Shogun Assassin 2: Lightning Swords of Death – DVD Review


Available at Amazon.com

Directed by
Kenji Misumi

Cast:
Tomisaburo Wakayama … Ogami Itto
Akihiro Tomikawa … Daigoro
Go Kato … Magomura Kanbei
Yuko Hamada … Torizo
Isao Yamagata … Endo Genba
Michitaro Mizushima … Asada Junai


The Movie:

The DVD package for Shogun Assassin 2: Lightning Swords of Death has a warning on the back of it that states that the movie contains “Violence, Nudity, and Rivers of Blood”, and perhaps a more apt warning could not be possible, unless they added something to the tune of “has a confusing lineage” to the warning. For those that don’t know, the Shogun Assassin films are American re-edits of the Japanese Samurai series Lone Wolf and Cub, themselves adaptations of the critically acclaimed Lone Wolf and Cub Manga series. The first Shogun Assassin was a film put together from footage amassed from the first two Lone Wolf and Cub films and dubbed into English. Lightning Swords of Death is merely an English Language version of the third film of the series, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades.

The films chronicle the adventures of the Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama), former executioner in the personal employ of the Shogun of Japan, now a disgraced samurai, wandering the earth with his young son Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa) as the assassin team Lone Wolf and Cub. In this film, Itto is hunted by a local official who is convinced that the infamous swordsman is after his head. Sending gunmen, bodyguards, ninja, and eventually a small army after Itto and son, this entry into the series is filled to the brim with severed limbs, decapitations and corpses galore.

For lovers of Samurai movies, exploitation cinema, and even Spaghetti Westerns, the Lone Wolf and Cub films hold a plethora of guilty pleasures. Stylishly helmed by veteran Director Kenji Misumi, Lightning Swords of Death is a terrific mix of traditional Samurai mythos and the blood and guts, tough guy type of heroics that is the mainstay of this series. While the main battle at the film’s climax is a gory, over the top affair, most individual duels are setup like Spaghetti Western gunfights, focusing more on anticipation than the actual carnage. This particular film is a wonderful adaptation of several little stories from the Lone Wolf and Cub Comic series, able even to loosely tie the stories together with a set of honorable challenges faced by Itto at the beginning and end of the film.


Once again, the stone faced Tomisaburo Wakayama is terrific as Itto, giving a performance like a graceful Japanese version Lee Marvin or Charles Bronson, saying more with his actions than with his words. Whether a product of his own screen charisma or simply expert direction, you believe that this man is the killing machine he is supposed to be. Equally up to the task is the mostly silent Akihiro Tomikawa as the killer’s son, Daigoro. Able to be the exact counterpart that is needed for Ogami, Daigoro is as essential in these films as he is in the Comic Books.

If you’re looking for wonderful examples of Comic Book adaptations or if you simply want to see more Kill Bill style cinema, you could do way worse than Shogun Assassin 2: Lightning Swords of Death or its Japanese counterparts. This film is a great example of the series’ power, giving us decent enough drama to go with mounds of bloody action. While deficient to Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades because of dubbing issues, Lightning Swords of Death is still one of the best examples of this type of movie ever made.


The DVD:

The Video
Ok, so I’m not sure why this happened, but this film is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The problem is, is that the original Japanese version of this film, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades was actually shot in 2.35:1, and being that this is the first time I’ve actually seen this version, I don’t know if this change in ratio was done upon this film’s American release in theaters or done simply for this DVD. You can see some problems with this throughout, as there are moments when Ogami Itto strikes at someone who is now partially off-screen where he wasn’t before or other scenes in which the framing is not shown as originally intended. On the other hand, the print is quite nice, with color and images that are quite crisp.

The Audio
The Audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and for an English dubbed version of the movie, the sound on this disc is quite good. All of the sound effects and score are still nice, which is surprising as often times these aspects of a film will be reduced in order to make the dub easier to hear. Thankfully, even with the dub, the sound on this disc is excellent with Animeigo doing top notch work on this transfer.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Trailers, Image Gallery, and Program Notes

Original Theatrical Trailers – You get three awesome trailers on this disc including one for Shogun Assassin (“Meet the greatest team in the history of mass slaughter!”), Zatoichi’s Conspiracy, and Shadow Hunters. Each trailer is a great example of Samurai films that were influenced by Spaghetti Westerns and lean more toward more exploitive cinema.

Image Gallery

Program Notes

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Shogun Assassin 2: Lightning Swords of Death
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

8
THE VIDEO

7
THE AUDIO

8
THE EXTRAS

2
REPLAY VALUE

10
OVERALL
7
(NOT AN AVERAGE)