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Shigehiro Ozawa
Tomisaburô Wakayama, Yumiko Nogawa, Tomoko Mayama
Writing Credits:
Kōji Takada, Norimichi Matsudaira, Masaru Igami

A shogunate secret agent is sent to investigate a secret deal with a Dutch warship involving repeating rifles to be used in an uprising against the Shogun, but finds there's more going on than previously suspected.

Rated NR.


Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Japanese LPCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 89 min.
Price: $64.95
Release Date: 3/26/24
Available as Part of “Bounty Hunter Trilogy” Set

• Audio Commentary with Film Critic Tom Mes
• Interview with Film Historian Akihito Ito
• Trailer


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Killer's Mission [Blu-Ray] (1969)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 17, 2024)

According to the press release for this Blu-ray edition of 1969’s Killer’s Mission, the film promises a “violent Samurai spectacle” that also “draws on James Bond and Spaghetti Westerns”. With a build-up like that, how can I resist?

Set in Japan circa 1751, the rebellious Satsuma clan illegally receives smuggled Dutch firearms to further their cause. Leading secret agent Shikoro Ichibei (Tomisaburô Wakayama) gets the assignment to halt this.

Ichibei goes to the Satsuma base on the island of Kyushu as part of this mission. Along the way, he discovers a more complex matter than he anticipated and encounters a mix of threats.

As enticing as the mash-up of genres described in that press release makes Mission, it also comes with one strong possible issue: a lack of focus. The film could feel like it wants to hit so many different styles that the end result becomes a mess.

And that essentially occurs here, though not to a severe degree. In truth, Mission provides a fairly traditional samurai adventure without the unusual departures the press release promises most of the film.

Oh sure, Mission provides some trappings of those influences, especially in terms of the Bond vibe. The film uses score that often goes out of its way to emulate the work of John Barry, and that turns into the most overt Bond connection, as little else here really reflects that franchise’s traits.

As for the Spaghetti Western side, that seems tougher to identify because that genre already shares a number of tendencies with samurai flicks. Both concentrate on lone, taciturn protagonists who go on violent quests.

Of course, Ichibei picks up some compatriots along the way, so he doesn’t follow a totally solo path. Still, I don’t sense much that really feels “Spaghetti Western” here.

The score also occasionally reflects this genre, as we get a Morricone feel for some of the music. I see little logic to determine when the flick leans toward Barry or Morricone.

I do find a movie that tends to lack a lot of real narrative oomph and clarity. The story meanders from one scene to another without much to send the tale down a concise path.

I’ll be honest: even with a fairly simple plot, I thought chunks of Mission made little sense and could become difficult to follow. The film simply lacks the clarity it needs to present a more engaging story.

Every once in a while, Mission compensates with action. Along its 89 minutes, it tosses out the occasional vivid set piece.

However, these occur too infrequently to keep the viewer engaged. With so many stretches of iffy storytelling at hand, the film’s sporadic battles don’t deliver the goods to overcome the weaknesses.

The final act does bounce back some, as it comes with the most involving fights. However, it still lacks the oomph it needs to redeem the prior 75 minutes or so.

Perhaps if Mission brought the unhinged genre mash-up I expected, I could more easily ignore its flaws. Instead, we get a fairly mediocre samurai movie without much to elevate it.

The Disc Grades: Picture C/ Audio C/ Bonus B-

Killer’s Mission appears in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This wound up as an erratic image.

Sharpness turned into the primary issue, as delineation lacked consistency. While many shots offered appealing accuracy, too many others came across as soft and mushy.

No concerns related to jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. Grain felt light but adequate, and the movie lacked print flaws.

Colors tended toward a dull mix of green and blue. Like sharpness, the hues demonstrated inconsistent clarity and varied from “fairly vivid” to “oddly flat”.

Blacks seemed acceptable, and low-light shots demonstrated reasonable visibility. While not a poor presentation, the mix of softness and bland colors made it a “C”.

In addition, the film’s LPCM monaural soundtrack came with its own restrictions. Speech seemed intelligible but tended to come across as somewhat edgy and dull.

Music showed passable range, though it could be shrill, and effects also displayed some roughness. This wasn’t a terrible track, but it seemed lackluster, even when I accounted for the movie’s age and origins.

A few extras appear, and we get an audio commentary from film critic Tom Mes. He provides a running, screen-specific look at story/characters and the history behind these elements, cast and crew, genre domains, and a few production notes.

Mes delivers a fairly informative chat. He covers appropriate topics and does so in an engaging manner, so expect a useful track.

In addition to the film’s campy trailer, we locate an Interview with Film Historian Akihito Ito. This reel runs 15 minutes, 43 seconds.

Ito looks at the career of director Shigehiro Ozawa as well as aspects of Mission and its 1972 second sequel. Ito provides a good summary.

As a samurai film, Killer’s Mission seems wholly unremarkable. Occasional flashes of vibrant action add some zing, but a muddy story and a general lack of momentum make it less than engrossing. The Blu-ray comes with spotty picture and audio as well as a few bonus features. I can’t claim I actively disliked Mission but it largely left me unenthused.

Note that this version of Killler’s Mission comes as part of a set called “Bounty Hunter Trilogy”. It also includes 1969’s The Fort of Death and 1972’s Eight Men to Kill.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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