In 1978, on the brink of Galatea’s production years, Breckenridge acquired the rights to two films, a 1967 Spaghetti Western called “The Grand Mississippi Gunfight” and a 1974 Samurai film called “Way of Blood”. While Ragsdale was re-cutting the films, he mixed up the reels, not realizing that they where not the same film. What results is the film as released by Galatea in America called “Samurai Junction”.
Redubbed into English from its original Italian/Japanese (Ragsdale couldn’t tell the difference), the film takes place in the American south in 1883, where Samurais have moved in to try to overtake the little town of Gordonville, Mississippi. It’s the basic story of rival factions, leading up to a climax containing a bizarre mishmash of a large gun/sword fight that didn’t make much sense as the Samurai soldiers and townsfolk/cowboys never appear in the same frames together. The film was shown in Ragsdale’s theater for two weeks before Breckenridge was finally able to see it. Realizing what happened, he was far from mad, and in fact liked the amalgamated film. But he suggested that they reshoot a majority of the ending so that the two plots mesh together a little better.
This, as much as anything, was a defining moment that pushed them into full film production, as the reshoot was not a small undertaking, considering the huge battle scenes contained in the original films. The reshoot ended up costing about $16,000, which the theater broke even on; it was a pretty popular showing.
As for the film itself, it’s very entertaining, whether you know the backstory or not. I went in blind, and of course saw the produced ending, rather than the nonsensical original, which to this day is lost to time. The film follows two protagonists, Sheriff Buck Thorn on the Prairie side, and Hotaka Honda from the Samurai side. Most of the film is basically a battle of strategy and wits between the two until the end, which is a giant bloodbath (Derived mostly from the original western film, which had many battle scenes. The original Samurai film had one battle sequence, but was on the whole more a philosophical piece). Ragsdale’s dub provides many profanities and colorful dialogue, almost to the point of parody. My only real complaint for the film is, at least in the Galatea reshoot scenes, they Racebend the Samurai characters, using white guys to double the original Japanese actors. Granted, the reshoots are mostly wide shots, considering the actors looked nothing like the originals, but STILL.
If you can find a copy, I highly recommend giving this a watch, it’s probably my favorite Western genre mash-up outside of Firefly.