The Challenge (1982 film)

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The Challenge
The Challenge1982.jpg
Directed by John Frankenheimer
Produced by Ron Beckman
Robert L. Rosen
Written by Richard Maxwell
Marc Norman
John Sayles
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Kozo Okazaki
Edited by Jack Wheeler
John W. Wheeler
Distributed by Embassy Pictures
Release date
  • July 23, 1982 (1982-07-23)
Running time
112 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $3.6 million[1]

The Challenge is a 1982 American action film directed by John Frankenheimer and co-written by John Sayles. The film stars Scott Glenn and Toshirō Mifune, and features several aikido-based action scenes choreographed by Steven Seagal, prior to the start of his own film career.


The sword (one of a pair known as "The Equals") was a family heirloom, passed down through the generations, and had been lost during World War II. It was finally tracked down in California where Yoshiida's son, Toshio, finds it. He looks for someone to hire to act as a decoy in order to safely smuggle it into Japan, and back to its rightful owner, Yoshida-san. Rick Murphy (Scott Glenn) is contracted to smuggle a rare sword into Japan, only to find upon his arrival that it is a fake. Aggravated that he has been used as a decoy, he is faced with the prospect of being killed by Yoshida-san's (Toshirō Mifune) brother, Hideo. Instead, he is advised to infiltrate Yoshida's martial arts school and obtain the sword. He does so, yet finds himself being drawn into the ways of Japanese etiquette and tradition to the point where he returns the sword to Yoshida himself after having the perfect opportunity to escape with it. Murphy then humbly asks Yoshida-san if he can be forgiven and taken back in because he wants to learn the ways of Bushido. Yoshida agrees, but only if Murphy follows Yoshida's conditions.

Murphy continues to bumble his way through life at Yoshida-san's school until, after a treacherous and almost fatal attempt by one of the higher members of the school to steal the sword, he leaves and is found in a hotel in Kyoto by Akiko, Yoshida's only daughter. Finding romance, they go out to see the sights and sounds of the city, including watching a Shinto ceremony. During the hub-bub of the crowded parade, Murphy and Akiko get separated and Hideo's henchmen kidnap her and deliver her to her uncle, Hideo. Yoshida-san, laden with ancient weaponry, ventures out to Hideo's industrial complex where he is shot and wounded by Ando (Calvin Jung), the lead henchman. Ando is slain by Hideo for this, and Murphy – who has joined him in his quest – opts to fight Hideo to defend his sensei. Murphy manages to defeat Hideo and win the day.


The film was shot entirely in Japan.[2] The Kyoto International Conference Center was used as the location of Hideo's headquarters.

Alternate version[edit]

A re-edited version of the film entitled Sword of the Ninja was created for television. In this version, about ten minutes of footage are cut, some of the graphic violence of the original version is removed, and "fades" are added to make room for commercial breaks.


Critic Dennis Schwartz gave the film a C+ grade, calling it a "pointless", "low-level Chuck Norris flick". He enjoyed Frankenheimer's directing and Mifune's performance, questioning why they chose to make such a film.[3] Time Out wrote that the "elaborate combat will please fans", but that The Yakuza was a much better film in the genre.[4] Janet Maslin for The New York Times was unimpressed with the film's "regretably vicious streak" and wrote that the film had unused potential. However, she praised Toshirō Mifune's performance as adding weight to the film.[5] Adam Lippe, writing for, had a better opinion of the film, calling it "grimy, off-putting, and just right for the moment."[6]


  1. ^ The Challenge at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ Mann, R. (1982, Sep 26). FRANKENHEIMER SPEEDS ON. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  3. ^ Schwartz, Dennis (28 December 2014). "Hard-boiled, revolting, kung-fu friendly and ridiculous". Ozus' World Movie Reviews. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  4. ^ "The Challenge". Time Out. London. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  5. ^ Maslin, Janet (23 July 1982). "Screen: Frankenheimer's 'Challenge'". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  6. ^ Lippe, Adam (18 May 2011). "The Challenge". Retrieved 24 July 2018.

External links[edit]