SHOGUN ASSASSIN, 1980
Cast: Tomisaburo Wakayama, Kayo Matsuo, Minoru Ohki, Akiji Kobayashi, Shin Kishida, Akihiro Tomikawa
Long ago there was a great samurai warrior who served his Shogun honorably. The Shogun however grew paranoid as he became more and more senile. The Shogun sought to destroy all those who might stand to oppose his rule, and so he sent his ninja spies to the samurai's home. The ninjas failed to kill the samurai, but did kill his beloved wife. From then on, the samurai swore on his honor to seek out the Shogun and avenge the death of his love. The samurai roams the countryside with his toddler son taking on mercenary work for money until the final battle with the Shogun's three Masters of Death.
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Cited as a major influence on Tarantino, which inspired him to create the Kill Bill films, Shogun Assassin may have a lot to answer for, but try not to let outside references influence your expectations. It is a cool film. Itself influenced by a mix of oriental imagery and commonplace folk stories, Shogun Assassin adds a little intense gore and cooks up a film of its time, for all time.
Lone Wolf is proud father to, Daigoro, And together they roam the land in a quest for vengeance. Vengeance against the Shogun, who in his paranoid ruling sent Ninjaís to kill Lone Wolf for dissident senility. They killed Lone Wolfís wife, but Lone Wolf escaped with his son, whom he now protects loveís above himself. The landscape is harsh and the assassinís come thick and fast.
The set up couldnít be simpler, but the lasting iconic images similarly couldnít be more intense and long lasting. The Film, while not original, feels like a substantial collection of everything that typifies such a vibrant and luscious style of film. Maybe Iím looking at it too nostalgically, much of it seems dated, which we tend to take in a fond reminiscent vein. I do feel like it has more to offer than just that though. Itís fun, itís enjoyable to watch, and it promises nothing more, you canít ask for much more considering than that.
Underlying all that are these contemporary elements which seal its long lasting reverence. With horror sensibility towards blood splatter, which gives energy to a lot of the action, it creates pace to make it more of a ride.
What I like best though is the electro sound track; it seems at once out of this world yet also totally befitting the landscape. That may be what helps itís sustain, that has made it a cult classic, way beyond what itís ambition might first have been. So at least it may keep inspiring further eastern influenced pictures, but Shogun Assassin is a good reference point to go back to.