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Stray Dogs & Lone Wolves: The Samurai Film Handbook Paperback – May 1, 2005

4.6 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Film critic Patrick Galloway won over readers with film guides Stray Dogs & Lone Wolves: The Samurai Film Handbook, and Asia Shock: Horror and Dark Cinema from Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, and Thailand. A lifelong student of Asian philosophy and culture, Galloway has traveled in Japan, Hong Kong, India and Nepal. He lives in the Bay Area.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 235 pages
  • Publisher: Stone Bridge Press (May 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1880656930
  • ISBN-13: 978-1880656938
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,423,236 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Zack Davisson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
Patrick Galloway is no film scholar, and "Stray Dogs and Lone Wolves: The Samurai Film Handbook" is no didactic, insightful critique of a unique and subtle genre. Instead, he is an unabashed fan who has written a gushing fan book full of excitement and energy, as befits the nature of the subject. This is not to put any doubt on his knowledge. Super-fan that he is, one would be hard pressed to find a more knowledgeable expert on the Samurai genre. From the most ludicrous splatterfest to the most powerful and moving drama, Galloway treats each film with respect and notes the quality of its merits on its own terms.

Taking this films decade by decade, Galloway highlights the best that each period has to offer. He kicks things off right with "Roshomon" and "Seven Samurai" in the 1950's, moves through the Golden Age of the 60's with such films as "Yojimbo," "The Tale of Zatoichi," "Hara Kiri" and "Samurai Rebellion," into the 70's with "Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx" and the "Kill Bill" inspiration "Lady Snowblood: Blizzard from the Netherworld," the 80's and beyond with "Kagemusha," "Roningai" Kitano Takeshi's "Zatoichi" and the magnificent "Twilight Samurai." He plucks the absolute best from each era, and leaves you hungry to watch every magnificent offering.

Each review is packed with information on story, actors and historical setting. Ever a fan instead of a scholar, Galloway refuses to give away endings or crucial plot points, so that the films can still be fully enjoyed by eager viewers. The availability of each film is also rated, and Galloway specifically tries to review accessible films, rather than long out-of-print obscurities.
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Format: Paperback
As a long time collector of the samurai genre I really appreciated this book. Although I have read scholarly books and articles about the genre, I too always felt there was something missing to bridge the gap between the fan and the higher levels of learning.

The book is written more as an introduction to the genre, so it is more for the average person than for someone who has seen most of the movies in the book. I like the way it is simple, but not simplistic. Mr. Galloway gives some basic background history, actor/director bios, and can talk about the movie without giving away crucial parts or endings to spoil the story.

Part of the problem I have seen on the internet in discussing the genre is a tendency to violate all of the above. I've seen Japanese history seriously mangled, and people clueless about basic background issues a Japanese person might know going into a movie. So, what you may read on the net is a lot of opinion, but have nothing to do with what the director intended. Just because one sees a Japanese movie does not make one an expert in Japanese history, culture, or religious/ethical issues a movie may bring up. That factual basis is lacking, and this is where I think Galloway's book is a good foundation in understanding the basics of all of this.

The one minor area I think was weak in the book is the "availability" of movie issue in the book. This is really a "relative" issue of how well you know how to use a search engine these days. Almost all of these movies in the book I found in the past pretty easy to find. These days if you know how to use amazon, or google you can get your movies in a few clicks. Almost anything English subtitled you can find on a search engine.
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Format: Paperback
Dissatisfied with the academic reference books on this popular Japanese film genre of samurai films, the longtime student of Asian and Japanese culture Galloway wrote this jaunty, learned reference providing "historical background, cultural insights, production anecdotes, actor and director bios, and detailed plot synopses" for more than 50 of the films from the 1960s into the '90s. Besides the classics "Seven Samurai" and "Rashomon," others of the numerous films included are "Three Outlaw Samurai," "Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance," "Heaven and Earth," and "Band of Assassins," as well as "Samurai Reincarnation" and "The Razor: Sword of Justice" and others in the series these two are a part of. Galloway's outstanding guide treats the films as part of the global popular culture rather than "foreign" films calling for explanation in terms of some film theory or film critic's abstruse, involved ideas.
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Do you like a certain actor? Look him up. Like a cetain director? Look him up. Want films from a certain decade or wish to know some of the plot before buying it? Look it up! This book is FAR from the complex list of Samurai films, but it hits on the major ones and the people who brought them about. I had a few films I truly enjoyed, such as RoninGai, The Hidden Fortress and Yojimbo to name a few. But with this book I was able to expand my library to include such titles as Lone Wolf and Cub and Zatoichi. A must for ANY library on film or Japanese culture.
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Format: Paperback
This book is an absolute must for chambara fans, both newbies and fans seeking new films to explore. This is a handbook - a "practical reference" book, as Galloway states right at the beginning [7]. The first three chapters provide a nice overview for the "detailed plot synopses that follow" (although, as Galloway also states, he never gives away an ending) [47].

In fact, Galloway is explicit about the purpose of this reference book. It "provides historical background, cultural insights, production anecdotes, actor and director bios" [47] and the aforementioned plot synopses. Those looking for a more Leonard Maltin-like review guide should probably look elsewhere.

Unlike another reader, however, I was not disappointed by a lack of reviews - it is quite clear that Galloway picked his films carefully and that he's an enthusiastic booster for each film in the book.

As for misinformation, film budgets and the financial equations used to calculate them are always arguable. What is not arguable, however, is the depth of research Galloway undertook with regard to the information about directors, actors, scripts, and Japanese language and history. I would be amazed if Tatsuya Nakadai would allow his name to be attached to a book that misrepresented the genre or the creative people who produced these films (Nakadai is a well-known Japanese actor who appears in several of the films described in the book and provides a "thumbs up" review blurb on the book's back cover).

I think it is evident that the films chosen for inclusion are the result of Galloway's belief that these particular films are important for aesthetic as well as historic reasons and, well, because he enjoys them and wants to share his enthusiasm for these films with other viewers.
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