Grimm up North – Samurai Splatter Double Bill
It was a cold February Friday evening as I ventured out to the Anthony Burgess Foundation for the second of Grimm up North’s horror double bill’s, and having not seen either of the films on show; Shogun Assassin or Baby Cart to Hades, I was looking forward to a fun night ahead of me. I grabbed myself a beer and sat back to enjoy what was set to be one hell of a night.
For those who are new to the world of Lone Wolf and Cub the series follows the adventures of a Samurai warrior on the run from a violent band of ninjas with only his young son for company. The series was very popular in Japan in the early seventies and the first two films were cut, dubbed and combined to create an American Version, Shogun Assassin, in the early eighties. Usually, I would be against such blatant disregard for a filmmaker’s original work but I have to admit that I was very impressed with Shogun Assassin and although I had not seen any of the original films I will certainly be seeking them out in the near future.
As the opening scene kicked in I experienced one of those moments where I knew without a doubt that I was going to love the entire film, a combination of atmospheric music, an enthralling voiceover and some beautifully choreographed scenes set the story up in such a way that I was completely captivated from the word go. Not once did the film let up, the action bordered on the ridiculous but with such style that despite being hilarious at times I was still glued to the edge of my seat throughout.
The only way I can describe Shogun Assassin is if Kurosawa collaborated with Tarantino, there are moments of sheer beauty that are interspersed with brutally visceral imagery, and copious amounts of splattering blood. I cannot recommend the film highly enough, just wait until you see the crazy contraptions that are part of Lone wolf’s sons pram, I guarantee that you will laugh copiously whilst still being genuinely impressed by the warped minds of the film’s creators.
During the interval I loaded up on another beer (the perfect accompaniment to a violent samurai film) and sat back to enjoy a short clip of Samuel L. Jackson explaining why he is such a huge fan of the Lone wolf and Cub series. It was a great insight into the veteran actor’s passion for film and to say I was pumped for Baby cart to Hades would be somewhat of an understatement; I was like a young boy on Christmas morning.
The second film on show was the sequel to Shogun Assassin, and this time we were treated to the original Japanese version of the film, which was far more serious than the dubbed version of the first two films but this did not detract from it’s entertainment value. There were still moments of intentional and unintentional comedy gold but the noticeable change of tone made the film appear much darker than its Americanised predecessor, with the violence seeming more vicious and unhinged.
Lone wolf and his cub continue to travel along their seemingly unending path encountering all sorts of thieves and vagabonds whilst still aiming to seek revenge on the Shogun that wronged him in the past. The climatic battle scene is a delight to behold as Lone Wolf attempts to take on an entire horde of samurais armed with just his swords and his baby cart, and the ensuing carnage is bound to please those with a penchant for violent films.
Whilst the events depicted in Shogun Assassin had a lot of focus on the young cub, he seems to have been put to one side for the majority of this third instalment and did not seem as integral to the story. However, it remained a fascinating watch and it was interesting to see the contrast between an original Japanese version of the story and the Americanised remake.
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Once again, the Grimm team had organised a brilliant evening, and with the Spring lineup slowly being revealed on their website, it looks like the season of double bills will be going from strength to strength. The next Grimm up North double bill screening will take place this Thursday 23rd Feb at The Dancehouse in Manchester City Centre and is an arthouse horror double bill. The films showing are:
About The Author – Tom Bielby
Long time film fan and aspiring film writer, Tom is a horror fanatic who wasted far too much time at University sitting through every film in the IMDB Top 250. He is partial to foreign films and cult cinema and would love to rid the world of people who rustle their popcorn during important scenes. He can be found on Twitter under the alias @filmbantha