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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Samurai Reincarnation


Starring: Kenji Sawada, Ken Ogata and Sonny Chiba
Distributor: Masters of Cinema / Eureka Entertainment
RRP: £22.99


Certificate: 18
Release Date: 19 June 2023

Eureka Entertainment – as part of The Masters of Cinema Series – releases the UK Blu-ray debut of the 1981 film Samurai Reincarnation from a 2K restoration. This story of magic swordsmen, demon assassins, ninjas and forbidden love was helmed by Kinji Fukasaku, the acclaimed director of Battle Royale. The release incorporates uncompressed original mono audio, alternative English dubbed audio, and optional English subtitles. There is a brand-new audio commentary by Japanese cinema film critic Tom Mes, a brand-new interview with filmmaker Kenta Fukasaku, an original Japanese trailer and, in the Limited Edition first print run of 2000 copies, a collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film and a slipcase with artwork by Takato Yamamato.

After a failed Christian rebellion resulting in a massacre, Amakusa Shiro is crucified, but he prays to Beelzebub in order to seek retribution. He returns with the power to resurrect the dead, and soon builds a team of undead warriors – one of which is the legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. While a beautiful demon beguiles the young Shogun, the peasants are roused into an uprising, and the palace of power is put to flame, a lone samurai named Yagyu Jubei takes a stand against the demons. However, he does not suspect he will have to face his swordmaster father to the death.

The opening scene showing the aftermath of the battle carnage is almost certainly a stage set, but nevertheless impressive. The first few scenes following this are split into mini chapters and, consequently, come across as stilted and somewhat haphazard. The bottom line is they portray a similar narrative of offering a powerful person new life upon their death if they accept serving the devil. Thus, there are aspects of sword and sorcery, horror and a large serving of manipulation and slaughter. The final third of the film contains the most spectacle, with Jubei imploring an old man to forge a final powerful samurai sword, before watching the oldster almost comically die instantly afterwards. The sword duel on a shoreline looks spectacular, as does Jubei’s battle with his father amidst the fiercely burning palace of the shogun – although in reality their skin would have been melting from their bones!

There is plenty to enjoy here, although the movie does take a fair while to find its feet.


Ty Power

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