by Jack Nilan            EMail :

Shogun (1980)

Director: Jerry London

Jack   A-

IMDB    8.2



   Not really a movie, but one of the best mini-series of all times, It has a running time of almost ten hours. The story is based on the life of English navigator, William Adams.

   Pilot John Blackthorne, an English pilot working on a Dutch ship, is on a shipwreck on the Japanese coast in 1600. The Protestant Blackthorne must deal with the Portuguese traders and Jesuit priests who already have a foothold in Japan. Lord Toranaga, played by Toshiro Mifune, becomes Blackthorne's patron and Blackthorne eventually becomes a samurai.

   Blackthorne falls in love with, his interpreter, Lady Mariko, the wife of another samurai. The romance between these two is one of the major subplots in the movie. The movie also follows the political intrigues as Toranaga tries to become the shogun (military ruler) of all Japan.

   This movie is very well done. The attention to period detail and the production values are great. The movie uses mostly Japanese dialogue, but with translations for Blackthorne by Mariko, the Jesuits and the Portuguese and a few well placed voice-overs by Orson Welles, it is very easy to follow the story. The ten hours are a good mix of soap opera and historical drama. It never seems to drag.

   This movie shows the duality of barbarism and sophisticated culture that was Samurai Japan. That duality in the culture continued right through World War II, and is one of the things that makes Japanese culture such a fascinating subject.