PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Criterion's 'Lone Wolf and Cub' Includes the Original Six Films in the Series

Wakayama Tomisaburo and Tomikawa Akihiro

This series of films about a masterless samurai bent on revenge while protectively raising his son features moments of pastoral silent beauty juxtaposed with quick stylized violence.

Shogun Assassin

Distributor: Criterion Collection
Cast: Wakayama Tomisaburo, Tomikawa Akihiro, Matsuo Kayo
DVD Release date: 2016-11-08

Raising a child as a single parent is rough, without a partner you are always on deck. It’s even more challenging when you work as a freelancer; inevitably there will be that time when you have to bring your son to work with you and hope that he doesn’t get into trouble. The world is a dangerous place and keeping your child safe is paramount. When your work is assassination for hire and you’ve committed yourself to "the demon path in hell", situations become complicated quickly.

This is the challenge for Ogami Itto, the masterless samurai who seeks revenge for the death of his wife while he protects his son Daigoro from ninjas and other assassins sent by the Yagyu clan. Telling a samurai revenge story using a father who cares for his son while destroying his enemies, writer Kazuo Koike and illustrator Goseki Kojima created a highly popular and dramatic manga that went on to influence later manga and comic book artists. Running from 1970 to 1976, the dynamically drawn, violent, sexually explicit tale Kozure Okami caught the eye of Wakayama Tomisaburo, the brother of producer and actor Katsu Shintaro, who starred in the Zatoichi series.

Wakayama was such a fan that he went to the manga’s writer Kazuo Koike’s office dressed as the titular character to demonstrate that, while not quite the same body type as the illustrated character, he could do a somersault in the air. The brothers set up a production studio and went on to create what became a cult hit in Japan and other countries, as well as an important landmark in chanbara, genre movies and exploitation cinema.

The Criterion Collection release of Lone Wolf and Cub includes the original six films in the series, featuring new transfers of the original films, older and newer interviews with various filmmakers involved in the films, along with documentaries on the martial arts and weapons featured in the films. These extra features are not quickie talking heads pieces recycling scenes from the movies, but in-depth interviews with key filmmakers discussing production histories and methods of achieving the various in-camera effects that the filmmakers used to achieve the aesthetic of the films.

In addition to showing the progression of the films from bloody and tense sword standoffs and battles won with a weaponized baby cart to battles with zombies and lethal sleigh rides, the set also shows how the series was used to create new films in different markets. In the late '70s, Robert Houston and David Weisman, members of Andy Warhol’s art film scene, secured the rights to the first two films from Toho, and with Houston editing and the both of them writing, the partners created a related, but new story. Whereas the original movies told their stories through characters interacting and flashbacks, Shogun Assassin includes a voiceover from Daigoro’s perspective. Anyone who has heard GZA’s album Liquid Swords will immediately recognize many of the audio sequences from the English language version, which has been restored and is included in the set.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.