Dungeon Classics #8: Shogun Assassin

FilmDungeon’s Chief Editor JK sorts through the Dungeon’s DVD-collection to look for old cult favorites….

Shogun Assassin (1980, Japan | USA)

Director: Robert Houston, Kenji Misumi
Cast: Tomisaburô Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Kayo Matsuo
Running Time: 85 mins.

In the early seventies, the classic manga Lone Wolf and Cub – about a hunted warrior who travels around with his young son – was first published and quickly adapted into a six-part film series. These are still the most entertaining samurai movies ever made, full of compelling stories in feudal Japan, astonishing violence and swordplay, and inspiring Buddhist wisdom. In 1980, American actor-director Robert Houston made the American version. For this he somewhat simplified the story, provided a now classic voice-over track (referenced in a.o. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 and the album Liquid Swords by Wu Tang Clan-member Genius GZA) and a typical eighties synthesizer soundtrack. Houston did a fine job editing together the best parts of the first and second (the best) movie. You couldn’t wish for a more action-packed samurai flick. And the final duel with the Masters of Death is truly unforgettable. If you want to get really dirty, I would advise the original series of six, but nothing wrong with this one for starters. It’s masterful.

Dungeon Classics #7: Last Man Standing

FilmDungeon’s Chief Editor JK sorts through the Dungeon’s DVD-collection to look for old cult favorites….

Last Man Standing (1996, USA)

Director: Walter Hill
Cast: Bruce Willis, Christopher Walken, David Patrick Kelly, Ned Eisenberg
Running Time: 101 mins.

The story of Last Man Standing – in which a mercenary arrives in a small town and hires himself to two rival gangs – has been told before. The original Yojimbo (1961) is a samurai movie. And the remake A Fistful of Dollars (1964) a spaghetti western. Both are absolute classics. Last Man Standing is not, but hey! This is still a cult favorite. In this version, the setting is a dusty Mexican bordertown during the prohibition where two gangs of violent bootleggers are fighting a bloody war. The rough gunslinging drifter Willis (named John Smith) arrives and starts playing both sides off against one another, earning himself a nice payday for his efforts. But the play is not without personal danger. Plus, he starts helping two dames who are hooked up with the gangs’ leaders. Pretty soon, the town turns into a bullet festival, so Smith can display his incredible gun skills. The heavy action that follows is perfectly directed by Hill. Add to this a fine selection of actors, including a creepy Christopher Walken, and you have an irresistible action movie on your hands.