Starring Hiroshi Fujioka, John Calvin, Janet Julian, Charles Lampkin, Frank Schuller, Bill Morey, Andy Wood, Robert Kino
Directed by J. Larry Carroll
Expectations: Low. The concept is great, but I don’t wanna get my hopes up.
Forget everything you know about physics and medical science and get ready for a pretty serious little movie about a frozen samurai. Yes, you read that right I said serious and frozen samurai in the same sentence. Admittedly, when I heard the premise for this film, I simultaneously squealed and cringed, as something this good has an ultimate potential to disappoint. Surprisingly, that’s not the case though as Ghost Warrior is one very enjoyable film.
Ghost Warrior is about an ancient samurai named Yoshimitsu who falls in battle in the 1500s, landing in an icy lake at the moment of his death. Through some simple twist of fate his body is preserved until the 1980s when two skiers happen into an ice cave and notice a hand frozen in a stalagmite. The body is rushed to the California Cryonics Institute where the scientists are tasked with performing an autopsy on this rare and important anthropological discovery. The head honcho has another plan though… to bring the ancient warrior back to life!
And when Yoshimitsu needs to kick some ass, he does so with masterful ease. The film’s opening is set in fuedal Japan and features a quick sword fight. It serves to set up the story but also to establish the caliber of the warrior we’re dealing with, and let me tell you, this guy’s no slouch. My favorite moments of this nature come later in the film, after Yoshimitsu has been awoken in the 1980s and saves an old man from a gang of thugs. With a few quick swipes, most of the party lies dead on the ground, another falls down holding a bloody stump of a wrist and the leader runs off to lick his wounds. If you’ve ever watched a Kurosawa film and wished to see these sharp, precise strokes of the samurai warrior in downtown Los Angeles, then Ghost Warrior is definitely the film for you.
The acting from everyone involved is good, with Hiroshi Fujioka as Yoshimitsu dominating every scene he’s in. SEGA fans will want to take note that Fujioka played the Segata Sanshiro mascot in the Saturn era ads, as well as voicing Iwao Hazuki in the fantastic Shenmue videogames. I’m surprised looking over his credits that he never achieved more success as he clearly has the chops.
The film falters a bit and loses some steam at the end of the second act, but the final reel is especially good, bring the story around full circle in a classy way that closes up the story beautifully. Richard Band’s score works well in conveying the culture clash, fusing his usual orchestral stylings with Japanese flutes and drums. Despite having to seriously suspend your disbelief and a sagging middle, Ghost Warrior is definitely a film I’d recommend to fans of both 80s cinema and samurai films.
Next Tuesday, we venture back into the land of Full Moon science fiction, with the giant robot film, Crash and Burn!