Shogun Assassin


Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

Shogun Assassin
"What Shogun Assassin lacks in insights into Japanese culture and history... it more than makes up for in violent action."

For many years Ogami had served the shogun faithfully as chief executioner. Now he has been betrayed by the elderly and paranoid ruler. His wife murdered, he gives his infant son Daigoro the choice of joining her in heaven, or accompanying him in his quest for vengeance. The infant - whose function as retrospective narrator denudes the moment of some shock, though it still functions to give initial insight into how dark and twisted this film is - chooses the latter path. Thus the duo set off on the "road to hell" - the son in a pushcart festooned with concealed weapons - ready to take on some deadly female ninja and the three masters of death...

What Shogun Assassin lacks in insights into Japanese culture and history, partly down to it status as an America compilation of two films from the original six-part Baby Cart series and partly director Kenji Misumi's own emphases, it more than makes up for in violent action.

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Extremities are sliced off and blood spurts in arterial sprays in a way that reminds us once more how Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill did nothing other directors hadn't achieved earlier with less, while also proving the taglines "meet the greatest team in the history of mass slaughter" and "it's impossible to keep a body count" somewhat more than mere hype.

Cult status is compounded by the film's one time position as video nasty in the UK (though it should be stated that the sheer excessiveness of the almost cartoon-like violence - and here we can note that Misumi's films were adaptations of the long-running manga Lone Wolf and Cub - makes it impossible to take it completely seriously) along with the bizarre presence of Sandra Bernhard as one of the dubbing voices and the use of snippets from Daigoro's monologues in the soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog.

Reviewed on: 02 Feb 2005
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The terrible vengeance of a shogun executioner and his infant son.
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Director: Robert Houston, Kenji Misumi

Writer: Robert Houston, Kazou Koike, Goseki Kojima, David Weisman

Starring: Tomisaburo Wakayama, Kayo Matsuo, Minoru Ohki, Akiji Kobayashi, Shin Kishida, Masahiro Tomikawa

Year: 1980

Runtime: 84 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Japan/US


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If you like this, try:

Kill Bill: Volume 1
Kill Bill: Volume 2