Sunday, August 22, 2010

Two movies...

...I didn't believe that I would see on R1 DVD, let alone Blu-ray: Star Crash and Shogun Assassin.

Star Crash was an Italian production, and was reportedly conceived as being a Harryhausen-type fantasy film set in space. But then Star Wars was released...

This is one of those odd films that I remember as being a "lost" movie in my memory. It never played here, if I remember correctly, or I'm sure that we would have gone to see it. Much like many Japanese science-fiction films, to my young eyes it seemed like it really was from some other planet. My earliest recollections of it are stills published in Starlog and some of the lower-budget pulpy-paper sci-fi magazines of the late 70s and early 80s, like Media Spotlight. I've read that it ran on cable occasionally, but I never caught it there, either. The only time I've seen live-action shots from it was when I saw the trailer on a compilation tape. The DVD and Blu-ray are due in mid-September.

Shogun Assassin is the notorious American re-edit of the first two Sword of Vengeance films, based on the popular Lone Wolf and Cub manga series, for the British and American movie circuit.

Again, this is another film that I had not seen but read plenty about it. This time I knew it wasn't "lost"; it had been shown in U.S. theaters and released on video, so I knew it actually existed. It wouldn't have played at any of the local theaters and the tape would not have been available at the public library, Chuck Stewart's, Video Movie Center (anyone local remember those?) or any of the other local rental shops.

Although the original Japanese film series became available on R1 DVD, Shogun Assassin remains important as a historical artifact. It works on its own as a movie, but more importantly it represents the influence of the Japanese cinema in general on U.S. audiences (at the same time as kung-fu movies from Hong Kong were incredibly popular here), and specifically the influence of the Lone Wolf and Cub mythology. The manga series would not be published in English until 1987. Shogun Assassin on Blu-ray is out this week.

A bonus image: the cover for the Star Crash DVD. If you compare this cover art to the Blu-ray above, you'll notice the change in framing the title against the art and some cropping at the top. This is probably worth its own post sometime, but I'm disappointed with the cover art choices on many Blu-ray discs. At least the sides of the art are not cropped, as with many Blu-rays.

I'm grateful to have the films presented in such quality, of course, that's the important part. However, the more square-shaped Blu-ray case causes the taller DVD art to be squished most of the time. My own personal preference for DVDs (and Blu) is to have the original poster art used for the covers, or at the very least given a prominent place on the back. I suppose it's just the historian/collector in me.

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