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November 18, 2012

Movie Review: Lone Wolf and Cub (Blu-ray Collection)

AnimEigo has released some of the finest Samurai films from Japan over the past several years and lately have branched out to taking some of the most popular titles in their catalog and giving them some Hi-Def love on the Blu-ray format. So far we've seen them put out impressive releases of the original Shogun Assassin film and the five film collection of Shogun Assassin on Blu-ray. Now AnimEigo has taken the Lone Wolf and Cub series (the inspiration for Shogun Assassin) and made it available for those looking to upgrade on an already cool DVD set.

Before Shogun Assassin became the influential samurai "grindhouse" classic that it's so deservedly was crowned by critics and fans there were six films in the Baby Cart series directed by Kenji Misumi. All six of the features have been carefully assembled in a two-disc set form by Asian DVD powerhouse AnimEigo. The two films that were essentially the "highlight" reel that became Shogun Assassin, Sword of Vengeance and Baby Cart at the River of Styx kick off the set. The following four installments are also included Uncut and in their entirety – Baby Cart in Peril, Baby Cart to Hades, Baby at the River of Styx and finally White Heaven in Hell.

Even though Sword Of Vengeance and Baby Cart at the River of Styx pack the majority of the visceral punch with their non-stop sword-fights and duels - it’s not like it really slows down at all action-wise as we move into the other volumes. Numerous different set-pieces adorn each of the films (including an eye-popping scene with a top-less tattooed assassin). We do indeed experience a bit more welcome narrative during Baby Cart In Peril and Baby Cart to Hades but it surely doesn't effect the flow of the adventure Itto and his son are on.

Baby Cart in the Land of Demons and the finale, White Heaven in Hell bring the much anticipated showdown with our unstoppable hero, Itto and the evil Yagyu family. White Heaven in Hell is especially impressive with its gorgeous snowy locales. This just makes the arterial spray look that much more like morbid art on a snowy canvas.

Itto may have also met his match with this one with the surprisingly imposing last hope for the Yagyu clan, Lady Kaori. This lady makes Uma Thurman in Kill Bill look like one of the Desperate Housewives. Watch out for falling daggers and grotesquely split craniums when she’s around. I really believe its imperative that if you plan on taking in the Baby Cart experience, watch them in order. You’ll thank me.

Every one of these films are a Samurai fan's dream -there's no doubt about that. Animego's done an okay job on the set but I don't think its where it should be transfer-wise. I still recommend a purchase because it is fairly priced especially if you don't already own the box-set. Either way I'd still hold onto the original DVD box-set release.

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