(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films that inspired, or help us better understand, George Lucas’s iconic universe. In this edition: Shogun’s Shadow.)

Samurai films have been a strong influence on the Star Wars saga since its very earliest days. When George Lucas was sitting down to write his first drafts of what would become A New Hope, he even copied out the synopsis of Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress and replaced all of the Japanese names with early Star Wars names. It served him well over the years and when it came time to break down The Clone Wars animated series, what better well to go to than back to Samurai films?

Shogun’s Shadow is an over-the-top Samurai action film from 1989. Sonny Chiba and his Japan Action Club stunt players provide all the adventurous thrills you’d want in this film about the young eldest son of the Shogun, on his way to Edo with the seemingly limitless forces of Japan trying to kill him. He’s under the protection of a motley crew of seven samurai and one has to wonder if he’ll ever make it to see his family again under such long odds. The film unfolds carefully, slowly revealing the intrigue behind who might want to kill the young heir and we’re shocked by how it all plays out.

As they fight their way through the Japanese countryside, the film gets more and more bombastic in its action. On the surface, it seems to have more in common with the ’80s action films of Jean Claude Van Damme and Bruce Willis than the work of Akira Kurosawa, but that’s not exactly a bad thing.

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