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TV show review: CONTINUUM season 4
PHOTOGRAPHY

James Clavell’s SHOGUN

Blu-ray review by David Blackwell

 

DETAILS: 548 minutes (three discs), making-of documentary, historical featurettes, scene specific audio commentary

VIDEO: 1.33:1 1080p High Definition

AUDIO: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Restored Mono, German Mono, French Mono, Japanese Mono

Subtitles: English SDH, French, German, Danish, Dutch, Finish, Norwegian, Swedish, Japanese

 

STUDIO: Paramount Pictures/ CBS Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: 7-22-2014

SHOGUN is one of the most famous mini-series in the last 35 years.   It is based on the best selling novel by James Clavell and it was adapted into a 12 hour TV event which aired on NBC in 1980 over five nights.  It has been the first (and may the only still) TV mini-series to shoot entirely in Japan for American audiences.   I think I discovered this great epic mini-series via reruns on cable TV years after it aired since I was only 5 when it originally aired, but it is a great story that holds up on repeat viewings.    It has great acting, production values, and some recognizable actors (including that one actor who went on to be in a couple Indiana Jones films, SLIDERS TV series, and the LORD OF THE RINGS movies).   SHOGUN was one of my big introductions to Richard Chamberlin (who played the lead of Captain John Blackthorne) and Japanese samurai culture.

 

Captain Blackthorne (Chamberlin) ends up shipwrecked in Japan during the 17th century.  He gets involved in a deadly struggle between Lord Toranga (Toshiro Mifune) and Lord Ishido with Toranaga’s goal of becoming Shogun (the supreme military commander of Japan).   Also involved in this struggle are the Portuguese (who run the profitable Black Ship with gold and silks) and the Jesuits (who priests are gaining influence over Japan with Christianity).   Blackthorne becomes irresistibly drawn to the Lady Mariko (Yoko Shimada) in a love that must be private and sometimes remain unspoken (because Mariko was married off to one of Toranaga’s samurais in what is basically a loveless marriage).  He becomes torn between Western beliefs and samurai beliefs as he wants to find a way to get back his ship, the Erasmus, and destroy the Black Ship.   Many people believe he has become the most dangerous man in Japan and he must be killed as Blackthorne influences Toranaga (who has his own grand designs for Blackthorne as the Japanese known him by Anjin) as he becomes the first foreigner to be made a samurai (which entails following Japanese beliefs and the orders of his lord faithfully).  SHOGUN is nine hours worth watching whether it is your first time or a repeat viewing as it is a classic that stands the test of time.

 

SPECIAL FEATURES:

THE MAKING OF SHOGUN (Disc One) is a 13 segment documentary:

A NOVEL ADVENTURE, THE CAST, NAGASHIMA, TOHO STUDIOS, CULTURES COLLIDE, THE ART OF SHOGUN, THE ERASMUS AND THE GALLEY, CONTROVERSY, THE EARTHQUAKE, ESCAPE FROM OSAKA CASTLE, THE BLOCKADE, POST PRODUCTION, and SHOGUN MAKES HISTORY

This retrospective documentary (with interviews and behind-the-scenes footage and clips) covers how the mini-series got made, their decision to have the show be from Blackthorne’s point of view (with a decision where they decide to leave much of the Japanese dialogue without subtitles  and I wish they provided a second English subtitle option on the disc which would have subtitled everything instead of leaving it as a mystery for us to discover just through Blackthorne, translators, and Orson Welles narration), the production challenges and accidents (and lucky near misses), the editing and a couple of scenes that made it past NBC censors, and the impact the show had when it aired.

 

Historical Perspective Featurettes (Disc Two)

THE SAMURAI, THE TEA CEREMONY, THE GEISHA-

These brief featurettes give insight into the history of the samurai, geisha, and the tea ceremony if SHOGUN makes you curious to know a little more.

 

Scene Specific Audio Commentary by Director Jerry London on seven scenes (Disc Three)

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: SHOGUN is a classic TV mini-series that stands the test of time with its great story, actors, and production design.  The HD transfer is great for the most part except for a few parts where the 16mm source material shows it flaws (but 16mm film can’t be digital perfect anyway).  I do wish they ended Disc 1 about ten minutes later since it feels awkward to end in the middle of a scene and they had the option to show the mini-series in the original segments with opening and closing credits instead just as one nine hour program.

 

This review is 7-25-2014 David Blackwell and cannot be reprinted without permission. Send all comments to feedback@enterline-media.com

 

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