March 3, 2010


Masaru Sato (1928-1999) was an aspiring soundtrack composer who found his great inspiration in Akira Kurosawa's 1950 masterpiece, Rashomon. Sato went on to assist in Kurosawa's 1954 classic, Seven Samurai, and enjoyed a ten-year collaboration with the director on a number of films, including High and Low and Red Beard. But it was his unusual use of Jazz themes, percussion and strings, and harpsichord/keyboard sounds in Kurosawa's Yojimbo (1961) that brings the composer's work to Spy Vibe- and where Yojimbo meets Danger Man.

There was a quite a creative wave hitting the world in the early-mid 1960s. As Sato was scoring Yojimbo in Japan in 1961, Edwin Astley (1922-1998) was already into his first year composing music for Patrick McGoohan's run as John Drake in TV's Danger Man. Listen to sample tracks from each composer below. The similarities are most acute when hearing Astley's keyboard cues, but even his Danger Man theme illustrates notes of comparison. Sato and Astley were working in different countries, but they found a kindred sound to ignite their dramas. Though one might categorize Yojimbo as a period piece and Danger Man as Espionage/Adventure, I would say that the approach that these works share help to define what we might now term Cold War-era spy music. From Yojimbo and Danger Man, one can hear echoes of future scores from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and other 60s spy adventures. Two interesting pieces of trivia: Pete Townshend of The Who was married to Edwin Astley's daughter, bringing two Spy Vibe fave worlds together. Kurosawa's Yojimbo, of course, was re-made by Sergio Leone when he launched the Spaghetti Western boom in Italy with Clint Eastwood in Fistful of Dollars (1964).

Masaru Sato's Yojimbo soundtrack is available through Screen Archives Entertainment. Full sets and compilation CDs of Edwin Astley's scores are available through Network. review of the upcoming Blu-ray edition of Yojimbo from The Criterion Collection here and at DVDBeaver here.

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