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Shogun Assassin (30th Anniversary Collector's Edition)) - Blu-ray / adaptation DVD / drama DVD review
SHOGUN ASSASSIN (30TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTOR'S EDITION) Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 4 stars
Featuring: Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Kayo Matsuo, Minoru Oki
Director: Robert Houston Distributor: AnimEigo
DVD release: 24 August 2010 Runtime: 85 min. (1 disc)
Format: Color, Dubbed, Widescreen, Blu-ray
DVD features: 1080p HD, Aspect ratio 2.35:1, Audio tracks (Dolby Mono - English), Audio commentary (producer David Weisman, illustrator Jim Evans, actor Gibran Evans [the English voice of Daigoro]), High-def interview with Samuel L. Jackson, High-def trailer, Liner notes on historical and cultural background

*Shogun Assassin (30th Anniversary Collector's Edition)*Shogun Assassin is a classic early-'80s film that was crafted from two early '70s Lone Wolf and Cub films (Sword of Vengeance and Baby Cart at the River Styx), re-edited and packaged for the grindhouse crowd. It features the adventures of a former Shogun headhunter (literally) named Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama) who fell out of favor with his old boss. His boss killed his wife, leaving him and his young son to walk the Earth (not too unlike Kung Fu's Caine), killing all those who try to kill him.

He pushes his son around in a wooden pram, loaded with concealed weapons, a dull look on his face as he kills those who try to stop him. He never sleeps. Why do they try to stop him? I'm not quite sure. Perhaps that bit was lost on the cutting-room floor. The film's exposition is all handled by the son, Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa, with voiceover by Gibran Evans).

Shogun Assassin is a wonder of bloodlust. Impossibly red blood squirts in impossible quantities all over Itto, his attackers and the camera. This film revels in its violence. One of my favorite scenes involves a bunch of female ninjas who, as a demonstration, incapacitate a favored male ninja so completely that he could, in the end, be best described as a large, gooey worm. There are also bits of quiet sensitivity and thoughtful kindness.

Thanks to a wonderful restoration, this does not look like a film that is essentially nearly forty years old. What is missing is the option of subtitles with the original dialog track. This makes sense because of the film's alterations for American audiences, but there are no subtitles at all, English or otherwise.

Extra features include an interview with Samuel L. Jackson, who enjoyed the Lone Wolf and Cub films in Times Square theaters in the early '80s, two commentary tracks - one by producer David Weisman, graphic designer Jim Evans and voice actor Gibran Evans, the other by film scholar Ric Meyers and martial arts expert Steve Watson.

Shogun Assassin is a fine example of a particular genre of violent film (chanbara). The martial arts action isn't up to full snuff, but that has more to do with the editing and shooting (though these are crucial) than anything else. More time is spent on the eruption of blood from wounds than the kind of well-choreographed action that the Shaw Brothers provided in the same era. Still, the bones are there, and this film should not be missed by fans of samurai cinema.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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