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October 22, 2010

Movie Review: Shogun Assassin (Blu-Ray)

Review by Jeff

Directed by: Robert Houston

Shogun Assassin has had quite a history as a bonafide cult film. For one, It's easily one of the more notable Asian cult film entries, that has maintained a strong cult status over the past 30 years. The definition of the term "Grindhouse" has to have director ,Robert Houston's, Shogun Assassin written in somewhere. "Grindhouse" films generally have a unique hook -whether they be horror, blaxploitation, martial arts, action, porn - that separate them from their own genre counterparts. Shogun Assassin is no Seven Samurai, by any stretch. Seven Samurai is also not a grindhouse film. As someone who has viewed Shogun Assassin numerous times - via shoddy bootlegs and the original long out-of-print Media video release - I've been able to enjoy all of it's visceral exploitedness; but never did I think their would be an uncut Blu-ray release. Well, thanks to the folks at Animeigo, Shogun Assassin the Blu-Ray has become a reality.

Buy Shogun Assassin (Blu-Ray) on

If you aren't quite familiar with the story of Shogun Assassin, here's a little synopsis: Ogami Itto( played perfectly by the expressionless, Tomisabauro Wakayama) has just had a target put on his head by the evil Shogun. Itto (or Lone Wolf) is one hindrance that obstructs this aging shogun from true domination. That's reason enough for this cranky bastard to send his ninjas to slaughter Itto and his family. The ninjas successfully kill Itto's wife, but fail to kill Itto and his son Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa). This proves to be a fatal mistake for the shogun. Itto was a sleeping lion and now he's ready to feast . The bodies pile up in a ridiculous manner: throats are slashed - with epic amounts of arterial spray -, dismemberments galore and numerous sharp objects penetrate through the stomachs of woefully under matched opponents. Daigoro, Itto's loving son, also helps papa in his war against the master shogun; a riding in baby carriage from built for carnage -- or "Babycart".

The meat of Shogun Assassin is comprised of parts of the popular "Babycart" series - Babycart, Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance, Lone Wolf and Cub: Babycart at the River of Styx, Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell, Lone Wolf and Cub: Babycart in the Land of Demons and Lone Wolf and Cub: Babycart in Peril. Only two of the mentioned titles, are really represented in this combination; Sword of Vengeance and Babycart at the River of Styx. Prior to watching Shogun Assassin for the first few times, I had never seen this series, up until a few years ago. It may sound like what could be a mess - just editing together the two films - but it works.

Apparently, Shogun Assassin's Blu-Ray producer, AnimEigo has gone to great effort to restore Shogun Assassin; using numerous elements to present it in hi-def 1080p quality. No, this is not an old beat up 35mm print that's been laying in a collectors garage for 25 years, these are obvious to the eye, very pristine elements. Shogun Assassin never had a presentation this impressive; that I've had the pleasure of viewing. Audio is another high point for this release. The new mono audio and synthesizer-rich soundtrack- that makes Shogun Assassin so memorable - is excellent. All of the dubbed characters voices to the constant blades slashings are perfectly audible. This wasn't the case in with previous releases, so its a noteworthy improvement.

The supplements on AnimEigo's, Shogun Assassin are quite expansive:

Exclusive interview with Samuel L. Jackson
Audio commentary by Film Scholar Ric Meyers and Martial Arts Expert Steve Watson.
New commentary by Producer David Weisman, Illustrator Jim Evans, and Gibran Evans, who provided the epic voice narration of Daigoro.
Image Gallery
Restoration Gallery
Cast and Crew Notes

One of the more interesting extras on this AnimEigo Blu-Ray of Shogun Assassin is the "restoration gallery". Here you get to see three different versions of Shogun Assassin; the bootleg version, Shogun Assassin on DVD , and of course this new Blu-Ray release. The contrast in picture quality is amazing - even from DVD to Blu-Ray ,the detail of what's on the frame that's being shown is remarkably better. Both of the commentaries are ejoyable listens . I especially liked listening to Ric Meyers on the second track. Ric has a true, encyclopedic knowledge of Asian films - right up there with guys like Damon Foster and August Ragone. The inclusion of the Samuel L. Jackson interview was also a welcome and surprising addition to the extra features.

AnimEigo’s, Shogun Assassin 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray, comes highly recommended, and is pure bliss for fans of this one-of-a-kind Asian cult film classic.

Format: Color, Dubbed, Widescreen
Language: English
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: AnimEigo
DVD Release Date: August 24, 2010
Run Time: 85 minutes


  1. Awesome review, still gotta pick this Blu up!

  2. It's a steal at the website. Only 12.99 for the Blu.