Thursday, 3 September 2015

G.I. Samurai (1979)

The premise of this film is that a unit of modern-day (as of 1979) Japanese soldiers, along with equipment including a tank, an APC and a helicopter, somehow slip 400 years back in time.  This concept, coupled with the rather twee English-language title, might lead you to expect that it is a goofy, gonzo romp.  And perhaps if you saw the original US release, then you might more or less have got that ... until the fatalistic, downbeat ending, anyway.

This is the full, unexpurgated version of the film, however.  It includes all 40+ minutes of (mostly graphic) material cut from the earlier release, and clocks in at a frankly excessive 139 minutes.  And it's a long, long way from either goofy or gonzo.

The soldiers have a number of different reactions to their sudden and unexplained trip to the past.  One - who was planning to elope with his girlfriend in the morning - seizes on the hope that the effect is localised and tries to travel out of it.  Four others sneak off with weapons and go on a rampage of looting and rapine before their comrades finally hunt them down.  A sixth man begins a relationship with a young widow and settles into the era.

The main group, however - after killing the rampaging deserters - join up with a local warlord in an attempt to conquer Japan.  Their commander's ostensible plan is that if they kill enough people in this era, it might cause a disruption to the timestream and return them to the modern age.  And if it doesn't work, at least they get to be kings.

All this takes about 80 minutes of the run time and frankly it mostly seems to exist purely to justify the film's major set-piece: a massive battle sequence where fifteen men with modern gear go up against thousands of sword and bow-wielding samurai.  It's initially a very exciting sequence.  This is the fourth or fifth battle they've fought since arriving in the past and the enemy commander has come up with some ingenious counters to their technological edge (plus, you know, he has a whole lot of guys).  Alas it runs a full thirty minutes of action with minimal dialogue, which is rather outstaying its welcome.

I didn't get what I wanted from this film, but none of the characters in it get what they want either, so I guess there's at least some symmetry there.

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