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James Clavell's Shogun

4.6 out of 5 stars 651 customer reviews

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(Sep 23, 2003)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

John Blackthorne, an English ship pilot, whose vessel wrecked upon the Japanese coast in the early 17th century is forced to deal with the two most powerful men in Japan in these days. He is thrown in the midst of a war between Toranaga and Ishido, who struggle for the title of Shogun which will give ultimate power to the one who possesses it.


What better way to escape from the onslaught of so-called reality television than to sail away with Richard Chamberlain to "the Japans" for a little samurai action and some discreet "pillowing"? From the golden age of the miniseries comes this television benchmark, the 10-hour, Golden Globe-winning saga based on James Clavell's bestselling epic. In his award-winning performance, Chamberlain stars as John Blackthorne, the 17th-century English navigator on a Dutch trading ship. A storm runs the ship aground off the coast of Japan, a "torn and cruelly divided country" locked in a power struggle between Toranaga (the venerable Toshiro Mifune) and Ishido, two warlords who would be Shogun. Blackthorne gets over his initial culture shock ("I piss on you and your country," he defiantly proclaims to his samurai captors, which to his humiliation turns out to be an unfortunate choice of words) to become a trusted ally of Toranaga and the lover of the beautiful interpreter Lady Mariko (YokoShimada). Their forbidden, ill-fated romance--and Blackthorne's total assimilation into Japanese culture--is set against political intrigue as Toranaga prepares for the inevitable showdown with Ishido, and Blackthorne's growing influence threatens the local Jesuits who had built up a lucrative trade monopoly. Shogun was a production blessed with good karma, and it remains an awesome achievement from a bygone era when the miniseries was king. --Donald Liebenson

Special Features

  • Complete miniseries on five discs with remastered sound
  • "The Making of Shogun" a 13-segment documentary
  • 3 historical perspective featurettes
  • Commentary by director Jerry London on select scenes

