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|Index||14 reviews in total|
I would like to preface my review by saying that I am reviewing the Canadian (subtitled) version of Makai Tensho, NOT the sacreligious, crap-dubbed, bargain basement version, recently released. The subtitled version is probably out-of-print by now, but if you can find it, it has Sonny Chiba as Jubei on the cover (the new dubbed version has Sonny incorrectly portrayed as Iba from Shogun's Shadow on the front).....Now for the review....We have many of the heavy hitters from the famed Japan Action Club in this movie: Sonny Chiba, reprising his role as Yagyu Jubei from "The Yagyu Conspiracy", Ken Ogata (Shogun's Shadow) as Musashi, Henry Sanada, Tomisaburo Wakayama (Lone Wolf and Cub) as Yagyu Tajima, and many other noted actors. Incredible fight scenes (the flaming castle at the end---damn!), mystical script (Christians vs. the Shogunate), moody soundtrack, and an "interesting" scene with Sanada...they all make for a truly classic chambara epic. Whenever Sonny grabs that cool hat, eyepatch and a sword, you know it's quality. GET THE SUBTITLED VERSION!!! Watch it the way it was meant to be watched (or go to Japan, get an original tape and make a fansub!) ----Master Yagyu
Maybe I'm strange, but I thought this was the best movie I have ever seen.
It seems long, but short too, as you watch it. And maybe, to us Americans,
the kabuki style make-up is slightly KISS-like. Still, it was beautiful
thoughtful. I can't even begin to describe the plot. Think Charles
crossed with H.P. Lovecraft. Anyway, here's what I think may have
happened... an extremely good-looking Japanese Christian denounces his
faith in the beginning, bitter about the whole Shogan clan system and all
his friends being killed. He becomes an eternal satanic warlock, who is
able to raise other disgruntled spirits from the dead. Over time they get
up a group of undead who plan to topple the government. (Not, perhaps
without some justification, but remember, they are evil.)
On the other side, a one-eyed, fabulously talented swordsman. He's more of a Buddhist, not so interested in eternal vengeance and all. He goes to the most evil swordsman in Japan, and asks him to make him a sword, because only a creature of evil can create a sword that can kill evil ghosts, (or gods). There are many wonderful scenes besides the sword making one. (The swordmaker gives his all and dies.) The Shogun lord is enamoured of one of the undead group, (she's very lovely). I think this may have been his ex-wife whom he had murdered. When the royal court goes out hunting (with beaters dressed in black and white french prisoner costumes???), as the villagers flee before them she says "Oh look, there's a nice deer to shoot", (or something to that effect, and all the courtiers and eventually the prince, begin shooting the villagers with arrows, sort of a mass hallucination). They tie them up on stakes, still thinking they are deer. It was all very surreal. If you like excellent sword fights, good mob scenes, nice nature scenery, and theological conflict, this movie has it all and more. You MUST see it. Oh, and it all ends in flames. Lots and lots of flames. A must see for pyromaniacs as well.
When you blend historical figures with fictional stories that go way
beyond realism, you often get mixed results. Well to be honest you
really don't get good results. Suffice to say it's a dangerous line to
tread. Luckily when you have an experienced director like Kinji
Fukasaku and a great cast of actors like Sonny Chiba and Tomisaburo
Wakayama you can't expect anything less then good. And "Makai Tenshu"
is good, really really good. Flawlessly using legendary figures from
Japanese history such as Jubei Yagyu and Myamoto Musashi in a thick
supernatural plot about vengeance, along with some of the most stylish
action sequences I've seen in chambara movies.
"Makai Tenshu" is an adaptation of the book bearing the same name. A pseudo-historical variation of the story about the Christian rebellions during the opening years of the Tokugawa Shogunate. And their subsequent, brutal conclusion. That event seals the fate of thousands upon thousands of Christians. It is here where our tale begins, amidst the bloodied aftermath of the massacre. After a mysterious ritual is performed, the leader of the Christians Shiro Amakusa returns from the dead to exact his revenge on the Shogunate. He vows the destruction of Japan and it's rulers. But before that can happen he must gather his retinue. Tortured, wretched souls whose life has been incomplete, unfinished. He offers them a second chance. Reincarnation, as demons like himself. This leaves the Yagyu clan with Jubei Yagyu (Sonny Chiba) and his father Tajima Yagyu (Tomisaburo Wakayama) as the only ones capable of confronting them.
