Historically, in terms of Japanese film, there are generally two streams of popular cinema: the historical epic (as seen in the samurai films of Kurosawa Akira) and the cult film (Godzilla or the yakuza movies of Fukasaku Kinji). Samurai Reincarnation is a strange amalgam of the two streams, a cult samurai film. The story is based on real historical figures, including samurai legends Musashi Miyamoto and Yagyu Jubei, battling in a war for the souls of Japan and control of the country. This film is a crazy mix of fantasy, horror, action, and samurai epic.

The story is a little muddled. Essentially, a group of Christian revolutionaries are murdered and their leader makes a deal with the Devil to return to Earth and avenge his brothers. Along the way, he recruits and resurrects a group of master samurai and ninja, all looking to conclude their unfinished business. Standing against them is Yagyu Jubei, a one-eyed master samurai and legendary figure in Japanese history.

A cult film at the core, Samurai Reincarnation is full of sex and violence, including some amazing fight sequences. Sonny Chiba is a dynamic presence, as always, a true master of the Japanese genre film. Acting-wise, everyone else is strong as well, though many of the performances are over-the-top. The effects are good and bad, with strong practical effects but cheesy special effects. As well, the soundtrack is pure 1980s rock, not to everyone’s taste (to put it nicely) and more than a little distracting.

I get the feeling that the version of Samurai Reincarnation I saw was an edited version. Some of the sequences don’t flow together well and there are a few glaring plot holes. That said, it’s still an entertaining film filled with good action sequences and interesting effects.