• Shogun's Shadow

    Released by: Adness/Ventura
    Released on: 7/5/2005
    Director: Yasuo Furohata
    Cast: Sonny Chiba, Ken Ogata, Tetsuo Tamba, Hiroki Matsukata, Hu Chien Chiang, Seizo Fukumoto
    Year: 1989
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    The Movie:

    Shogun’s Shadow, the 1989 film from Yasuo Furohata with action direction chores handled by Sonny Chiba, doesn’t attempt to break any new ground of surprise anyone with clever plot twists. Instead, it sticks to a tried and true formula and keeps the action coming fast and steady resulting in a rather brainless but thoroughly enjoyable period samurai film that feels very much like a comic book come to life.

    The film begins when we find out that the current reining Shogun is more or less nuts. He hates his eldest son, Tachehiyo, because he doesn’t bear a physical resemblence to him and so he wants his second son to be the heir to his throne. To make this happen, he decides to orchestrate a plan to have his Samurai pal Iba Shoemon (Sonny Chiba) and his army of spear wielding ninja warriors kill him off.

    Unfortunately for Iba and the Shogun, but very fortunately for Tachehiyo, Igo Gyobu (Ken Ogata) is on the job and along with his rag tag band of Samurai (one or two of whom look to have walked out of a Manowar video) and assorted martial artist types, has pledged his life to protecting the honor of the tradition and saving the young lord’s life no matter what the cost. Iba and his men chase Igo and Tachehiyo on a path across the country, hoping to catch them before they can make it to Edo where the boy will hope to find refuge with some other, more sane, relatives who know just how wonky dear old dad really is.

    Samuri sword duels, flying ninjas with spears and arrows aplenty, an annoying child actor, gratuitous horse tripping that looks really painful and a completely unnecessary but wholey welcome cameo from Tetsuro Tamba – add all this together and throw in a bad eighties metal soundtrack and a few dismemberments for good measure and you’ve got yourself a movie, boss. Chiba, while he only has limited screentime in this one is plays more of a supporting role than a lead despite the top billing, is excellent as the heavy. Seeing him play the sinister assassin out to take a young boy’s life is interesting as it’s an atypical role for someone who normally plays the good guy, or the anti-hero, not necessarily the actual villain. He handles the role very well, and the climactic showdown with Ken Ogata (you know it’s coming from about ten minutes into the movie so this isn’t really a spoiler… quit whining) is excellent in both its scope and its execution.

    The film has also got some excellent period sets. While many of these get trashed as the film plays out, it’s obvious that the set designer had somewhat of an eye for detail, the same can be said for the costumes, all of which are very ornate. The stunt work is excellent with some exciting high dives, some amazing horse back combat, and a few tenese sequences that take place overtop of a deep ravine (just try not to notice the obvious blue screen effects).


    The 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks very nice. While at times the colors could have been a little bit bolder and there is some very minor blurring in some of the more intense action scenes, these aren’t really worth complaining about too loudly. Edge enahancement is kept to a minimum and there aren’t any problems with compression artifacts. There is a fine coat of film grain overtop of the image but it’s never disturbing and print damage only appears as the odd speck here and there throughout the film, it’s bareley noticeable. Nice job.

    The Japanese language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is pretty solid. The bad eighties ‘rawk’ soundtrack that plays out during the exciting horse chase scenes sounds nice and clear and the dialogue is problem free. Though in some scenes things are a hair on the flat side, for the most part everything sounds just fine on this DVD and there are a few keen instances where the stereo track does add a bit of extra ‘oomph’ to the film.

    The only extras on the DVD are a trailer for the feature and trailers for six other entries in the Sonny Chiba collection, including the upcoming DVD releases of The Executioner and The Executioner II! Sadly, no liner notes this time out.

    The Final Word:

    Light on extras, Shogun’s Shadow is a fun adventure film with some great, bloody action scenes and a fine Shakespearian ending. While more Chiba in the film would have been very welcome, there’s enough going on at a fast enough pace to make this one a good, entertaining action film.