But I digress.
In the late ‘70s, Warhol protégé David Weisman (not to be confused with Hollywood screenwriter David Weissman) acquired the rights to the first two Lone Wolf And Cub films from Toho, and re-assembled them into one easy-to-follow story. Together with project director Robert Houston, the two hired several deaf lip readers to help construct the dialogue to their version by matching the lip movements of the original actors (many professional actors were brought in to lend their skills, including Lamont Johnson, Marshall Efron, Lennie Weinrib, and a newbie actress named Sandra Bernhard), but there were many moments remaining wherein no dialogue took place whatsoever.
And so, in an move that is now considered to be “genius” by many fans of the film, narration from Itto’s own son, Daigoro, was written and voiced by a seven-year old actor named Gibran Evans (son of illustrator Jim Evans, who designed Shogun Assassin’s theatrical artwork). Throughout the whole 85-minute saga, Daigoro waxes his advanced (for his age) philosophy, lending the American-ized version of a Japanese serial a truly unique aspect.
Also new was an oft-psychedelic but always rockin’ soundtrack courtesy of musician Mark Lindsay (former frontman for Paul Revere And The Raiders) and his magnificent Moog Modular synthesizer. And, so with a fierce combination of oodles of swordplay, rivers of blood, Evans narration, and Lindsay’s kick-ass soundtrack (which has been unavailable in the U.S. since its initial vinyl release in 1980), Weisman and Houston inadvertently created the ultimate post-‘70s grindhouse masterpiece.
AnimEigo’s 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition of Shogun Assassin takes the cult classic to a whole new level. For years, the movie had only been released (legally) on home video via a long-out-of-print VHS cassette from MCA/Universal. Then, in 2006, the staff of AnimEigo nailed their happy sacks to the wall by going through the painful process of rebuilding the entire video portion of the film by using their masters of the original Lone Wolf And Cub films. No small feat indeed, but their diligence and hard work was praised by fans of the cult fave left and right.
The same newer video edit is what appears here in Shogun Assassin: 30th Anniversary Collector’s Edition, and, save for a few seconds of unrestored stock footage (the original material was unobtainable) in the beginning, AnimEigo has done a remarkable job bringing what is quite possibly the only good example of cinematic evisceration and dubbing ever to Blu-ray.
Presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Shogun Assassin is given a 1080p MPEG-4/AVC transfer. It is by and far the best the film has ever looked, boasting strong detail, lush colors (especially all that blood!), and some relatively boomin’ contrast. The presentation is not without its flaws, though, and some imperfections exist in the form of a few minor scratches and grain. Ultimately, though, these tiny flaws add to the movie’s cult appeal, as it was a film produced for the grindhouse circuit to begin with.