Released today, film fans across the world would be throwing copies of Shogun Assassin onto bonfires because technically, it is 100x worse than the type of 'rip offs' that people keep accusing Tarantino of lately. Essentially, Shogun is the first fifteen minutes or so of Sword of Vengeance followed by the majority of Babycart at the River Styx copy and pasted into an 80 minute film, with the addition of bad dubbing and some seriously cool music. But, as it stands, Shogun Assassin was 'made' in 1980 and did the full trip around grind house theatres so it has gained a cult following. So today it is looked back on as classic hack and slash cinema, as Kill Bill will probably be in twenty years time as much as some purists hate to admit it.
Speaking from my current state of mind I would say screw Shogun Assassin and go for the six Lone Wolf and Cub films. Even as a cure for film geeks lust for blood and guts, Shogun Assassin seems kind of strange. I never really understood why Houston didn't c & p some of the much more epic scenes of carnage from Babycart to Hades or Babycart in Peril. Still, the fight with the Hidari brothers (or 'Masters of Death' as they are known in Shogun) is one of the coolest in all six films. John Carpenter later used the brothers as prototypes for his '3 Storms' in Big Trouble in Little China, but if he was 'homaging' River Styx or Shogun Assassin we will probably never know.
Ultimately, Shogun Assassin works in the same way as Kill Bill, as a gateway to grind house cinema for the masses. How many people realise, respect and take advantage of this is where the problems start. Regarding Kill Bill, thousands of people see the films and see them as original without realising their true purpose. But it is difficult to argue that both films are not taking advantage of underseen cinema.
Alas, three paragraphs and I haven't actually said if the film is any good. The truth is, I will probably never watch it again because there isn't much point if you are into the LW & C films. But I won't have been introduced to 70s Japanese samurai 'grind house' cinema, which I regard as the best action genre there is, if it wasn't for Shogun. So I can't say it is rubbish, and to be fair, if you haven't seen LW & C it is far from crap, showcasing some of the coolest fight scenes ever filmed along with some seriously awesome music (which is the main reason I still have love for Shogun). Of course, the dubbing completely ruins Wakayama's performance and the Yagyu female ninja leader is turned into a useless loose end.
But Shogun's existence is important and a godsend is stopping 70s Jap samurai cinema from falling into nothingness in the west. If you don't know samurai cinema, watch Shogun once and you will turn into a nerd like me and become instantly obsessed with Japanese cinema. I would never know and love a lot of the films I do now if it wasn't for Shogun, and for that I hold it in the highest regard. Well, sort of.
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