James Clavell's Shogun
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305 of 316 people found the following review helpful
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. Bercovici was not only familiar with the mini-series format, having done "Washington Behind Close Doors," but he was the writer on "Hell in the Pacific," a 1968 movie with Lee Marvin and Toshirô Mifune. During WWII the two men end up on a deserted island. What made the film unique was that it was done without subtitles; Marvin spoke English and Mifune spoke Japanese and the idea was to show it in both countries without subtitles. Okay, unfair advantage to the Japanese, but you have to appreciate the idea which "Shogun" certainly uses to great effect.
Director Jerry London does an admirable job of presenting Japanese culture on its own terms, which is exactly what is right for the story. My understanding was that the Orson Welles narration was added at the, uh, request of the network who felt audiences would not be able to read between the lines. I think that for the most part "Shogun" would work without the excessive explanations, even if you have not read the novel, but we will never know.
If you are looking for something to lose yourself in next weekend, you would not find too many things as intelligent and as fascinating as "Shogun." Just be sure you do the complete original mini-series and not the one cassette mini-version.
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189 of 199 people found the following review helpful
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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99 of 102 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2003
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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170 of 192 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2005
I received the DVD set of Shogun for Christmas. A nice present since I've wanted to see it again ever since it first aired.

However, like a previous reviewer, I found it frustrating that almost 1/3 of the original mini-series is missing, and I think that the description of it on several sites as the "complete" mini-series is at best misleading and at worst in contravention of trading standards. Some of the most memorable parts of the original are entirely absent, including the demonstration of the the Musket Regiment in action, and Mariko's group's attempt to fight their way out of Osaka Castle before she threatens to commit seppuku, as well as more homely sequences such as Blackthorne teaching Mariko and Toranaga to dive head first from the galley.

A previous reviewer notes the lack of action sequences, and this is part of the reason...several have been cut out.

The same reviewer mentions that Blackthorne lapses into "thee" and "thou" speech inappropriately. Again, that's explained in a cut section: when Blackthorne and Mariko speak in "normal" speech they're supposed to be speaking Portuguese, but they both also speak Latin, and use that as a private tongue since some samurai who've had contact with Portuguese sailors speak their language, whereas only the priests speak Latin.

Overall, good, but I would have given it 5 stars if it really had been the complete mini-series. Two more disks would have covered it, so why wasn't it issued complete?
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70 of 77 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2006
The missing stars represent the missing portions of this incomplete version of the original. A very heavy handed censor has hacked this miniseries to pieces. And to make a bad situation worse, some of the most memorable scenes have been cut or edited to the point of being unrecognizible. Amazon, you should not advertise an item for sale as complete unless you know it to be absolute fact. The buyer's of this product have really been short changed and that is being very polite.....Shame on you Amazon. Lynn Stubblefield, Nashville, TN
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2006
Hmmm, now I understand what it was all about... well at least sort of... the television miniseries of James Clavell's Shogun was a bit of a television landmark, lots of hype and everybody warned about its horrific portrayal of ancient Japanese suicide, hari-kari, also know to the Samurai as `The Fine Art of Seppuku', is somewhat tame by today's television standards, but still unnerving all the same, and in the early 1980s it certainly got everyone talking and awaiting to tune into the next episode, here is the complete series on four DVDs, two episodes per disc, eight episodes in length, plus a bonus material fifth DVD, make up an interesting package that is worthy of any DVD television series hobby collection. Although somewhat slow paced in parts, sometimes accompanied by hammy acting from the Western folks involved, probably underscored by the remarkably good Japanese acting, relives the traditions of the Japans in the 1600s, and is the main reason why you probably want to see it. Although the story is rather limited for the running time - English pilot marooned on the Japans, falls in love with a local Japanese woman and stirs up the hornets nest - it is not really the tale or Richard Chamberlain's Pilot-Major John Blackthorne / Anjin-san character who drives the show, but the whole Japanese culture on display and this is first rate stuff. Throwing in a few ninjas also heightens its validity as one of the best historical dramas aired on television. However it does show its age because of the impact of modern Asian cinema and better subtitle translation standards, speaking of which, Shogun completely avoids, with long dialogue sequences in Japanese without any English subtitles, to present the audience with a more vivid Japanese presence. Yes, this is certainly very good entertainment for a couple to watch in the evening when the kids are asleep. Although it ends very suddenly you will come away learning a lot more about the Japans than you did going into it.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2008
I thought the dvd version (4 dvd's)would be the complete miniseries but I was wrong. Many of the scenes I remember from the original NBC airing have been cut out. One is where the samurai in the fish pit with Blackthorn and his crew asks Blackthorn to kill him and, having been refused, tries to kill himself. That was the first scene that I noticed missing with many more to follow. Why the hell couldn't they include ALL the scenes in a dvd set? That's why we buy dvd sets in the first place - to get a complete version and maybe some extras.

