Dir: Robert Houston, 1980
One of the more famous titles on the DPP’s list of video nasties, Shogun Assassin shows truly what a debacle the whole uproar was.
Edited together from Lone Wolf And Cub: Sword Of Vengeance and Lone Wolf And Cub: Baby Cart At The River Styx, this 1980 hybrid is a fun, yet ridiculous, action movie, doing justice to the manga that began it all.
As is often the case with manga, Shogun Assassin is explicitly violent and bloody, with heads being split in half and limbs sliced off, followed by the obligatory geysers of blood.
There isn’t that great of a plot, but it basically boils down to a tubby samurai warrior with a sword that never gets blunt, walks the length and breadth of Japan, towing his baby in a cart that has blades attached to its wheels.
On his journey, he comes across other samurai intent on killing him, so he gets in first.
Maybe there’s more to the plot, in the full length features. But in this condensed version, that’s what it’s all about.
The dubbing is horrendous, and makes the plot difficult to comprehend, as it’s so distracting.
The Lone Wolf And Cub series isn’t exactly cutting edge and suspenseful. It’s purely there to offer mindless action. Shogun Assassin isn‘t any different. It’s just cheap crap, really, but it offers a certain amount of entertainment.
Contrary to popular belief, Shogun Assassin was never on the DPP’S list of video nasties and wasn’t prosecuted. On it’s original cinema release, the British censors snipped a few bits of violence here and there and it was this version that was put out on video by Vipco, plus a few extra voluntary cuts.
Fearing a risk of prosecution, the distributors withdrew the video and, eventually, released the UK cinema cut in 1992. It was finally passed uncut in 1999.
However, this act of censorship highlighted how ludicrous the situation and the Video Recordings Act was. The furore over violent videos, was a moral panic without any links to actual evidence that harm could occur from watching films of this ilk. The violence and gore in Shogun Assassin is so unrealistic that it resembles a comic book. It’s just a live action cartoon, beneath it all.
There was no real credibility in a prosecution being won, that would classify the work as obscene. A jury would have laughed it out of the courtroom.
But, even then, that still didn’t stop the DPP from going after everything he could.
To conclude, Shogun Assassin is an okay watch, that does provide you with a little fun. Just don’t expect to be won over by it.
A passable nights entertainment.