Plot: What’s it about?
Ogami Itto (Wakayama Tomisaburo) lived his life by the harsh code of Bushido, as he was one of the Shogun’s most trusted warriors. He held the most grave, dark position of all for the Shogun, as he served as the official executioner. His blade was wielded with immense skill and no mercy, all those who were sentenced were executed by his hand. It could be a man, woman, or even a child, but Ogami would never hesitate to deal out swift, lethal punishment. The position was coveted by many, but not to the degree of the Yagyu clan, a group which wanted to overtake the position, not to mention ruin Ogami’s life in the process. In order to have him removed from his station, the Yagyu clan has him framed as a traitor and of course, the replacement is to come from within their ranks. But it doesn’t end there, as Ogami’s family is slaughtered, with no survivors aside from his infant son Daigoro. Ogami offers his son a choice between life and death, but like his father, his life would one on a path of damnation. Now Ogami wanders the land as a samurai for hire, while Daigoro rides in the cart and lends a hand at times. The cart is a special one too, with hidden blades and other assorted surprises. Does the future hold vengeance for these two, or will they find no solace, even on such a damned road?
While I wish this was a Lone Wolf and Cub collection, Shogun Assassin will always hold an important role, as it was how countless people discovered samurai cinema. Shogun Assassin was created by splicing together the first two Lone Wolf and Cub films, then adding a new soundtrack and an English dub. I admit, this sounds terrible, but Shogun Assassin is actually an awesome movie and is a blast to watch. If you want to get someone to give samurai cinema a chance, Shogun Assassin is a choice that is certain to have them reeled in. The impact of Shogun Assassin was immense, as it has remained a relevant influence over numerous filmmakers, musicians, and others in creative fields. A blood soaked epic that is potent from start to finish, Shogun Assassin is a landmark in exploitation cinema. I still prefer the original Lone Wolf and Cub volumes, but there is no sense in putting down Shogun Assassin, as it just plain kicks ass.
The four Shogun Assassin sequels are also Lone Wolf and Cub installments, but they’re presented in more faithful, though still dubbed incarnations. I love this series of films and even in dubbed entries, the brilliance of Lone Wolf and Cub shines through, no doubt. As compared to Shogun Assassin, most of the sequels have more drama and time spent on the story, since most of the non action elements were trimmed to create Shogun Assassin. But don’t think that means the experience is dull or slow, as the movies are packed with action, violence, bloodshed, and over the top moments. As I said, I hope to see the original Lone Wolf and Cub series presented in high definition down the road, but this Shogun Assassin set still packs a wicked value. Five awesome movies shown in the best home video treatments to date, not much else we could demand. Whether you’re new to samurai cinema or an old hand, Shogun Assassin: 5 Film Collector’s Set is highly recommended.
Video: How does it look?
All five films are presented in 2.35:1 widescreen. The first movie looks incredible and is sure to have fans pinching themselves in disbelief. The image is clean and sharp, with a lot more depth on showcase than previous versions. The sequels however don’t quite reach that same level of performance. Make no mistake, these transfers are improvements over the DVD releases, but the jump isn’t as high as with the first Shogun Assassin. Even so, fans will be delighted with the more refined visual treatments, as all five movies look terrific.
Audio: How does it sound?
The English dub is offered on all the films and given that this is a Shogun Assassin set, not Lone Wolf and Cub, that makes perfect sense. The audio is clean and clear for the most part, with minimal signs of age or what not. I don’t think anyone will be all that impressed in terms of technical performance, but given the nature and age of the movies, I think all five sound quite good and I think most fans will agree.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The original Shogun Assassin has two audio commentary tracks to spin, while an interview with Samuel L. Jackson rounds out the extras.