Louise
M. Hisaka ... Boyfriend
William Ross ... Tanner's Guard
Akiyama ... Tono's Guard
Harada ... Goro's Doorman

Directed by
Sydney Pollack 
Writing credits
Paul Schrader (screenplay) and
Robert Towne (screenplay)

Leonard Schrader (story)

Produced by
Michael Hamilburg .... co-producer
Sydney Pollack .... producer
Kôji Shundô .... executive producer
Original Music by
Dave Grusin 
Cinematography by
Kôzô Okazaki (director of photography) (as Okazaki Kozo)
Film Editing by
Don Guidice 
Thomas Stanford 
Production Design by
Stephen B. Grimes  (as Stephen Grimes)
Art Direction by
Yoshiyuki Ishida  (as Ishida Yoshiyuki)
Costume Design by
Dorothy Jeakins 
Makeup Department
Gary Morris .... makeup artist
Production Management
John R. Coonan .... production manager (as John Coonan)
Isao Nagaoka .... unit production manager (as Nagaoka Isao)
William Ross .... assistant production manager
Yoshio Yamamoto .... unit production manager (as Yamamoto Yoshio)
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Mike Abe .... assistant director
Stephen B. Grimes .... second unit director (as Stephen Grimes)
Michael D. Moore .... assistant director (as Michael Moore)
Art Department
Toshio Miyagawa .... props (as Miyagawa Toshio)
Seiji Moori .... tattoo artist (as Mohri Seiji)
Sound Department
Basil Fenton-Smith .... sound mixer (as Basil Fenton Smith)
Arthur Piantadosi .... re recording mixer
Ed Scheid .... sound effects (as Edwin Scheid)
Special Effects by
Tomoo Kasai .... special effects (as Kasai Tomoo)
Richard Parker .... special effects
Bill Saito .... stunts (uncredited)
Camera and Electrical Department
Bobby Byrne .... camera operator (as Robert Byrne)
Duke Callaghan .... director of photography: American sequences
Yoshiaki Masuda .... gaffer (as Masuda Yoshiaki)
Tamio Matsuo .... assistant cameraman (as Matsuo Tamio)
Haruhisa Murase .... grip (as Murase Haruhisa)
Cliff Ralke .... assistant cameraman (as Clifton Ralke)
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Mamoru Mori .... wardrobe (as Mori Mamoru)
Editorial Department
Carol Ann Jackson .... assistant editor
Ralph Sandler .... assistant editor
Fredric Steinkamp .... supervising film editor
Music Department
Ted Whitfield .... music editor
Richard H. Anderson .... musician: woodwinds (uncredited)
Richard H. Anderson .... orchestra contractor (uncredited)
Gene Cipriano .... musician: woodwinds (uncredited)
Ralph Grierson .... musician: piano/keyboards (uncredited)
Dave Grusin .... conductor (uncredited)
Dave Grusin .... orchestrator (uncredited)
Artie Kane .... musician: piano/organ/keyboards (uncredited)
Michael J. McDonald .... score remixer (uncredited)
Jerome Richardson .... musician: woodwinds (uncredited)
Lee Ritenour .... guitars (uncredited)
Bud Shank .... alto sax/flute (uncredited)
Dan Wallin .... music engineer (uncredited)
Dan Wallin .... music mixer (uncredited)
Kurt E. Wolff .... musician: percussion (uncredited)
Kurt E. Wolff .... orchestra contractor (uncredited)
Other crew
Kuroki Masami .... production personnel
Phill Norman .... titles designer
Michie Ross .... production secretary
Masao Satô .... assistant to executive producer (as Sato Masao)
Gaylin P. Schultz .... production coordinator (as Gaylin Schultz)
Takeshi Sugimoto .... production personnel (as Sugimoto Takeshi)
Keiko Tsushima .... script girl (as Tsushima Keiko)
Hope Williams .... script supervisor
Seiji Yada .... production personnel (as Yada Seiji)
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies
  • Toei Company  special thanks to: for their cooperation in the production of this film (as Toei Motion Picture Company Ltd.)

Additional Details

Also Known As:
Japan:123 min | UK:107 min | USA:112 min
Color (Technicolor)
Aspect Ratio:
2.35 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Brazil:14 | Canada:14A (video rating) | Finland:K-16 (cut) | France:-12 | Norway:15 | Norway:16 (cut) | Singapore:PG | Sweden:15 | UK:AA (original rating) | UK:15 (tv rating) | UK:15 (video rating) (1994) (2007) | USA:R
Filming Locations:

Did You Know?

