1980, R, 86 min. Directed by Kenji Misumi. Starring Tomisaburo Wakayama, Masahiro Tomikawa, Kayo Matsuo, Robert Houston.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Wed., April 18, 2001
Absolutely one of my all-time favorite martial-arts movies, Shogun Assassin is a fascinating Americanized amalgam of two Japanese movies, Lightning Swords of Death and Baby Cart at the River Styx. Shogun Assassin combines bits and pieces from both films, adds an unfortunately bad dub track, and creates a seamless whole. The story centers around a samurai who travels the countryside, fighting and wheeling his infant son in a baby carriage. The entire story is told in a voiceover from the child's point of view. Once a loyal fighter, the samurai's shogun employer goes senile (or mad) and orders the samurai's death, but the ninjas sent to kill him mistakenly murder the samurai's wife instead. The samurai vows vengenace, the baby voluntarily chooses the way of the sword, and the life of the itinerant soldier becomes the duo's path. Perhaps not as action-packed as some martial-arts epics, but Shogun Assassin has an emotional warmth and subtlety that the big guns often lack.