Ok. I'm having trouble locating a copy of The Glass Key (1942) but that's not what I'm asking about. I just haven't seen it, so I can't get the information I seek myself.

Anyone familiar with Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo has most likely also seen Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars. Whether you watched them because they are the same story, or you found that out afterwards... or you just liked them independently, you would have noticed that although they are the same story, there are details that are different between them. Now, Walter Hill directed a Bruce Willis film called Last Man Standing, which is also the same story as those other two. There are specific nods to both previous versions. Nods such as...

Bruce stops and spins a bottle when he hits a fork in the road, to determine which way he is going to go. This is a variant on how Toshiro Mifune throws a stick in the air to decide which way he is going to go when he hits a fork in the road in the beginning of Yojimbo. Clint Eastwood faces no random chance/indecision and performs no action to choose the way he is going to go before he gets to the town where all the action happens. So, the Nod is in Last Man Standing, to Yojimbo.

Bruce faces thugs when he arrives who assault his car. Clint Eastwood faces thugs who harass his mule. In Yojimbo, Toshiro Mifune is on foot, so the Nod is from Last Man Standing, to Fist Full of Dollars.

After being captured, Clint is assisted in his escape by being hauled off in a coffin. In Yojimbo, Toshiro escapes the same way at the same point in the story. Bruce however, is taken away in a car. So this Nod is in Fist Full of Dollars, to Yojimbo.

I've never seen The Glass Key, but all three of these movies are based on it. One of the differences between it and all the others though, is that Alan Ladd who plays the character playing both sides against each other, is actually loyal to Brian Donlevy... while in the later three films, the protagonist is loyal to neither side. Akira Kurosawa supposedly introduced this change on purpose.

Here's my question. Are there specific nods in any of the three subsequent films to the original, The Glass Key? They could be small or large, but they would be details you could connect back to the original.

  • @wallyk Thank you for the tags... I couldn't add them
    – Bon Gart
    Commented Jul 25, 2013 at 13:51
  • Great question, and annoyingly I'm at the wrong computer to provide a decent answer. I wrote a couple of papers on these comparisons - when I get home next week I'll dig them out :)
    – Nobby
    Commented Jul 25, 2013 at 14:00
  • @Nobby you know... I totally forgot to mention Lucky Number Slevin as well...
    – Bon Gart
    Commented Jul 25, 2013 at 14:04
  • I think I wrote my stuff before Lucky Number Slevin - never really considered that film. Good point though.
    – Nobby
    Commented Jul 25, 2013 at 14:06
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    Well, in fact many of the motives can be found in other movies, like Django (the original, of course). In the end the whole situation and interelation of those movies isn't that easy or grounded completely in hard official facts either (e.g. some people say Yojimbo is based on Red Harvest, Last Man Standing seems to only credit Yojimbo and not Dollars as official inspiration, ...). But I'm waiting to see an actual answer on this (or the even better question about the movies' individual sources and remake-natures in the first place).
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Jul 25, 2013 at 14:20

2 Answers 2


I finally got a copy of The Glass Key and watched it. It is a good movie, and more to the point a good murder mystery.

The information I had read online (including apparently information from Kurosawa himself) at multiple different sources put The Glass Key at the beginning of chain of movies I listed in the question. I can see where Kurosawa would have seen inspiration in this movie, but honestly it doesn't appear that Yojimbo is an adaptation of The Glass Key.

For one, the central plot in Yojimbo, and subsequently A Fistful of Dollars and Last Man Standing, turns out to only be a minor plot device in The Glass Key. That being the concept of one man in the middle, playing both sides against each other. Although there is a build up to a scene like this in The Glass Key, it is just that... one scene. It also doesn't work out the same, both in the work up to it, and the way it plays out. The Main character starts off the movie loyal to the Boss of one side (in the two sides in this movie). He makes a partially public break from his Boss, gets the head of the other side to offer a large pay off and start to give him information... but the plot similarity seems to end there. He doesn't take the money, and... well... read on.

Now... the scene immediately following takes place in a warehouse apparently. There appears to be the makings of a still in the background of the room, and the main character is beaten badly by thugs in this room. He distracts his captors and escapes... and it seems that all three subsequent movies all use this scene in the movie, albeit loosely. However the specifics of the opening of this scene, and the contents of this scene appear to be a nod from Yojimbo to The Glass Key.

enter image description here

Here is the main character in The Glass Key, getting up after being beaten before the scene begins. We don't see the initial beating, we only get to watch some more of it in the scene itself. The still can be seen in the background. His captors, a large thug who does all the beating, and a small thug who seems to provide comments, are playing a game of cards while they "watch" the main character. Immediately after that screenshot, he crawls across the floor and attempts to get out of the door, but is picked up by the large thug, carried back to the bed, and beaten. The little thug warns the big one not to kill him, and the big one shrugs it off, talking about how tough the main character is. During the scene he is beaten more, but his captors get no further information out of him.

enter image description here

Here is the main character in Yojimbo, waking up after a beating, in a storeroom of a brewery. His captors, a big thug and a small one are playing a game to pass the time. Our main character crawls across the floor and attempts to get out. The big thug almost lifts him by his head, and actually throws him across the room away from the door. The little thug warns the big one not to kill him, while the big one shrugs it off pointing out that he is fine because he is "groaning". The scene cuts soon after.

The similarities of these two scenes down to the actors, their actions and the rest of the scene content, are so close in the way they play out that it can only have been done on purpose by Kurosawa as a tip of the hat or an homage to Stuart Heisler and The Glass Key

I'll have to watch The Glass Key a few more times to see if there are any more scenes like this one, but like I said, the main plot of the movie is very different from Yojimbo, A Fistful of Dollars, and Last Man Standing. With such a large difference, the contents of all the other scenes in the movie play out quite differently.

  • @nobby the scene I described stood out in how similar they were. I was hard pressed to see any other similar scenes the firdt time through... But I feel like there have to be more. In that one though... Even down to the damage to both character's faces...
    – Bon Gart
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 23:44

In the 1935 version of The Glass Key*, George Raft as tough guy Ed Beaumont has been kidnapped by Shad O'Rory's men, beaten severely, and is in a room with two heavies, one a giant, the other a shrimp. The two are playing cards when Beaumont comes to painful consciousness, and slowly rises from where he is lying, all the while taunted by the giant, who finally picks up Beaumont, beats him again, and throws him back to the rough bed.

This is absolutely the move-by-move scene** from Kurosawa's Yojimbo! - Kurosawa must have lifted it from The Glass Key. (Other plot elements – the competition between a gambling house gang and another gang more involved in business and corrupt politics – confirm this as the source.)

In the same scene in the 1942 version** of The Glass Key, Alan Ladd is severely beaten and thrown around by the heavy Jeff, this time played by William Bendix, who is not quite a giant in height, but heavy set, big jawed and rough featured – is clearly the inspiration for Tsunagorô Rashômon's character Kanuki in Yojimbo.

In both the 1934 and 1942 versions, the protagonist's escape from the squablling giant and midget gangster bodyguards is conducted mostly crawling, with cuts where he pulls himself upright and the camera focuses on his deformed face, bruised, swollen, and bloodied, and Yojimbo reprises these cuts very clearly.

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    The linked YouTube video doesn't work.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 16:51
  • Try * at about 40:00 in youtube (dot) com/watch?v=CY-rJLA57lk Commented Nov 3, 2022 at 17:48

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