PARAMOUNT has released one of the last “true” epic mini-series,“SHOGUN” on
dvd in a boxed set. Originally airing in 1979, the series stars Richard
Chamberlain as John Blackthorne, a British Navigator, who becomes involved in
plenty of intrigue and clashes of power, not to mention “action”, upon becoming
shipwrecked off of the Japan coastline. Toshiro Mifune plays Toranaga, a
leader hoping to use Blackthorne’s knowledge of the outside world in order to
secure himself the role of “SHOGUN”, the top military leader. Toranaga
learns from Blackthorne while at the same time instructing him as to the ways of
the Japanese culture. He’s also provided Blackthorne with a beautiful
translator, Lady Toda, whom Blackthorne becomes smitten with.
“SHOGUN” only feels like a television movie in small instances. For
the most part, it’s lost none of its magic, and is just as captivating
today as it was 24 years ago. It offers great insight into the history of
Japan, as well as their culture, of which some important aspects remain
unchanged, even today!
PARAMOUNT has preserved the series’ original 1.33:1 full frame aspect
ratio. The image is generally solid, with solid if occasionally restrained
colors. It’s surprising the series doesn’t look more vibrant, but
the content is so consuming it makes up for the uneventful color scheme.
Contrast is fine, with generally impressive detail in dark scenes.
Fleshtones appear natural throughout. It’s a decent image, and far
better than what it looked like in its original tv airing.
PARAMOUNT has remixed the sound for a new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. It
has its share of “surround” moments, at times enhancing key sequences, as well as the terrific score. But, again, the series works well due to the
acting and excellent writing, so an aggressive mix is completely unnecessary for viewers to still remain entirely captivated by it.
For some reason, PARAMOUNT didn’t elect to index episodes the way in
which they were separated originally. Sure, there are chapter marks, but
they don’t have the proper breaking points of the original presentation,
diminishing the “mini-series” feel, which actually deserves to remain
PARAMOUNT did, however, choose to add some extras for this
presentation. A lengthy “MAKING OF SHOGUN” documentary offers plenty of behind-the-scenes footage, interviews and discussion about the epic. In addition to director Jerry London’s comments, the writer and star are at hand, as are other surviving members of the cast.
There are also some short featurettes pertaining to the history of
Japan, something that the series certainly helped to bring about a healthy
interest in. Unfortunately, none of the often discussed “extra” footage is
included within the release.