Tamba is perhaps best known by Western audiences for his role as Tiger Tanaka in the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice (he was dubbed by Robert Rietti). By then, he had among other roles appeared in two films by director Masaki Kobayashi: Harakiri and Kwaidan. He also portrayed the lead character in the police dramas Key Hunter and G-Men '75, the latter of which remains his best-known role in Japan.
He also portrayed the voice of the "Cat King" in the original Japanese version of the Studio Ghiblianime film The Cat Returns. More recently, he had parts in Twilight Samurai and two Takashi Miike films, The Happiness of the Katakuris and Gozu, as well as acting as a spokesperson for the Dai Rei Kaispiritual movement.
Tamba's son, Yoshitaka Tamba, is also an actor.
In February 2005, Tamba was hospitalized for influenza and appendicitis. He lost weight drastically and his health degenerated. On September 25, 2006, he died in Tokyo at the age of 84 of pneumonia.
Senun Ajia no joo (1957)
Kaidan Kasane-ga-fuchi (The Ghost of Kasane) (1957)
Meijitennou to nichi ro dai sensou (1957)
Hitogui Ama (1958)
Tange hidari zen (1963)
Juu san nin no shikaku (1963)
The 7th Dawn (1964)
Samurai Spy (1965)
Abashiri Prison (1965)
You Only Live Twice (1967)
The Five Man Army (1969)
Under the Flag of the Rising Sun (1972)
The Human Revolution (1973)
Japan Sinks (1973)
Castle of Sand (1974)
Karafuto 1945 Summer Hyosetsu no mon (1974)
Prophecies of Nostradamus (1974)
Water Margin (1975)
Shinkansen dai bakuha (1975)
Zoku ningen kakumei (1976)
Ozora no samurai (1976)
Shogun's Samurai: The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy (1978)