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Lone Wolf and Cub The Criterion Collection
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Based on the best-selling manga series, the six intensely kinetic Lone Wolf and Cub films elevated chanbara to bloody, new heights. The shogun s executioner, Itto Ogami (Tomisaburo Wakayama), takes to wandering the countryside as an assassin along with his infant son Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa) and an infinitely weaponized perambulator helping those he encounters while seeking vengeance for his murdered wife. Delivering stylish thrills and a body count that defies belief, Lone Wolf and Cub is beloved for its brilliantly choreographed and unbelievably violent action sequences as well as for its tender depiction of the bonds between parent and child.
SPECIAL EDITION THREE-BLU-RAY BOX SET FEATURES
- New 2K digital restorations of all six films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks
- High-definition presentation of Shogun Assassin, the 1980 English-dubbed reedit of the first two Lone Wolf and Cub films
- New interview with Kazuo Koike, writer of the Lone Wolf and Cub manga series and screenwriter on five of the films
- Lame d un père, l âme d un sabre, a 2005 documentary about the making of the series
- New interview in which Sensei Yoshimitsu Katsuse discusses and demonstrates the real Suio-ryu sword techniques that inspired those in the manga and films
- New interview with biographer Kazuma Nozawa about filmmaker Kenji Misumi, director of four of the six Lone Wolf and Cub films
- Silent documentary from 1937 about the making of samurai swords, with an optional new ambient score by Ryan Francis
- New English subtitle translations
- PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay and film synopses by Japanese pop culture writer Patrick Macias
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So now there is a Criterion collection of these films, annotated, cleaned up, and presented in high def, blue ray, level up, super-duper, hydromatic, hyperspacial, extra special format with commentary, extras, making-of documentaries, and all the usual "more stuff than you'll ever need to know about these films" stuff that Criterion is known for. Reviews of this set have been rave, and nothing but. Nobody hates it! Yes -- it even has a high def presentation of Shogun Assassin, which is an American dub and edit of the first two films (sort of a "Best of" Lone Wolf and Cub) that first introduced American Audiences to it. Great for drinking games -- just drink a shot for every kill Ogami makes, and you'll get drunk within the first 10 minutes.
Tomisaburo Wakayama is Ittyo Ogami, the perpetually disheveled and unshaven hero who sliced up a body count of biblical proportions, and who was the inspiration for John Bellushi's Samurai character. The kid, Daigoro, (played by Masahiro Tomikawa) has no dialog at all, but says volumes with his eyes (or at least his constant, penetrating stare). Lone Wolf Ogami had a falling out with his insane emperor, and wanders Japan selling his services as an assassin -- provided that he's killing bad guys. One could say that this avenging lone wolf is a grittier update to the Zatoichi films, where a blind swordsman does essentially the same thing -- killing all the bad guys to save people and whole towns from being screwed over by Yakuza and other baddies, but with all the severed limbs and buckets of blood gushing from bloody stumps to make it more realistic. As a result of Lone Wolf and Cub, Shintaro Katsu resurrected his blind swordsman character, to make a couple more Zatoichi films, but in full color with blood and gore because post-Lone Wolf and Cub audiences demanded it.
The whole genre of Samurai films was never to be the same from that point. Even Akira Kurosawa had to up the gore levels in his post-Lone Wolf and Cub movies like Kagemusha and Ran. Nearly every big budget and low budget Samurai flick to this day seems to have almost obligatory bloodbaths, or at least some degree of blood and gore.
My Blue Ray DVD copy should be waiting in the mailbox for me when I get home. I got it for about half price. The only drawback? I never hooked up the free Blue Ray player I got for Christmas when I got my new TV. But well, now it's time for the old DVD player that I haven't used since moving in to my house, to get replaced. I think we used it a total of 2 or 3 times before going with streaming. Almost every movie we want to watch is available streaming -- but these films have eluded the streaming networks, or only crappy copies can be found online. If you've never seen Lone Wolf and Cub before, all you need to know is that you will watch them over and over, because in spite of being more or less a live action Manga, the level of action, storytelling, and WTF scenes will keep you entertained for years to come.