Movies

The VIPCO bandwagon marches ever onward

With the sell-through release of one of the best (and bloodiest) films ever to cause the DPP to shake in their cowardly shoes at the height of the 'Nasties' craze. Narrated by a child, Shogun Assassin is a stunning ballet of violence and bloodletting that action fans will find as entertaining and visually stylish as anything ever done by Penkinpah.

If you're into Japanese action movies then you'll already know they don't come any better than this. If you're not into them, then perhaps you are reading the wrong mag - The People's Friend is on the next shelf down!

The film doesn't have much of a plot. What there is concentrates on the gory lifestyle of a chap named Wakayama. He's an 'official decapitator' by trade, which means he goes round the country lopping people's heads off if they don't get out of his way. This sort of work is good for a giggle, but it can get a bit titing on the old arm muscles, particularly as our hero also has to push young son along in a rickety wooden cart.

Luckily though, junior is able to take care of himself. In one classic scene early on in the movie the deadly duo are accosted by bandits on the road. After a few menacing squint-eyed glances and a burst of sinister music, dad whips out his sword and starts relieving baddies of their bonces. Meanwhile, baby pulls a lever inside the pram and blades shoot out of the side to lop the legs off the rest of the villains.

Lots of spurting blood and dismembered parts are this movies main feature.

Lots of spurting blood and dismembered parts are this movies main feature. When folk get sliced they don't just bleed in trickles, it's like somebody turned on a garden hose! Most of the violence is so over the top as to be cartoon-like, with gallons of gore even splashing into the camera lens. We hope the crew were all issued with plastic macs at the start of the shoot.

Shogun Assassin has an unusual genesis in that originally it was two movies rather than just one. It was edited down into two films in the popular 'Lone Wolf' Japanese series: Baby Cart at the River Styx and Sword of Vengeance both of which were made in 1980 and based on a popular Japanese comic book.  The resultant hybrid quickly became a very big commercial hit in the states and was one of the most rented movies around when first released to video here in the 1980s.

What frequently ruins these films for western audiences is the atrocious dubbing. But it's very well done in Assassin. Not that there is a great deal of it anyway, because by taking the best action parts from two movies the producers have given us almost not-stop combat throughout and very few dialogue scenes are allowed to intrude.

But just out of interest, trivia fans might like to not that one of the main voices is dubbed by Sandra Bernhard, better known nowadays as Madonna's buddy and star of Scorsese's The King of Comedy. Another of the voices is provided by Mark Lyndsay of the popular 60s group, Paul Revere and the Raiders (must be before my time - Ed) we're sure this knowledge will enhance your enjoyment.

In the final analysis, Shogun Assassin is a great slice of bloodthirsty action entertainment that makes most currently available American product look the The Sound of Music by comparison. Expertly edited together and backed up by a punchy electronic score (by Mark Lyndsay) which gives the film the feel of a spaghetti western. This is one movie that is truly worthy of Video World classic label.

Shogun Assassin is available from June 18th prices £12.99.

Video World - June 1992

With thanks to Robert Berwick for the article