Written by: Michael Den Boer on January 20th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, December 5th, 1979
Director: Mitsumasa Saito
Writer: Toshio Kamata
Cast: Sonny Chiba, Jun Eto, Toshitaka Ito, Haruki Kadokawa, Hiroshi Kamayatsu
DVD Released: February 8th, 2005
Approximate Running Time: 139 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital mono
DVD Release: Adness/Ventura
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.99
A squadron of Japanese soldiers are transported into the past were Shoguns and Samurai’s rule the land. Lt. Yoshiaki Iba (Sonny Chiba) tries to keep his men in line while he thinks of a way to get them back home. Kagatore (Isao Natsuki) is an ambitious samurai who aspire to be the next shogun and when he sees Lt. Yoshiaki Iba weapons of mass destruction he forms an alliance. Does Kagatore have ulterior motives or will he help Iba and his men find their way back home?
G.I. Samurai was originally released in the U.S. under the title Time Slip. Mitsumasa Saito would only direct a hand full of films including the Sonny Chiba film Black Magic Wars. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s Sonny Chiba would star in several Kadokawa productions including The Resurrection of the Golden Wolf, Samurai Reincarnation, Fall Guy, Legend of the Eight Samurai and the international production Virus. G.I. Samurai is an interesting take on the time travel phenomena. During the course of the film the Japanese soldiers while plotting on how to get back home they only seemed concerned about meeting any of their ancestors. They had no problems killing thousands of samurai’s in the process which some may have even been related to them.
This logic of how future can only be altered when you come in contact with your ancestors is a major flaw that is never really explained. The acting is good with the only stand out performance coming from Sonny Chiba who gets plenty of chances to flex his muscles. Two of Chiba’s stand out moments is when he rides a horse during a battle and when he hangs from a rope that dangles from a helicopter while he shoots an Uzi. The relationship between Iba and Kagatore that evolves through out the film is what holds the films narrative together. The film uses flashbacks during the film that cut between the past and present that are memoirs from one of the soldiers past. While I found them interesting they felt out of place and disrupt the narrative flow. There is a scene wear the soldiers are told that the local widow per custom services all men who come through her village. This scene at first just appears to unnecessary exploitation until a battle that takes place later in which we get to see for a moment two enemies remembered a time when they were friends. The bizarre images and colors used while the soldiers travel through time add to the surreal tone that is present through out the film. This film really excels in its action sequences which are expertly executed and epic in size. The final third of the film is all out action that doesn’t let up until the films final moments. What G.I. Samurai lacks in story is makes up for with its non stop action.
Adness presents G.I. Samurai in an anamorphic widescreen the preserves the films original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The colors look strong and flesh tones look natural through out. The image is in great shape with only a few minor instances of dirt on the transfers. There are no problems with compression and grain is kept to a minimum. This DVD comes with only one audio option the films original Japanese language track presented in a Dolby Digital mono. There is no noticeable hiss or problems with distortion. The audio has been cleaned up nicely as dialog and action is always comes through clearly. Overall for a Dolby Digital mono mix this track gets the job done and then some. English subtitles have been included that are easy to follow and understand. Extras include a Sonny Chiba trailer collection with the following titles G.I. Samurai, Karate Bearfighter, Karate Bullfighter, Killing Machine, Shogun’s Samurai, Black Magic Wars, Karate for Life and Legend of The Eight Samurai. Rounding out the extras is liner notes written by Patrick Macias who knowledge of Sonny Chiba is unmatched and always informative. Adness restores for this DVD over forty minutes of footage not included in G.I. Samurai’s original U.S. theatrical release. G.I. Samurai weaves a tale that cleverly mixes two genres together for an epic tale for the ages, highly recommended.