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Tomisaburo Wakayama … Ogami Itto
Yoichi Hayashi … Yagyu Gunbei
Michie Azuma … Oyuki
Akihiro Tomikawa … Daigoro
Asao Koike … Tokugawa Yoshinao
Tatsuo Endo … Yagyu Retsudo
If I was ever charged with introducing a modern action fan to Samurai cinema, one of the most accessible series to start with would definitely be the Lone Wolf and Cub series. Based on the awesome Manga by writer Kazuo Koike and the featuring artwork by Goseki Kojima, the films and comics told the story of the personal executioner of the Tokugawa Shogunate Government, Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama), who is wrongfully exiled and becomes a wandering assassin for hire. Together with his son, Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa), they are known as Lone Wolf and Cub, referred to in one movie trailer as “The Greatest Team in the History of Mass Slaughter.”
In total, six Lone Wolf and Cub films were produced, and in the States, versions of two of the movies were shown in Grindhouse cinemas under the title of Shogun Assassin (which is actually a truncated version of the first two movies), and its sequel. Shogun Assassin 3: Slashing Blades of Carnage, now released on DVD for the first time, is actually a newly dubbed version of the fourth LW&C movie, Baby Cart in Peril, and adapts some of the best stories from the original Manga series. With tons of sword duels, riveting ninja action, and a final battle with enough blood to satisfy fans of Kill Bill or 300, Shogun Assassin 3 is one of the finest examples of this series, no matter what language it’s in.
The film is split up into two portions; the main plot has to deal with Ogami tracking down a female swordsman bent on revenge, and the other half deals with the continued struggle between Itto and his sworn enemies, The Yagyu Ninja clan. Both of these plotlines, adapted from different stories within the Comic Book series, are flawlessly woven together, creating an engaging and exciting narrative for this entry. Of all the Lone Wolf and Cub films, this one is the most emotionally resonant story, and shows an artistry that raises it above the level that most Grindhouse films would aspire to.
As the female assassin Oyuki, Michie Azuma is appropriately alluring and dangerous. Azuma brings the appropriate mix of fury and sadness to this role of a wronged woman who seeks retribution after she has been severely wronged by a high ranking Samurai. As a way to distract stronger fighters, Oyuki fights topless, but is adorned in a frightful tattoo that diverts her opponent’s attention long enough for her to strike. She kills so many men trying to get to this specific Samurai, that the families of her victims hire Ogami to stop her reign of terror. This creates an emotional quandary for Itto, who is on his own quest for vengeance, and respect’s Oyuki’s mission, but must also carry out his own, reminding me of the plot of the fourth Dirty Harry film, Sudden Impact.
Tomisaburo Wakayama is once again impressive in his Charles Bronson-like persona. Itto is an awesome action hero, slicing through armies of men and making short work of ninja and samurai alike. He’s no slouch in the film’s dramatic sequences either, bringing a quiet determination to the role.
Director Buichi Saito, taking over for veteran Director Kenji Misumi who had directed all previous entries, stages terrific actions scenes, especially a temple battle in which a group of ninja disguise themselves as statues. Like his predecessor, Saito also borrows from the Spaghetti Western as much as he pays tribute to his own genre, as the 70’s score and action all flow together in a way that is very indicative of the work of early Leone films. Much of the excitement of this movie comes from the anticipation of violence, which never disappoints with its fountains of blood once it does arrive.
The only real detriment to Shogun Assassin 3: Slashing Blades of Carnage is that without subtitles, the film’s dubbing and narration feels a bit forced at times. Still the movie’s entertainment value is quite immense, with bloody action and a terrific storyline that is every bit as good as any in this series. While I would very much recommend seeking out the subtitled edition of this movie instead, those with no taste for it will find much enjoyment in the carnage of this version.
This is the best the film has ever looked on DVD. Having sat through some of the shabby prints of this film before, this is a definite improvement, with none of the images looking too dark as they have before on other foreign releases. The film is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1
The Audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and is also nice, but alas only has the dubbed English track. If this is a problem, then you should buy AnimEigo’s version of Lone Wolf and Cub 4: Baby Cart in Peril to get the Japanese language track.
Theatrical Trailers – You get the original theatrical trailers for other AnimEigo releases, including Shogun Assassin, Ashura, and 47 Ronin.
Shogun Assassin 3: Slashing Blades of Carnage