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Shogun Assassin (1980)

DVD Cover (AnimEigo)
Genres:
Action, Adventure Drama, Samurai Film
Director:
Robert Houston Robert Houston
Starring:
Tomisaburô Wakayama Tomisaburô Wakayama
Kayo Matsuo Kayo Matsuo
Minoru Ôki Minoru Ôki
Shôgen Nitta Shôgen Nitta
Shin Kishida Shin Kishida

7.4 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Ginose
Added: September 19, 2007
Samurai films are the single most violent sub-genre of action cinema on Earth. After years of watching all the greatest, I have come to that conclusion. Argue it if you feel you must, but there is little doubt in my mind that I will never cave on my view. Regardless, I have seen all the top-grain samurai films (even the really, really shitty ones) and only three title’s truly stand out in that genre: “Akira Kurosawa’s (INSERT KUROSAWA SAMURAI FILM HERE)”, “Zatoichi” and, of course, “Lone Wolf and Cub”. However, unlike the preceding two title, the “Lone Wolf and Cub” series was not only based on one of the most infamous Japanese mangas of all time, but also was one of the first set of samurai films that was actually re-doctored for American audiences to appear even MORE violent then it was in its traditional form. By this I am referring to the ever infamous cult / grindhouse classic “Shogun Assassin”.

In feudal Japan, there was an old shogun who, for a time, was a great man and an excellent leader to his people, but, as the years progressed and his age caught up with him, he became paranoid and wicked. One day, letting his fears get the better of him, the shogun sent several assassins to kill his most trusted samurai, Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama). This, however, only resulted in the death of Ogami’s wife, some dead ninjas, and one super-pissed killer. Left only with his son, Ogami gives the young Daigoro a choice between the sword (the path of vengeance) and the ball (the path to heaven). Luckily, the small child picks the sword, thus joining his father in the life of an outlaw. Living their lives forever in peril by the hands of the shogun’s ninja, Ogami, Daigoro and a baby-cart fill of hidden weapons begin their path as the lone wolf and his cub.

You would think a lot of class and character driven stories from a film with this kind of premise. Well, if you were watching the actual films this was cut from (“Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance” and “Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx”) then that’s, more or less, exactly what you’d get. However, while watching this film, you are watching a magical blend of two 80 minute films into one 80 minute film, and I’m afraid the only thing you’ll really get out of it is the one thing most people want in a samurai movie: gore. Oodles and oodles of thick red juices and severed body parts flying everywhere! Who are you to complain? This is an American film, after all.

By American film I mean that the beautiful work of Kenji Misumi is shortened, broken and reassembled as a fast-paced, blood-drenched, action-packed sword fest. Yet, for some reason, I really didn’t feel like this film was lacking much, not much at all. The plot was still there, thick and relevant, the characters were all still completely natural and relatable, the scenery was still amazing and the performances were still spot on. Does this mean that Misumi’s films had more content than they needed? Certainly not! But the editing/directorial style of Robert Houston certainly made this more of an action film than the original series (in other words he eliminated most of the dramatic elements to make sure he could pack more of the gore in there) and for that you truly have to give him a round of applause.

How could any American take a Japanese film, much less two CLASSIC Japanese films, re-edit them together and somehow not screw them up? Beats the hell outta me but it was certainly accomplished with “Shogun Assassin”.

This is a no-brainer for action, martial arts, or samurai fans: See this!

9.3/10 for this amazingly entertaining, American re-imaging of a classic Japanese series.
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grain of sand #1: grain of sand - added 09/22/2007, 04:33 AM
duuuuuuude, some amazing scenes in this movie.. the score is amazing, and the classic decapitation scene.. love this one
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