Home  •  About  •  Contact  •  Twitter  •  Google+  •  Facebook  •  Tumblr  •  Youtube  •  RSS Feed
Shogun Assassin

Shogun Assassin

By Arpad Lukacs • March 17th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 4/5

Original release: November 11th, 1980
Running time: 85 minutes

Country of origin: Japan
Original language: Japanese

Director: Robert Houston
Writers: Kazuo Koike, Goseki Kojima

Cast: Tomisaburo Wakayama, Masahiro Tomikawa

Shogun Assassin

Coming to an established cult sensation at a later stage for the first time can be a bit tricky. This is where perhaps it’s the hardest to know what to expect as the reasons for a film becoming a cult classic vary greatly. Often enough, the reason for the emergence of such a phenomenon isn’t that the film was really good, but the exact opposite of that. With Robert Houston’s samurai revenge story Shogun Assassin, I wondered at times if laughter was the intended outcome of particular scenes, but I couldn’t help it. A chubby and grumpy lone warrior pushing a wooden baby cart with his toddler through the countryside on a major killing spree just seemed hilarious to me.

The premise is a serious one though; an old and paranoid shogun turns against his own chief samurai (Tomisaburo Wakayama) and sends assassins to murder him and his family. He manages to beat back the attackers but not before they kill his wife. Then off he goes, to get his revenge for this terrible act of betrayal, taking his toddler son (Masahiro Tomikawa) along for the ride.

To make it even more interesting, the toddler turns out to be a thoroughly observant and highly eloquent – if not poetic – narrator for the story. The little boy keeps and accurate body count while pondering about honour, justice and even accepting death in the face of grave adversaries. The dynamic between the silent warrior and his stoic but talkative son is probably the ingredient that’s most responsible for making Shogun Assassin so entertaining.

Shogun Assassin

In spite of director Robert Houston cutting together two already existing films into one from the Lone Wolf and Cub series, Shogun Assassin feels like one movie with the hero slashing his way through an army of assassins to get to the final – and quite impressive – fight sequence amongst beautifully framed sand dunes. That scene and all the ones before are extremely violent, but truth be told, my 21st century eyes were not too upset by what I thought was a strong lack of realism in the fight scenes. They entertained me more than anything else; seeing the baby cart equipped with hidden weaponry in action was especially fun to watch.

Shogun Assassin isn’t a film that should be taken too seriously. It’s not in the same ballpark with Lady Snowblood (1973), a revenge film that takes violence and its consequences far more seriously. This is much more on the fun side of things – but in a good way. The cinematography is superb with very creative and innovative camerawork throughout. The soundtrack deserves a special mention; it was created using one of those wonderful old synthesizers from the 80s and is so good that I ended up listening to it long after watching the film.

While the comedy – intentional or not – is really entertaining, it’s derivative of the circumstances and the basic narrative set-up and not the characters. The performances are excellent; Tomisaburo Wakayama is a sublime lone warrior. If you want to see a baby cart armed with knives chopping off limbs, definitely give Shogun Assassin a watch. I could be wrong – or perhaps presumptuous – but I have a feeling this is also one of those cult movies that can be further improved by responsible alcohol consumption, I shall try that sometime.

Shogun Assassin

Arpad Lukacs

Arpad Lukacs

Arpad is a Film Studies graduate and passionate photographer (he picked up the camera and started taking stills just as he began his studies of moving pictures). He admires directors that can tell a story first of all in images. More or less inevitably, Brian De Palma has become Aprad’s favourite filmmaker.

Then there’s Arpad’s interest in anime. He was just a boy when he saw Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind on an old VHS and was hypnotised by the story of friendship, devotion and sacrifice. He still marvels at the uncompromising and courageous storytelling in Japanese anime, and wonders about the western audience with its ever growing appetite for “Japanemation”.

Have a look at Arpad's photography site, and you can follow him on Twitter @arpadlukacs.

© 2022 STATIC MASS EMPORIUM . All Rights Reserved. Powered by METATEMPUS | creative.timeless.personal.   |   DISCLAIMER, TERMS & CONDITIONS