Written by: Michael Den Boer on August 14th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1978
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Writers: Kinji Fukasaku, Hiro Matsuda,Tatsuo Nogami
Cast: Sonny Chiba, Toshirô Mifune, Kinnosuke Nakamura, Etsuko Shihomi, Tetsuro Tamba
DVD released: August 17th, 2004
Approximate running time: 130 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
DVD Release: Adness
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.99
“Kill whoever stands in your way, even if that be God or Buddha.” – Yagyu Jubei
Two brother’s Lemitsu and Tadanaga oppose each other after the second their father the second Tokugawa Shogun is murdered. Yagyu was the recently deceased second Shogun’s fencing instructor and he aligns himself with the eldest son Lemitsu who is next in line to become the third Shogun of Tokugawa. When a war erupts between the two brothers prospective lords must choose a side as alliances strengthen and the Imperial nobles are controlling everything behind the scenes in hope that the shogunate’s power with lessen thus returning power to the Emperor. Jubei is Yagyu’s oldest son who has become friends with a group of rebels and when he learns of his fathers treachery he is forced to make the ultimate choice.
Kinji Fukasaku was the reigning king of Yakuza films when he proposed to Toei studio’s a Battle without Honor and Humanity style story set in Edo Period. Fukasaku’s only other foray into the Edo period at that point was as Television Series Hissatsu!, which he helped create. Toei studio’s was also ready for a change after the disaster of Bullet Train at the box office and with the success of Shogun’s Samurai: Yagyu Clan Conspriracy Toei had successfully reinvented itself as a studio. Sonny Chiba and Toshirô Mifune besides working together on Shogun’s Samurai they also co-starred in 1978’s The Fall of Ako Castle (also directed by Kinji Fukasaku) and 1981’s The Bushido Blade. Shogun’s Samurai’s box office success would help launch a year after the films release the Television Series “Yagyuu Conspiracy”.
Shoguns Samurai is a character driven film that has an amazing cast Sonny Chiba, Toshirô Mifune, Tetsuro Tamba, Kinnosuke Yorozuya, Etsuko Shihomi and Hiroyuki Sanada. Myths and facts have been used to their best advantage in this expertly crafted tale that is loaded with enough twists and turns to keep the viewer guessing what will happen next. Toshiaki Tsushima who had previously written scores for The Street Fighter and Battles without Honor and Humanity composes a score for Shogun’s Samurai that sets the mood while adding to the films intensity. Kinji Fukasaku is a master craftsman creates a world that is so authentic through his visual style that the viewer becomes totally absorbed in the experience. Cinematographer Toru Nakajima who frequently worked with Kinji Fukasaku gives the film an elegance and style that help give this epic tale depth through his compositions.
Shogun’s Samurai is filled with first class performances and my favorite moment in the film is when Jubei is meets in the woods by one of the Emperors noblemen. Then Jubei takes his hat off which have shiny blades inside of it and throws it at the noblemen who deflects in into a tree and the blades in the hat reflect sunlight into the noblemen’s eyes as Jubei finishes him off.
Adness has given Shogun’s Samurai an anamorphic enhancement and the film is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The colors are lucid show casing the scenery and period costumes that are filled with the utmost detail. Artifacts and grain are non-existent on this transfer from Adness who obviously put a lot of tender loving care into this DVD’s transfer.