Written by: John White on December 4th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1972
Director: Toshio Masuda
Cast: Yûjirô Ishihara, Ruriko Asaoka, Ryohei Uchida, Mikio Narita, Tetsuro Tamba
DVD released: October 4, 2005
Approximate running time: 89 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Japanese
DVD Release: Animeigo
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.98
Synopsis: Three ronin fight the ninja spies of the shogun to help clans fight he avaricious desires of the Shogun to steal their land and wealth on any pretext they can find or make up. The Izushi clan is found out by Shogun spies or “Shadows” and they hire the “Shadow Hunters” to fight the Shogun’s plans. Forced into a corner, the Izushi clan tries to use a secret document to force the Shogun to back off. The clan sends it to Edo with their best swordsman and the Shadow Hunters act as bodyguards.
This is bloody samurai territory and is unsurprising that it came from a graphic comic written by Takao Saito. The three ronin comprise the stately Jubei(Yujiro Ishihara), the brooding Moonlight(Mikio Narita) and the terminally horny Sunlight(Ryohei Uchida). They fight and dispatch ninja in a variety of ways including limb-lopping and spurting blood much in the manner of the Zatoichi movies.
This kind of film lives and dies on it’s fights and their choreography as the story is rarely other than functional. That is true here as the traitor revealed at the end is obvious from about the third minute of the film! The fights are great and the ninja traps and paraphernalia are as well done as any Ninja film I have seen. My particular favourite moment comes when Narita is tricked into a web of tripwires connected to darts which fire from every angle and at any time.
Endlessly well humoured and satisfying in the fights and gore department, Shadow Hunters is a good flick which Samurai fans will like to sit net to the Babycart and Zatoichi films they already own.
The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen and the print is spotless. The disc is a DVD-5 and a higher bit transfer would have been possible on the usual DVD-9. The sound is good but there is some distortion in the high treble range .
Animeigo do concentrate on the film in their DVD presentations and it is the same here. There are trailers for this film, it’s sequel and Demon Spies, but little else than some historical background to the film.
The overall point is the film and it is better presented than many genre films and surprising for such a little known movie. If you have the other Animeigo films, then this will prove a good addition to your collection.