The films, both released in 1972, are based on the beloved manga epic Lone Wolf and Cub, which ran from 1970 to 1976. The manga is the tale of Ogami Ittō and his (initially) infant son Daigorō, who wander across Japan and take on assassination jobs as they seek vengeance against Yagyū Retsudō, who -- along with his clan -- murdered Ogami’s wife and framed Ogami as a traitor to the Shogunate.
Created by writer Kazuo Koike and artist Goseki Kojima, the comic gained a massive audience in Japan, and would go on to influence American comic creators, including Frank Miller and Max Allan Collins. The comic first appeared in the American market in translated editions in 1987, before finally being collected in full by Dark Horse Comics in the early 2000s.
Shortly after the manga first appeared, the first film adaptations followed, beginning with the two films which will be under discussion. The series as a whole is comprised of six films, all of which star Tomisaburo Wakayama in a career defining role. Closely involved in the writing of the films was comic co-creator Kazuo Koike.
While the films would eventually be made available outside of Japan, the first and second films were edited together for Western markets and released under the title Shogun Assassin in 1980. This compiled version of the films also included a new score by Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders fame.
These films were not the only time Lone Wolf and Cub have been adapted to media outside of the comics, however. Shortly after the release of the first two films, the comic was adapted to television over the course of three seasons, with Kinnosuke Yorozuya starring as Ogami. The intro to the series can be found here on YouTube.
A second adaptation was produced for television in 2002.The property also made a return to Japanese cinemas in 1992 with the release of Lone Wolf and Cub: Final Conflict, starring Masakazu Tamura as Ogami. Unlike the 1970s film series, Final Conflict attempts to tell the entire tale of Ogami and his son in the course of a single film, and the film has had limited release outside of Japan.
So what will Dru and Dave make of these beloved classics? Tune in next time to find out!