Product Details

  • Actors: Richard Chamberlain, Toshirô Mifune, Yôko Shimada, Furankî Sakai, Alan Badel
  • Directors: Jerry London
  • Writers: Eric Bercovici, James Clavell
  • Producers: Ben Chapman, Eric Bercovici, James Clavell, Kerry Feltham
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: September 23, 2003
  • Run Time: 547 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (651 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000A2ZNX
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,692 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "James Clavell's Shogun" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape
It has been two decades since James Clavell's novel first aired, but "Shogun" is still one of the finest mini-series yet produced and it still holds up. The stranger in a strange land story of an English navigator shipwrecked in fuedal Japan strikes such a strong chord because the audience is in the same predicament as the main character, confronted with an unknown and dangerous world that refuses to make sense. "Shogun" was filmed in Japan with remarkable fidelity to both the original story and local culture.
As Pilot-Major John Blackthorne, Chamberlain is often called upon to do more with looks than with dialogue. As the "King of the Mini-Series," it is easy to forget what Chamberlain can do as an actor given the proper material (I wish his version of Christopher Fry's "The Lady's Not For Burning" was available on video tape). Actually, there is a sense in which Chamberlain's performance is arguable the weakest of the cast, but that speaks more to the strength of the supporting players. Certainly John Rhys-Davies steals every scene he is in as Vasco Rodrigues, Damien Thomas' Father Alvito personifies political machination, and Nobuo Kaneko as Lord Ishido has that glare down perfectly. Ultimately, it is the Japanese actors who carry "Shogun." From the legendary Toshirô Mifune as Lord Toranaga, to the novice actress Yôko Shimada as Mariko, to Frankie Sakai as Yabu and every one of the characters who make up Blackthorne's Japanese household, these actors provide the new word that confront's Chamberlain's character. The choice of producer Eric Bercovici to also adopt Clavell's novel was the ideal choice.
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Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
Very few mini-series' ever live up to the book from which it came. Shogun comes very close. Taking place during a period when all of Europe was competing for the riches of the world, the story starts off with the last ship of a lost fleet, down to a skeleton crew (in size as well as health) trying to find "the Japans". Pilot-Major John Blackthorn, played well by Richard Chamberlain, wakes up on shore in Japan after barely making to land. Used to being in control, he is swept up in all the politics and violence that this period of Japan could offer. In just the first day alone he sees a beheading, is forced to listen to one of his crew boiled to death, and must endure the shame of having a Samurai "relieve himself" on his back. He then becomes a pawn between two lords, the brutal Ishido, and the cunning Toranaga. As Blackthorn begins to understand the culture, he also begins to build his own power and worth, causing Toranaga to realize the value of the Englishman.
Throughout this mini-series the photography is stunning, the action impressive, and the romance steamy. The acting here is also probably the best overall of any epic film. The film follows closely to the book with minor exceptions, and keeps the viewer riveted throughout the entire series. Also the continual battle between Blackthorn and the Jesuit Priest, Father Alvito, seems to have been written to match the feud between Ishido and Toranaga. Both feuds are intense and gut-wrenching, leading though to different types of endings.
This series is a great story, told well, and captures the imagination quickly. I would recommend this to any viewer who likes an action-packed and entertaining adventure. Just be prepared: There are some scenes that are a little violent. This was necessary to get the feel for how violent this period was in Japan, however it can still be a wee bit disturbing. This is probably not for the pre-teen crowd.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I've waited for years for Shogun to be released on DVD, and I'm delighted with it. Yes, a booklet with information and chapter listings would have been nice, but that's probably not going to be a dealbreaker for many people.
I'd like to know what some of the other reviewers think was deleted in this edition. I was very familiar with the miniseries, having seen it several times and having taped it at the time on an old Betamax, and I didn't notice anything missing in the DVD edition...except that accidental helicopter shadow! Nothing that I expected to see was gone. As an earlier customer pointed out, the original show ran for 12 hours on NBC because of all the commercials, network promos, opening titles and closing credits in every segment, etc. Take out all that padding, and 9 hours of actual program content sounds about right. If anybody can identify any actual deletions, I'd be interested in hearing what they are.
I would have liked to have seen the brief nude scenes of Mariko in the bath included as much as the next guy. But they were only in the European version anyway. (Americans are considered by the world to be backward children in these matters.) They were never in the American version, so although they would have been a welcome bonus, we can't say they were "deleted."
It was a real pleasure to start playing Shogun when the DVD package arrived, and Amazon.com had the best price for it that I could find, so that was an added benefit. Never had I seen it with the sharpness and clarity of the DVD. Maybe it took the advent of DVD to do justice to what is, for me, the greatest of all miniseries.
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No Japanese translation and actual running time
I think that Clavell intended it be this way. In the novel he often uses Japanese without much translation or says something to the effect of "he couldn't understand." The story is from the point of view of Blackthorne and they've tried to put you into his shoes. As an earlier poster... Read More
Aug 25, 2007 by Christian Hartwig |  See all 21 posts
Doesn't Age Well
The fault dear Tor, is not in our stars but ourselves. You are 3 decades older. There is a saying when you watch something more than once, you get something different out of it. Most of us do not see movies or miniseries today the way did 30 years ago. The book is more complete. If every... Read More
Jan 2, 2010 by Eric Pregosin |  See all 7 posts
Regarding the use of thou/thy/thee in the film...
Well said, my friend. By the same token you should mention that the book implies that when they spoke "normally" (non wuvvy duvvy) they were speaking Portuguese.
Jul 7, 2007 by Eric Pregosin |  See all 3 posts
Appropriate for young adults?
I recall watching the mini-series (taped--yes, VHS--off of TV) in history class back in High School. It really stuck in my head and was quite interesting. While I don't recall any sex scenes, I DO recall a peasant getting his head chopped off and that "image" has stuck with me since... Read More
Dec 20, 2007 by Skirge |  See all 4 posts
Shogun Amazon Video on Demand (VOD)?
Shogun Amazon Video on Demand?!?!
I second Jorge's recommendation. Amazon's Video on Demand library would greatly benefit from licensing older titles like this one. It's a wonderful series and I'd buy it On Demand in a heartbeat.
Sep 25, 2012 by M. Schenker |  See all 2 posts
Currently showing on ATT Uverse On Demand and some of the Encore channels Be the first to reply
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