Shogun Assassin tells the story of Lone Wolf, a powerful and feared masterless samurai who lives a peaceful existence with his wife and his son. When he refuses to swear allegiance to Retsudo, head of hte vicious Yagyu Clan, Retsudo orders the death of his wife. Blinded by rage, Lone Wolf vows to avenge her death, taking their son Daigoro with him on the path of darkness and retribution.
When wanting to watch a film there are times when I look for nothing more than mindless violence. Plot, good acting, realism... pah! Don't need them! As long as there is enough mindless violence on display, then every other film flaw can be overlooked. It was with that sort of mood that I chose to watch the cult Japanese samurai film Shogun Assassin.
Now I am not too clued up on the history of this film, but according to the DVD cover this film was once banned in the UK, and I'm guessing it was possibly heavily cut when it was first made available. Now though, it is uncut, and clearly not banned either. Another aspect to the film that I'm not too sure of is this film's relation to the Babycart series of films. I seem to recall hearing/reading once that this film is in fact all the Babycart films condensed into a 90 minute film. Obviously in this editing down plots will have disappeared and so on, which will largely explain some of what happens in Shogun Assassin.
There isn't really much need for a plot description here, basically a Samurai is pissed at the murder of his wife and goes on a killing spree to get his revenge. Most events in the film seem to be there just for the sole purpose of setting up another scene where the Samurai can kill lots more ninja, and given that I was just after mindless violence this is no bad thing. Unfortunately this DVD release comes only with an English dub audio track, and this is a really bad dub. Because of this I just wasn't able to take much of the film seriously. Alas Shogun Assassin is also quite an old film, and this shows in a lot of the gore effects. The make up jobs are very noticeable and the blood effects are hilarious. I think the makers of the film must have raided schools for the red poster paint that is common in the art rooms as that is what the blood looks like rather than blood.
Ninjas are slashed, chopped, sliced, speared, impaled, beheaded, severed, pummelled and the fountains of blood that spew out of the wounds left me in stitches. For ninjas the ease at which they are killed is also quite laughable, but again who is looking for realism when you want gory deaths?! Like I stated, Shogun Assassin is quite an old film, so all these gore effects do not look that realistic and in some places they are really quite pathetic by today's standards. The guy who has his head sliced in two from the top down, when the head opens and the blood pours out it doesn't even look anything like a head!
Anyway, I think I am being far too critical, as its bad aging just adds to the unintentional humour in the film. There are plenty more moments that will have you laughing, like the last death... the guy gets his throat cut but still manages to give about a minute speech before the blood start gushing! The little kid's cart is also well cool. Pretty much every bit of it has a blade hidden somewhere. The wheels have blades that stick out on the press of a button, the handle to push it with is two short swords, the front has two retractable blades (one on each side) that can be taken off and then joined together to give a stick with blades on each end... it is a well armed pram!
The film's title is also a little misleading, as the Samurai doesn't actually kill the Shogun. That is the person I think he sets out for at the start of the film, but he doesn't actually get to the stage of killing him. I'm guessing this is to do with the editing down from the Babycart films, and that is one of the elements that didn't make it. Maybe in those films he does manage to kill the Shogun at the end, who knows?!
I'm not going to make this a full DVD review, but I think I should state that if you are after Shogun Assassin then do not buy this version, as there has to be better versions out there. The film is encoded as anamorphic widescreen, but the actual print is 4:3 letterboxed. This makes the print the entire width of a widescreen TV, but still only the height of the 4:3 letterboxed transfer.
Shogun Assassin is not really that good a film. It will provide you with mindless entertainment and a lot of laughs at the dated gratuitous violence and bloodshed. It will also show you how times have moved on since 1983 when this film was banned, as you'll easily see far gorier films today.
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