Shogun Assassin (Robert Houston, 1980)

*Watched as part of the Asia-thon 2016 Film Project*

What's it about? After his wife is murdered by an insane Shogun, master samurai Lone Wolf (Tomisaburô Wakayama) vows revenge as he wanders in the wilderness with his 3-year-old son Daigoro in tow.

Is it any good? Some questionable parenting skills here as Daigoro witnesses his father brutally kill hundreds of adversaries, often whilst carrying the kid under one arm or pushing him in a booby-trapped buggy. Let's just say Daigoro is unlikely to complain about a grazed knee after seeing fountains of blood spew from various severed arteries. And on top of that, the boy is exposed to a hideous 80s synth score, which attacks without warning at regular intervals.Then again, everyone they meet on their travels IS trying to kill them, so Lone Wolf does a pretty good job of protecting the boy and doesn't ignore him to Facebook on his phone, so let's not be too quick to judge. Plus, Daigoro does learn to count (bodies), sports a bitchin' haircut and exhibits a pretty extensive vocabulary for one so young in his eloquent narration. Perhaps cBeebies should consider screening it as part of their educational output.

Anything else I should know? A curious production history as this is actually a dubbed and condensed version of two films from the original Japanese Lone Wolf and Cub film franchise, which was based on the acclaimed series of manga books. To produce Shogun Assassin, director Houston spliced together the 'good bits' from the first two films, Sword of Vengeance and the splendidly named Baby Cart at the River Styx, dispensing with some superfluous sub-plots and dialogue. But this is more that a simple re-edit in that Houston hired deaf lip-readers to guess what the Japanese actors were saying, and used their suggestions to create an English language script. As a result, the dubbing is remarkably good, compared to the usual mismatch of words and lips in dubbed martial arts movies. Purists prefer the originals, but this has its moments too, not least the kimono with an ejector button and the most articulate and poetic death-speech in the movies. Pity about that score, though....

What does the Fonz think? There Will Be Blood

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