Go to the library where you can check it out for free.
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69 of 80 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2003
Yoshi Toranaga= Tokugawa Ieyasu (1st Tokugawa Shogun,1600-1615), Lord Ishido= Lord Ishida, Captain-pilot Blackthorn= Captain-pilot William Adams, Lord Toda= same (was not really a bad samuarai who's envy with jelousy), the Erasmus= same (Everything that happened to her was true).This is what legends are made of a couple of words added here and there along with a forbidden love.I watched the mini-series when it first came out and loved it then. Do not get 2 hour video too much was cut out; so disappointing. If any one likes historical fact mixed in with fiction like I do this is a must get item; so don't delay the money is worth it. The only thing that is fiction about the movie is the love affair between Mariko-san and Anjin-san. If anyone is deep into Japanese history must read about Tokugawa Ieyasu and other books on the Unification wars, Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Nobunaga. There is not much written about Captain-pilot William Adams not even in the Japanese language, but his Japanese name was really Anjin-san (Mr. Pilot). The village of Anjiro did and still does exit but under the modern name "Miura". Anjiro was renamed Miura sometime during the Edo period and the Meiji Restoration. Now it's a large city about 50 miles south of Yokohama and about 10 miles south-west of Yokosuka on the same peninsula.
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71 of 83 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 1999
Having passionately watched the mini-series "SHOGUN" many times over, I was dissappointed, that after spending the money to buy a "complete" copy for myself, that it wasn't complete. If not cut, this expensive edition is clipped of many of of it's charming vignettes. I would gladly forgo the fancy packaging for the original version...
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2003
Shogun has been, and always will be one of the best Mini Series to hit television!Never has there been a more perfectly constructed use of television to convey a story either before or since this mini series. Put simply, Shogun is a masterful adaptaion of the James Clavell Novel that translates with complete perfection to the screen. Personally, I have been waiting for the release of this movie on DVD since DVD was invented. The VHS tape was just too expensive, and not good enough quality to merit the honor this film deserves!
It is the story of Pilot Major Blackthorn
(an English navagator aborad Dutch sailing Ship who lands on the "Japans")played by Richard Chamberlain, who is forced to learn the Japanese language and culture because if he does not, his crew and entire villiages will be put to death. He is taught the language and customs through the teachings of Mariko(Yoko Shimada), a japanese lady who is trusted by one of highest lords of Japan: Lord Toranaga(played by Toshiro Mifune). Pilot Major Blackthorn, eventually falls in love with Mariko, and forms a love triangle with Lord Buntaro(Mariko's husband) on their journy to fulfill Lord Toronagas ambition fo becoming a "Shogun" warlord.The only title more powerful than Emperor.This is only a infinitessimal glimpse of the plot! It is a huge whilrwind of honor,political boundaries, culture, and tradition amidst a touching story of love. All of which are portayed beautifully in fuedal Japan. The costumes and settings are pristine, and the language is kept as close to the original time period Japanese as was possible for the translations.
Just as "American Yakuza" (a film from the 1990's) was true to
the current Japanese language and culture, so was this film true to the ancient culture and language of Japan.
The Mini series is a masterpiece. All the performers were perfect in the roles. Which range from Traditional Japanese roles to Spanish traders, to Jesuit priests. If you value history, and cherish tradion, this is a film to covet! There are not enough words in the English language to describe how wonderful this film is. By all means if you enjoy things from Japan, and value their history and culture, this fim is for you!
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