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DVD/Blu-ray Review: Shogun Assassin Limited Edition Steelbook

By Spencer Lloyd Peet

Ogami (Tomisaburo Wakayama), with son in tow, takes up the life of a paid assassin.

Eureka! Entertainment Ltd has released a Blu-ray and DVD combined two-disc Limited Edition Dual Format Steelbook of the cult classic blood-spurting Japanese/American film Shogun Assassin. Hailed in the West as one of the most popular samurai films ever, it is a spectacular representation of violence in film as an art form…

The film depicts the story of ronin Itto Ogami (Tomisaburo Wakayama) and his son Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa). After the deranged Shogun has Ogami’s wife murdered in an exercise to test the samurai’s loyalty, Ogami abandons his role as official decapitator and, with son in tow who now travels in a wooden cart affixed with hidden lethal weapons, takes up the life of a paid assassin.

(Courtesy of Eureka! Entertainment Ltd)

Lone Wolf and Cub now wander among the wilderness of ancient Japan constantly fending off attacks by ninja spies hired by the Shogun. The warrior’s lightening sword skills are soon pitched against the deadly weapons of the “Masters of Death” as they go head-to-head in a bloody climatic battle.

Shogun Assassin was released in the US in 1980 and comprises of an edited version of the first two films (Sword Of Vengeance and Baby Cart At The River Styx) in the Lone Wolf & Cub saga from the early 1970s directed by Kenji Misumi and adapted from the hugely popular manga series. The project was undertaken by producer David Weisman and director and writer Robert Houston and includes English dubbing with a voice-over narration by Daigoro (voiced by then child actor Gibran Evans) as well as a new superior electronic soundtrack co-written by Mark Lindsey, former lead vocalist with the ‘60s pop outfit Paul Revere and the Raiders. The English dialogue was written to match the actor’s lips movement and thus the translation isn’t exact and the plot line is somewhat altered and simplified as a result. However, Weisman and Houston remained respectful to Misumi’s original work and kept in the vicious, violent scenes which incorporate slicing off heads and hacked off body parts including nose, ears, fingers and arms, leaving one poor ninja as little more than a rolling torso.

(Courtesy of Eureka! Entertainment Ltd)

Considering that all the nunchuku scenes in the Bruce Lee films were edited out when originally screened in the UK, it’s not surprising that Shogun Assassin, with its high-dosage of claret and brutality, became a casualty of the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification), and was thus censored for its UK theatrical release in 1981 and withdrawn from video until 1992 – the uncut version wasn’t available until 2001. The prints used on previous DVDs were very grainy and deserved better treatment. Thanks to Eureka! Entertainment Ltd, Shogun Assassin has been fully-restored and beautifully packaged and can now be seen in all its uncut gory glory.

Special Features:

– Ltd Ed Dual Format Steelbook (Blu-ray & DVD) edition

– Stunning fully-restored 1080p presentation of the uncut film in its original aspect ratio

– New video appreciation of the film by actor Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction)

– Two commentary tracks: one featuring producer David Weisman, illustrator Jim Evans and actor Gibran Evans (the voice of Daigoro); the second with film scholar Ric Meyers and martial arts expert Steve Watson

– Original HD theatrical trailer for Shogun Assassin

– Original Japanese trailers for all six of the original Lone Wolf and Cub films

Released by Eureka!  Entertainment on 29 November 2010

First posted on Cinema Retro website

CLICK HERE TO ORDER FROM AMAZON UK (This release is currently available only through Amazon UK in Region 2 format. A 30th anniversary edition of the film on Blu-ray is available from another label on Amazon USA)

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