I enjoyed very much how this story was handled. Divided into two parts the movie spends it's first hour on establishing the villains and their present motivations. Everything is written so that it makes sense, Amakusa's chosen for minions is not random and each has a role to fulfill. For example he uses the female he's risen, under a different name and background to seduce the Shogun and cloud his mind. While the ninja is used to used to eliminate anyone who has been curious about her "past". This level of detail is certainly satisfying when it comes to nitpicking every single detail. And it's not just the villains that are developed well. The relationship between Jubei and his father is also explored and plays an interesting part in the story. Fukusaku directs this first part of the film accordingly, while keeping his trademark kinetic action direction for the expositional second portion of the movie. There, the entire build up from firts part explodes into a series of stylishly directed action sequences. Fukasaku demonstrates his skill once again, using the sets and landscapes as an effective tool that enhances the experience of watching samurai duels. Skillful swordplay is not absent with the likes of Chiba and Wakayama both chambara veterans. This is not a movie that depends on strong acting ability to express itself, but even so performances are still commendable and at a higher ladder than most movies in the genre.
Visually speaking "Makai Tenshu" is a feast for 80s cinema fanatics. If you love old-school special effects as I do, then you've come at the right place. There is some lovely use of montages and the classic lighting effect does add up to the whole experience of watching a movie about demons and sorcery. But what really takes the cake in terms of visual goodness is the awesome set design. A tremendous amount of work has been put in the creation of these sets and it all pays out. Looking at that great opening shot of the massacred Christians was a chilling, beautiful moment as a twisted horroresque picture was laid upon my eyes. Bodies piled up, heads stabbed on pikes, crosses everywhere and the scorched sky, mesmerizing shot.
Kinju Fukasaku once again delivers a truly visceral experience. A story so carefully written and so visually stunning that it makes me long for the time when there was no CGI or Digital Cameras, when directing a movie was not just a question of budget but of skill and creativity.
I recently viewed a subtitled version of Makai Tensho: Samurai Reincarnation from my video store. I had previously viewed the dubbed version a few times throughout the years and found the movie to be strangely appealing but also confusing and the dubbed dialog rather silly. Characters would suddenly disappear or appear without any explanation and the plot seemed somewhat incoherent. The subtitled version appears to have more footage, which helps explain the story much more clearly and the movie appears much more sophisticated. In the subtitled version, the subtlety of the acting is quite good. For example, the acting of Kenji Sawada as the Christian Shiro appeared almost ridiculous and over the top in the dubbed version, but hearing it in Japanese with subtitles, it had much more subtlety and created a much more complex character. There are many good and familiar actors (to those familiar with this genre)who give good performances from Sonny Chiba as Jubei Yagyu to Tomisaburo Wakayama as the elder Yagyu, who is famed for his character in the Lone Wolf and Cub series. Don't judge this movie, until you have the opportunity to view the subtitled version!
While Makai Tensho cannot be mistaken for masterpiece film-making, it
is definitely a fun-ride for those in love with Samurai movies. The
cast is filled with a veritable who's-who of Japanese cinema, including
such luminaries as Ken Ogata, Soony Chiba, Tetsuro Tamba. It is also
very gratifying to see the venerable Tomisaburo Wakayama (star of the
70's epic Lone Wolf and Cub series), still slicing and dicing with the
best of them.
The film has some incredible action set pieces, including a stunning showdown in a burning castle. Some of the effects and costumes are a little over-the-top, but the actors seem to be having so much fun, and the direction is so fast paced, that you just can't help but be swept up into the pulp fantasy. Makai Tensho is a gem in modern samurai films.
Samurai Reincarnation is my favorite film. Every aspect of this movie
caters directly to my taste. And although my taste is often for the
bizarre, this movie is almost always held together by great acting. The
story, if you can get passed the totally strange (yet contextually
wonderful) opening, is completely engrossing to anyone interested in
Japanese myths, history, culture, or just really great ghost stories.
