Shogun Assassin (1980)

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Released 6-Jun-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Cult Theatrical Trailer
Gallery-Photo
Trailer-Madman Trailers
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1980
Running Time 81:31 (Case: 86)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Robert Houston
Kenji Misumi
Studio
Distributor
Toho Company
Madman Entertainment
Starring Tomisaburo Wakayama
Kayo Matsuo
Minoru Ohki
Akiji Kobayashi
Shin Kishida
Akihiro Tomikawa
Lamont Johnson
Marshall Efron
Sandra Bernhard
Vic Davis
Lennie Weinrib
Lainie Cooke
Sam Weisman
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $24.95 Music W. Michael Lewis
Mark Lindsay
Kunihiko Murai


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

†††† The Lone Wolf and Cub series of films made between 1972 and 1974 were based on a manga comic created by Kazuo Koike, who would later create the Crying Freeman. The films were violent, bloody, action packed subversions of the samurai myths so popularised by Akira Kurosawa and others. In 1980 parts of the first two films in the series, Sword of Vengeance and Baby Cart at the River Styx, originally released in Japan in 1972, were edited together, new dialogue written and dubbed into English and a new score by Mark Lindsay (Paul Revere and the Raiders) and W. Michael Lewis added. The result was Shogun Assassin.

†††† Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama) is an expert samurai and the Shogunís executioner. However, the Shogun begins to distrust Ogami and sends a team of ninja to kill him but they only succeed in killing his wife. Ogami distains an order to commit suicide and instead kills the Shogunís son in a duel before going on the road as an assassin for hire with his infant son Daigoro (Masahiro Tomikawa) in a baby cart. But no-where is safe for the lone wolf and his cub; the Shogun will not forget and they are constantly hunted by the Shogunís ninjas, including deadly female ninjas led by the Supreme Ninja (Kayo Matsuo). Just to complicate things further, Ogami accepts a thousand gold coin fee to kill the Shogunís brother Lord Kurondo although he is protected by the three Masters of Death (Minoru Ohki, Akiji Kobayashi and Shin Kishida). Ogami must fend off the attacks of numerous assailants, protect his son from harm and take out the Masters of Death in order to fulfil his contract.

†††† Shogun Assassin takes about 10 minutes from the first film in the series, Sword of Vengeance, to set the back story before using the female ninjas and Masters of Death from Baby Cart at the River Styx. This means the film is very episodic and the motivation for Ogamiís fallout with the Shogun only sketchily drawn, but this really does not matter for a number of reasons. The first is a voice over from Daigoro that is not in the original films but works very well; it not only joins together the pieces but also adds humanity, and a little humour, to what is otherwise a sombre film. The second is the performances: Tomisaburo Wakayama is simply wonderful and totally believable, Masahiro Tomikawa fantastic for one so young and Kayo Matsuo both enigmatic and beautiful. The third is the superb action sequences.

†††† Shogun Assassin was banned in the UK for years as a video nasty but this fails to do the film justice. It is undeniably violent: there are severed limbs, cleaved skulls and massive sprays of blood at every turn. But while they are there, the film does not dwell on them, or render them in loving, slow motion detail (mostly anyway); there are many more recent films that have far more nasty, voyeuristic depictions of decapitations and lingering pain than Shogun Assassin. Instead, in Shogun Assassin there is no depiction of pain and the action is swift, sharp, and over. The film is also beautiful to look at, the cinematography of Chishi Makiura showing the vibrant colours and seasons of the Japanese landscape to full effect.

†††† Fans of the wonderful Lone Wolf and Cub series of films will find that Shogun Assassin omits much of the motivations and character moments of the first two films in favour of the action. However, in its own right and for those not familiar with the Lone Wolf and Cub films, Shogun Assassin is a very entertaining film. It has a great cast, looks beautiful, the action sequences are inventive and very well staged and it retains enough of the relationship between Ogami and Daigoro to give the film a heart that not many action films possess. It is well worth a look.

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Transfer Quality

Video

†††† Shogun Assassin is presented in a ratio of 2.35:1, the original Toho theatrical ratio of the Lone Wolf and Cub films, and is 16x9 enhanced. It looks beautiful. Colours are vibrant with brilliant greens and yellows, skin tones are natural, blacks solid and shadow detail very good. There is mild grain, the odd scratch and occasional artefact but for a 30 year old film it looks great.

†††† As all dialogue was rewritten and dubbed into English, lip synchronisation is sometimes off but this is an action film and so is not distracting.

†††† There are no subtitles but from the Set Up Menu you can select the option to turn on a subtitle translating the Japanese signs.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

†††† Audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 224 Kbps that does a great job. Dialogue is clear, swords swish, clash and cut and the rumble of the baby cart wheels on the unpaved roads is very satisfactory. The new score by Mark Lindsay and W. Michael Lewis took some themes from the original score but is otherwise electronic rock, reminiscent of the Alan Parsons Project. Perhaps it should not work as well as it does, but it provides very effective support for the film. There is no surround or subwoofer use.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Original Theatrical Trailer (2:25)

Stills Gallery

†††† 18 black and white film stills.

Madman Trailers

†††† Included is Death Trance (2:30), Branded to Kill (0:45) and Shadowless Sword (2:58).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

†††† The Region 1 seems to have the same good video and audio and slightly more numerous extras, including different trailers, a restoration Gallery, Program Notes and Daigoroís History Lesson. I donít know that these are substantial enough to give a win to Region 1. Perhaps a draw.

Summary

†††† Shogun Assassin has a great cast, looks beautiful, the action sequences are inventive and very well staged and it retains enough of the relationship between Ogami and Daigoro to give the film a heart that not many action films possess. The video and audio are fine, the extras minimal. Shogun Assassin may be a hybrid, but it is very entertaining in its own right and I enjoyed it far more that I expected to. It is well worth a look.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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