Cover of the UK DVD.
|Directed by||Robert Houston|
|Produced by||Shintaro Katsu
|Written by||Kazuo Koike
|Music by||Hideaki Sakurai|
|Editing by||Lee Percy
|Running time||86 minutes|
Shogun Assassin, known in Japan as Kozure Ōkami (子連れ狼), is a jidaigeki film made for the British and American markets and released in 1980. In 2006 it was restored and re-released on DVD in North America by AnimEigo.
Shogun Assassin was edited and compiled from the first two films in the Lone Wolf and Cub series, using 12 minutes of the first film, Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (Kozure Ōkami: Kowokashi udekashi tsukamatsuru or Wolf with Child in Tow: Child and Expertise for Rent), and most of Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx (Kozure Ōkami: Sanzu no kawa no ubaguruma or Wolf with Child in Tow: Perambulator of the River of Sanzu). Both were originally released in 1972. There were six films in all in the series. These in turn were based on the long-running 1970s manga series, Lone Wolf and Cub, created by the writer Kazuo Koike and the artist Goseki Kojima.
The project was directed by Robert Houston and his partner David Weisman, a protégé of Andy Warhol and director of Ciao! Manhattan (1972). A fan of the original Kozure Ōkami films, Weisman had obtained the rights for $50,000 from the American office of Toho Studios. The film was distributed by Roger Corman's New World Pictures to the grindhouse movie circuit in the United States, and then later as a video cassette from MCA/Universal Home Video. When released in the United Kingdom by the Vipco video tape label in 1983, Shogun Assassin's extreme violence almost caused it to be banned by the Home Office. Vipco played this for publicity in the cover art of their 2000 release on DVD, which was stamped "Banned since 1983!"
Shogun Assassin was dubbed into English whereas the originals are in Japanese. The film, being compiled from separate stories, uses a much-simplified version of the situation. For instance, any mention of clan war is gone and the opponent Retsudo is simply called "The Shogun."
The filmmakers hired deaf lip readers to help compose dialogue to match the lip movements of the original Japanese actors, and filled in the narrative gaps by adding voice-over narration by Daigoro, performed by Gibran Evans, the 7-year-old son of Shogun Assassin's poster illustrator, Jim Evans. American actress Sandra Bernhard and director (and former radio actor) Lamont Johnson provided voices in the dubbed edition.
"When I was little, my father was famous...", and so Daigoro narrates the story of his father, Itto Ogami.
Ogami, in his son's eyes, is the greatest samurai who ever lived. He is the Shogun's official decapitator, assisting lords in the performance of the ritual of harakiri. However, the Shogun has grown paranoid and believes everyone is out to kill him. He orders the killing of many villagefolk and starts to imagine that even Ogami is plotting against him.
Ogami arrives at home and is greeted by his wife, Azami. Azami relates that she had another nightmare. Ogami assures her that those were just mere dreams. He takes Daigoro and tells his son, "What a time you chose to be born, Daigoro."
Two hooded samurai attack Itto Ogami pushing a cart with Daigoro inside. Ogami fends off the attack of the first, breaking his sword with Ogami's Doutanuki blade and splitting his head. The second attacker jumps over the first, with the first still clasping Ogami's blade. Ogami pulls out a stick from the cart and a blade comes out, transforming it into a spear. Ogami then uses this to impale the second attacker. As the first was dying, he reminds Ogami that they are marked for death. (this plot summary is incomplete)
Mark Lindsay (former lead singer for Paul Revere and the Raiders) co-wrote a new musical score with producer W. Michael Lewis. The electronic music was performed on a Moog Modular synthesizer system at Wonderland, Lindsay's private recording studio. (The performance is credited to "The Wonderland Philharmonic".) However, certain music portions from the original Kozure Ôkami films are still part of the soundtrack.
AnimEigo has released four sequels: Shogun Assassin 2: Lightning Swords of Death, actually the third film in the Baby Cart series, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades; Shogun Assassin 3: Slashing Blades of Carnage, which is the fourth film in the Baby Cart series, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril; Shogun Assassin 4: Five Fistfuls Of Gold, which is the dubbed version of the fifth film, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons; and Shogun Assassin 5: Cold Road to Hell, the dubbed version of Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell, the sixth and final film in the series.
In popular culture
Several audio clips from Shogun Assassin are used on rapper GZA's classic album Liquid Swords (produced by RZA). In addition, the film is invoked in Kill Bill Volume 2 (for which RZA provided original music) in the end scenes where the protagonist and her four-year old daughter watch it as a bedtime story.
Vincent Canby of The New York Times, wrote "Shogun Assassin... is as furiously mixed up as What's Up, Tiger Lily? the classic that Woody Allen made by attaching an English soundtrack to a grade-Z Japanese spy movie. Aside from the little-boy's narration, the movie's not much fun once you've gotten the picture, which is that of a tubby, outcast samurai wandering the length and breadth of Japan, pushing an antique baby carriage that contains his tiny, remarkably observant son."
Stuart Galbraith IV of DVD Talk said, "A radical reworking of not one but two Japanese movies combined into a single action-filled extravaganza, Shogun Assassin floored audiences with its dream-like, poetic action and pressure-cooker bloodletting."
J.C. Maçek III of WorldsGreatestCritic.com wrote, "Shogun Assassin as a product of artistic and stylistic films, is an artistic and stylistic film itself, with the dubbing (which includes even the voice of Sandra Bernhard) working as a genre-setting asset rather than a liability. This keeps the cartoonish, yet somehow still deadly, mood that penetrates each reel. In that this film was a huge influence on later works (like Kill Bill), it's safe to bet that you've got geysers of blood shooting from every wound and plenty of dismemberment and painful-looking slashes."
- Shogun Assassin at the Internet Movie Database
- Shogun Assassin review at Internal Bleeding
- "The Shogun Assassin Movies"
- Shogun Assassin Review at DVD Talk