Aesthetically, Samurai Reincarnation is masterly crafted. From a
battlefield filled with mountains of corpses to the elaborate interior
of the shogun's palace, each setting perfectly sets the stage for the
story to unfold. The costumes are all beautifully designed as well. Of
course, the sword fights! With characters such as the sword fighting
legend Miyamoto Musashi and Jubei Yagyu, it would only be appropriate
to include sword fights of the highest caliber. And that's exactly what
you'll find! Everything in the movie comes together as the complete
package for me, and even though it might not end up being your favorite
movie, give this one a chance if anything I wrote about above interests
you; it won't disappoint!
Oh, GREAT MUSIC TOO!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For fans of Sonny Chiba and Kinji Fukasaku (director of Graveyard of
Honor and that stupid flick with the kids on the island), Makai Tensho
should be an interesting watch. It mixes in some action, supernatural
elements, swordplay, religious overtones, and some great sets and
costumes on a low budget and looks pretty good overall.
Watch it without dubbed dialogue, for you own sake. This is a chambara flick with Chiba playing one-eyed swordsman Jubei who goes up against an army of warriors who have been demonically resurrected by a power-hungry sorceror who wants to overthrow the corrupt shogun. Cool stuff, not enough action for my liking but everything else looks impressive, including a great climactic battle sequence. Give it a look--8/10.
SAMURAI REINCARNATION is a visual tour de force from action master
Kinji Fukasaku. From the very first scene in which 37,000 people are
massacred and the camera pans over a wasteland populated by severed
heads, you know you're going to be in for a real treat with this one.
I've found Japanese period films made around the late '70s and early
'80s to be real masterpieces in terms of set design and cinematography
and SAMURAI REINCARNATION carries on that trend.
The plot is slow moving but this is a film that rewards close viewing so it doesn't matter. After his people are massacred by a cruel Shogun, a Christian is reincarnated as a devil and goes around collecting famous dead people, bringing them back to life so that they can slaughter the living. Only one man can stop them: Jubei Yagyu, a one-eyed pirate-looking dude played by genre star player Sonny Chiba at the top of his game.
As a samurai film, this has plenty of dramatic action scenes to recommend it, and they're all of the classic variety; a duel on a beach is a highlight, but the real wowzer is an extensive fight in a burning building. You've never seen fire burning like this before and the fight scene is incredible, as well as looking incredibly dangerous for the actors involved. Alongside Chiba, we get a supporting turn from Hiroyuki Sanada, playing a role that's a bit different to his usual heroic stuff, and there's even a pivotal part for LONE WOLF & CUB star Tomisaburo Wakayama. SAMURAI REINCARNATION is a film possessed of a dark and brooding atmosphere throughout; it's a grim, haunting, and visceral tale, and completely oppressive too. In fact, it might well be one of the moodiest Japanese films of the 1980s.
I thought at first this was filmed for the asian TV market because of the obvious set design and film quality at the beginning(reminiscent of Dark Shadows). However, the film slowly builds in pace and scope until it's climax: a duel in an inferno, the burning remains of the mansion of the shogun. It is easily up to the par of the low budget asian action movies of the period. The mythology of the film is quite interesting, both in the time period it is placed and the characters that are included. The samurai that Toshiro Mifune brought to western audiences, Musashi Miyamoto, plays a key part. The only significant flaw to this film is the previously mentioned dub. Not only are the voices not timed properly but almost all the voice actors are VERY poorly chosen and seemingly refuse to emote with their characters. There are some moments with dramatic overacting but anyone seeking information on a film titled Samurai Reincarnation shouldn't be seeking subtlety. Also of note, many of the key players of this film including Sonny Chiba and the Director himself were involved in the film The Legend of the Eight Samurai, a film much like this one with similar qualities and flaws(including the dub).
The parts of the movie that I have seen fit to the other story
For those of us who enjoy Martial arts films this one is just the same. The dubbing may have a bit of a flaw but once you get into it,it is a very good story. It is the predecessor of the ''96 title Reborn from Hell, the story in both are similar but Samurai Reincarnation tells more of the story.
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