Favorite Trailer Theatre: Shogun Assassin (1980)

This is UNARGUABLY one of the best exploitation trailers of all time, expertly condensing images with maximum hyperbole. As a few of you already know, SHOGUN ASSASSIN is the heavily edited combo of the first two 1974 Toho LONE WOLF AND CUB films, an archetypal Roger Corman import Anglicized for domestic release via his New World Pictures. In a rare case of imagination surpassing exploitation, the English dubbed version of Itto Ogami and his son’s journey on the path to Hell is a classic in its own right, with witty minimal dialogue and a glorious electronic score by Mark Lindsay and W. Michael Lewis. The anachronistic music should not work given the story’s 16th century setting, but its supercool melodic nature is a perfect soundtrack to the dazzling samurai battles and even for the touching montage where young Daigaro nurses his wounded father back to health. In fact, I actually own one of the uber-rare promotional LP soundtracks (I emailed Mark Lindsay long ago to praise/question him about the score, which he was gracious about and admitted to not even having a copy).

I recall the first time I saw SHOGUN ASSASSIN, on ye olde laser-disc, and was duly blown away by the kinetic, composed swordplay that features bloodletting so over the top and fantastic, you can’t be offended — I’d vouchsafe these are some of the best action scenes in film history. Director Kenji Misumi also knows the Japanese value of a long pause before the slicing starts. Daigaro’s voiceover is a nifty idea here, given that in Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima’s manga and successive films, he remains silent; Sandra Bernhard can also be heard as the conflicted female ninja warrior. SHOGUN ASSASSIN was clearly a huge influence on Tarantino’s KILL BILL, and there’s no shame in admiring both versions of the films. So enjoy this thrilling trailer which sells SHOGUN ASSASSIN as a “sword and sorcery” epic that ended up an influential drive-in/grindhouse hit for New World. Animego has released a beautiful Blu-ray version, so we can further savor the compressed adventures of “the greatest team in the history of mass slaughter.”

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7 Responses to “Favorite Trailer Theatre: Shogun Assassin (1980)”

  1. One man, and one child, defy the most notorious masters of death on the planet. Like father, like son, meets the greatest team in history of mass slaughter.

    Saw this one long ago. Then, I too discovered The Lone Wolf and Baby Cart series of films. Still, for a one-off, SHOGUN ASSASSIN is a lot of bloody fun. Good pick, christian.

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