Shogun Assassin (1980)

Article 4723 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-30-2014
Directed by Robert Houston
Featuring Tomisaburo Wakayama, Kayo Matsuo, Minoru Oki
Country: Japan / USA
What it is: Mystical samurai bloodbath

After his own master attempts to have him assassinated, a samurai executioner wanders the world pushing his son in a cart, seeking revenge and working as a paid assassin.

I’d heard about the Lone Wolf and Cub series years ago, but I was never sure whether I’d encounter any of the movies in my cinematic excursions. Well, here are the first two episodes of the series condensed into a single feature and given English dubbing. It’s as bloody as I’d been led to believe it would be (possibly even more-so), and some of the action is pretty outrageous. Yet, for some reason, it never really seems gratuitous nor falls into camp; there’s something elegant and poetic about the proceedings, even operatic at times. it’s one of those movies where a character, dying from having his throat slashed, waxes philosophic about the sound of the spray of blood from his neck… and you don’t roll your eyes in disbelief, because it just seems right for this movie. The fantastic content is a bit elusive, but there are comments about the assassin’s sword having mystical qualities, some of the assassin’s powers seem superhuman, there’s a definite surreal air to the proceedings, and the whole thing may take place in a fantasy land of some sort. At any rate, I found it hypnotic and entrancing, sometimes touching, and sometimes quite funny as well. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to react to this movie, but in the end, I was rather entranced by the whole thing.


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