Saturday, November 26, 2011

Samurai Avenger: The Blind Wolf (2009)

I first heard of Kurando Mitsutake's indie-production Samurai Avenger: The Blind Wolf a couple of years ago. I remember I saw a teaser trailer and some artwork, but then I kinda lost track of it and didn't think about it until I found a massive luxury BD/DVD release at the Weekend of Horrors in Bottrop. So I bought it and a couple of weeks later I finally got time to sit down and watch it. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect because I never got a chance follow the production and the purchase was just because of pure luck. It's a good way to watch a movie, and in this case I would say the absence of hype just was perfect.

Before Blind Wolf (Kurando Mitsutake) became Blind Wolf he was a normal, nerdy, Japanese man who witnessed his whole family get slaughtered - or at least he heard it, because the bad guys gave him a choice: poke out your eyes and we're not gonna kill your wife and daughter. Guess what happens? Anyway, Blind Wolf sets out for revenge and as a Japanese man with no name he takes his sword and goes after the sleazy baddie, Nathan Flesher (a brilliant Domiziano Arcangeli) who's responsible for it all. But Flesher knows he's being hunted and sends out seven assassins to stop Blind Wolf. During his trip, Blind Wolf meets The Drifter (Jeffrey James Lippold), another man out for revenge...

There's a danger with making modern Grindhouse films. A danger of making fun of classic cinema and somehow claiming that the movies they are inspired by are bad movies, tacky and corny productions. It's a very fine line between just being silly and making a serious tribute to the films of yesterday. Samurai Avenger manages to stay on the right side of filmmaking with a serious approach both to the story itself and the references to numerous samurai and western movies. Like with a good parody the fun comes from respecting the original productions. Mel Brooks once made brilliant parodies of movies and genres that he loved, but once he started to make fun of Star Wars and Robin Hood - productions he never cared for - his productions became cold and stiff.

Kurando Mitsutake, like the true indie-director he is, stars as the main character Blind Wolf, directs and writes the movie - and amazingly enough he carries the story and seem to take his acting as serious as the directing. Even if Samurai Avenger has an episodic feeling, which often happens with movies that could be considered road movies, this is far from a bunch of weird scenes put together to make a cult movie. Storytelling is no. 1 and everything hangs together. Our hero is meeting seven assassins, but something that could have been repetitive becomes interesting and have it's place in the story. Even more absurd stuff like the Zombie Mistress and her three zombies fits so well into the surrealistic atmosphere. This movie could be set in another dimension, an alternative reality, where the prison is a small shack out in the wilderness and people are bleeding liter after liter of ultra-red blood. There's not one second of realism in the story, but a lot of depth within the characters.

There's a lot of gags referring to the Grindhouse-aspect of Samurai Avenger. Blind Wolf is dubbed by a much manlier voice, there's a few sequences that looks to been taken from a more worn out print and from time to time a narrator tells us about details in the story, mostly related to samurai traditions. This could have been forced and stilted, but works very fine.

Like all good samurai movies the blood flows in huge amounts. Most of the gore and effects is well-done and echoes both the Japanese cinema from the seventies, but never becomes to realistic either. This is a fun movie and the gore is mostly there to entertain than to disgust someone.
Samurai Avenger: The Blind Wolf was a nice surprise and I hope that Kurando Mitsutake and his team will bring us more stories in the future. I, for one, welcomes more of this kind.

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