Samurai Reincarnation (1981)

Directed by
Sounds more fun than it actually is
Reviewed by Simon on 2021-09-25

The Tokugawa Shogunate defeats an uprising by a Christian sect and massacres its members, woman and children too. The rebellion's leader makes a deal with the devil, his soul for a chance to take revenge. He is granted infernal powers which he uses to resurrect a group of famous fighters from history to lead an army against the Shogunate.

SAMURAI REINCARNATION is a pretty wild concept, adapted from a novel by Futaro Yamada that has been interpreted a number of times in various media. The execution in this film by Kinji Fukasaku is surprisingly staid though, given the story - there are some pretty crazy things going on, objectively speaking, but the direction is mostly quite mundane - a bit more shlock would have been appropriate and appreciated.

The early parts of the film feel rather theatrical, as if we're watching a stage play (of which there have been several, but all post-dating this). In fact we literally are at the start, as Shiro Amakusa possesses an actor playing him on stage for his reincarnation, but the feeling persists long past that.

It feels odd to describe a film that features zombie samurai attacking a village of ninja and a climactic battle filmed in a raging inferno as dull, but it sort of is - or at least less fun than it sounds. The climactic battle is impressive to be fair, this was well before the technology existed to composite shots like that (as proven by a couple of shots that are composited, and look it) so that must have been one hot set.

Sonny Chiba is unquestionably the star of the film even though he's not in it all that much - he pops up on occasion but it's not until the last half hour that the film focuses on his character. It comes to life so much more at this point it feels a lot more like a Sonny Chiba film than it logically is - the same is true of Hiroyuki Sanada to an extent.

With those two action luminaries on the team you'd expect there to be some fighting, and you would be correct. The best of it is saved for the end but there's a few duels along the way. Japanese action was tame compared to what they were doing in Hong Kong in those days but it's still reasonably satisfying.

This is one of those films I've had for over 15 years but never got round to watching - there was a wave of Sonny Chiba releases around 2004 and I got rather burnt out, and since I found that the earlier ones were consistently more entertaining I never got to this comparatively late film until now. No particular regrets, on this occasion.


Production Company
Art Director
  • Makai Tensho 039
  • Makai Tensho 065
  • Makai Tensho 010
  • Makai Tensho 071
  • Makai Tensho 005
  • Makai Tensho 043
  • Makai Tensho 101
  • Makai Tensho 089
  • Makai Tensho 012
  • Makai Tensho 113

Also known as

  • Makai tenshô
  • Makai Tensho

See also