Lee Marvin was scheduled to star with Robert Aldrich as director. When Robert Mitchum replaced Marvin, he forced out Aldrich. Replacement director Sydney Pollack briefly considered Robert Redford for the lead role.See more »
Boom mic visible: The boom mic is clearly visible in one scene when Oliver Wheat grabs his cat while telling the story of Eiko to Dusty, the mic appears behind the table and is retracted as Wheat advances.See more »
Harry Kilmer:Everywhere I look, I can't recognize a thing.
Oliver Wheat:It's still there. Farmers in the countryside may watch TV from their tatami mats and you can't see Fuji through the smog, but don't let it fool you. It's still Japan and the Japanese are still Japanese.
See more »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in Making 'Taxi Driver' (1999) (V)See more »
Only the WindSee more »


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21 out of 27 people found the following review useful.
One of the great films of the 70s, 28 November 2006
Author: TrevorAclea from London, England

The Yakuza is one of the great films of the seventies. Although this didn't make much noise in the seventies (despite a truly surreal promotional gimmick, 'Join the Yakuza Set' tattoo transfers!), it has held up a lot better than he plethora of seventies thrillers that swamped it at the time.

Belonging to that subgenre of Americans-in-Japan thrillers (Fuller's House of Bamboo, Scott's Black Rain, Frankenheimer's The Challenge), The Yakuza is a film about the price of honor and about people who face their responsibilities. The film could almost be called 'giri' - Japanese for obligation or the burden hardest to bear. Richard Jordan's bodyguard may start out wiseguy ("That can work both ways. If you ain't alive tomorrow, he don't owe you s***.") but even he lives up to his moral obligations when discharged from them by Mitchum. All of the plot developments are a result of obligations, with the characters following through as per their personal codes of honor, taken to the ultimate extreme in Mitchum's final apology to Takakura Ken for destroying both his past and his future.

The hook might be that Mitchum returns to Japan to help secure the release of an old army friend's daughter from a Yakuza clan and in the process reopening old wounds with former lover Kishi Keiko and her brother Takakura Ken, but the emotional undercurrents are as important as the plot developments, with the film's criminal double-dealing mirrored in the myriad personal betrayals he is as he is forced to face the fact that he has always confused his friends with his enemies.

It is not a film that wears its emotions on its sleeve, and is all the more affecting for that the awkwardness of Mitchum's meeting with Ken and the hesitancy of his reunion with Keiko (and the subtle re-enactment of the old photos in her album) - everything is in the pauses and between the lines. It's these emotional undercurrents that make it stand up to repeated viewings.

The early seventies was a last golden age for the eternally under-rated Mitchum, with outstanding performances in The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Farewell My Lovely and Ryan's Daughter, and this is one of his best. His 'strange stranger' and Takakura Ken's 'man who never smiles' ("He's been unhappy ever since he lost the war. I keep trying to tell him it's not his fault but he won't take my word for it") is a match made in casting heaven. Their screen presence is remarkably similar, exuding a lifetime of world-weariness and personal loss that attracts both empathy and respect for their characters. Both give superbly understated performances, with the great Takakura Ken getting his best English-language role to date.

Jordan gives a nicely unassuming performance in the juvenile lead, making the most of his romantic subplot by showing the least, and there's an added poignancy to his fate since the actor's death. Indeed, all the performances are superb, with the emphasis on being rather than acting.

The screenplay as filmed is a terrific mixture of the commercial and the cerebral. Where most modern American thrillers are driven by indiscriminate violence ("In America, a guy cracks up he opens a window and kills a few strangers. Here, a guy cracks up, he closes the window and kills himself," observes Jordan), here events and participants are interconnected. All of the main characters are friends or surrogate family, and although Robert Towne was brought in to up the gangster element from the Shraders' more philosophical approach (the differences can be found in Leonard Schrader's novelization), he knows enough to keep it personal. It's witty too, without being condescending or resorting to the pre-kill one-liners so prevalent today that divorce the audience from the consequences and ramifications of violence.

Sydney Pollack's sensitivity to the material is remarkable. There's an unshowy adventurousness to his direction that he hasn't displayed since. In particular, the action scenes are extraordinary without ever straying from the credible, and a complete departure in style for the director.

(A version of this review appeared in Movie Collector magazine)

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