Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Shogun Assassin - (Robert Houston, 1980)

Actually composed of the first two films in the six part 'Lone Wolf and Cub / Babycart' series, this American 'remix' organises the plot into a fairly coherent story (except the naked-hug-warmth scene, which I can only put down to being lost in translation). Lone Wolf and his sword-wheeled-cart riding son seemingly wander from battle to battle, with the Shogun sending waves of katana-fodder in an attempt to finish the job started with the killing of Lone Wolf's wife. The editing is choppy in places, most likely being down to the recut nature of the film, but the voice work (usually the most sufferable / hilarious aspects of English dubs) is surprisingly good. Some of the cinematograpy is stunning, especially the ninja battle in the rushing river just above the mini-waterfall, with a mixture of well-choreographed (and exceptionally gory) swordplay close-ups and beautiful wide angle landscape shots, with the battle ensuing in the bottom of the frame utterly dwarfed by the background.

'Banned since 1983!', screams the DVD cover, an accolade worn proudly by the distributors, but Shogun Assassin was little more than another film to suffer under the infamous 'Video Nasties' scandal of the early 198os. While the film is very gory, often hilariously so, the bloody effects have lost some of their shock value in a post-Saw world. However this works to the films advantage, preserving it in the 70-80s Grindhouse-era cinematic landscape, with it's splattering, blood-hose-pipe violence, grainy film stock and extreme zoom-close-ups being exactly the sort of material enjoying a recent re-discovery thanks to Tarintino and Rodriguez's recent foray into grindhouse tribute cinema.

All-in-all, a thoroughly enjoyable and gleefully gory piece of cult cinema.

Rating -
7 / 10

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