Cult Movies: Samurai Reincarnation as insane as 1980s exploitation cinema gets

Samurai Reincarnation
Samurai Reincarnation

SAMURAI Reincarnation was an unlikely career turn for yakuza legend Kinji Fukasaku when it first surfaced in 1981.

It's not the film maker's greatest or even most successful work – for that, you'd need to turn to his epic box office beauty Battle Royale in 2000, but as a stand-alone slice of historical action horror hokum, it's still quite the achievement.

Available now through Eureka, it's an intense, obtuse and utterly oddball collection of styles, but a hugely enjoyable one all the same.

As action directors go, Fukasaku knows his onions, and here he adapts a mad novel about a leader of a crushed Christian rebellion who, after seeing 30 odd thousand of his followers killed by the Shogunate army, pledges bloody allegiance to Satan with a kind of unhinged verve and dreamlike panache that's all his own.

Fresh from the burning pits of hell, the devilish demon teams up with four similarly lost souls to exact revenge on both the Shogunate and the entire country. Only a shadowy, one-eyed samurai warrior with a powerful dark sword stands in their way.

It almost goes without saying that this is movie-making as mad as it comes, with much of the action coming over like a spooky 'chambara' shot through the eyes of a 1960s horror film-maker. At times, it feels like the legendary Asian TV series Monkey as seen through a particularly intense fever dream. This is, I'm sure you'll agree, a good thing.

It's all a bit of a Gothic horror fable, shot through with a suitably sleazy exploitation vibe – and, again, that's no bad thing either. There's an early cinematic sighting of Hiroyuki Sanada and a blisteringly over-the-top prog rock soundtrack to divert you when the visuals get too overbearing.

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Things hit a bit of a bump in the road as the clunky plotline starts to sink in around the middle point, when the Shogunate palace is infiltrated, but it all swings back into full blown crazy mode by the time the climax arrives in all its bloody, and utterly outrageous, glory.

From crazy crucifixions to manic peasant revolts and gory on the beach death duels between the dead and the living, this is as insane as 1980s exploitation cinema can get. Again, I mean that as a good thing.

Samurai Reincarnation
Samurai Reincarnation

Loaded with very 80s-flavoured effects and boasting an impressively grim atmosphere throughout, this is a fantastically bleak samurai of the highest order. Eureka have done a fine job with this release as well. The visuals aren't pristine, but in a neat way that only adds to the nostalgic vibes on offer here.

There are extras too, including a fresh commentary track and a revealing interview with Fukasaku's son about his father's film-making legacy. There's even a couple of audio options that allow you to enjoy either the original Japanese dialogue track or a typically bizarre English dub if you prefer your Asian fantasy ruined by the West.

Whichever you chose, you can't go wrong, really – Samurai Reincarnation delivers on every exploitation front imaginable.