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Martial Madness...

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Posted 22nd April 2009 at 04:31 PM by Sam@Cult Labs

Hanzo the Razor

Having shelled out top dollar for a pricey import, these three notorious and slightly dubious Japanese exploitation movies are now available in the UK.

These are Katzu productions, the same people who brought us the Lone Wolf & Cub (Shogun Assassin) and Lady Snowblood pictures. Hanzo is a samurai police officer in the Edo period of Japanese history. Unlike his fellow officers however, he is above corruption, which causes endless problems for his superiors.

Accompanied by two loyal ex-prisoners whom he saved from jail in exchange for servitude, he uses his skill with a blood-splattered blade to bring justice to his small corner of the world. He also has another, notably un-PC weapon at his disposal. Hanzo interrogates female suspects with his manhood! This leads to hilarious training montages in which Hanzo toughens up his appendage with cold water and beatings. The interrogations can be hard to watch but have a goofy angle to them that means they're not too offensive.

The stylish look of the films, along with a funky score and the odd surreal moment, such as when he must hunt a female ghost in the local marshes all make these flicks an essential purchase for trash movie buffs, martial arts fans and lovers of blood thirsty cult films.

Shogun's Samurai

Kung fu cinema's toughest bruiser, Sonny Chiba, stars in this sweeping samurai adventure from director Kinji Fukasaku, the filmmaker behind a spate of classic 70s Yakuza movies and the still controversial school uniformed massacre that is Battle Royale.

At a time when the Japanese cinema industry was teetering on the edge of collapse, with many studios producing cheap "pinku" porn films as the money started to run out, Fukasaku produced an historical epic of real scope. The plot, which is a lot easier to follow than some of the labyrinthine twists in the directors previous crime movies, involves two brothers at war after the death of their Shogun father. The battle over ascension to the throne is fraught with blood shed and political intrigue, as noble men on both sides pull strings and hatch Machiavellian schemes.

Chiba gets to play up his hard man image in more traditional clothes while sporting a macho eye patch and throws himself into the battle scenes with gusto. This is a vital film for followers of martial arts and samurai cinema. Slightly more pulp than Kurosawa's period classics but a few steps up in terms of good taste from the Lone Wolf & Cub series more grindhouse styling, Shogun's Samurai is a must have saga of power and betrayal, where vengeance takes the form of a sharp blade...
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  1. Old Comment
    I'm not a big fan of the Hanzo Sam. A lot of exploitation films are misogynistic but normally your on the side of the oppressed. In this case I feel you're placed on the side of the oppressor. It does make it comical, but in a way thats worse.

    good music though!

    Have you ever caught Teruo Ishi'sBohachi Boshida? Similar syle of movie.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 8th April 2010 at 07:47 PM by cinematheque cinematheque is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Sam@Cult Labs's Avatar
    Your comment makes an excellent point, I'm usually quite questioning about my motives for watching some of the more unseemly stuff.

    I think with Hanzo that the central conceit of a guy training his Penis, montage style, in order to glean information from women amuses me so much that my critical faculties are blurred.

    I also think the fact that the films exist in a far more fantastical realm than say I Spit on Your Grave or Last House on Left lessened the impact of the sexual abuse in the film. Edo period swordplay movies often have a mythic quality to them and this, in combination with the wacky sidekicks and detective elements means there's a little more to focus on than it straight up exploitation movies. the 70s Japanese stuff is also much more stylishly made than most US trash cinema.

    This isn't written by way of excuse for letting my moral guard down, I just think these movies are a colourful jigsaw of elements so the focus isn't just on the darker moments.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 9th April 2010 at 08:20 PM by Sam@Cult Labs Sam@Cult Labs is offline
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