Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Australian documentary revisits the samurai who conquered kids hearts in the 1960's

by Chris MaGee

I remember when I was a kid in the late 70's and early 80's WUTV Buffalo would broadcast old kaiju monster movies and anime TV series (dubbed into English of course) every day after school. I know from speaking to friends here in the city that it was this programming that turned a whole generation of young people onto Japanese film... even if we didn't know that these movies and TV were from Japan in the first place. Why do I mention this? Because it seems like a similar situation was going on in Australia. In the mid-1960's Asutralia's national network Channel Nine began running the Japan TV series "Onmitsu Kenshi" dubbed into English and retitled simply "The Samurai" in its after school slot. The series starred Koichi Ose as Shintaro, a lone spy samurai who wanders the road to Edo fighting evil ninja and warlords. He was joined on his adventures by good ninja Tombei "The Mist" and the orphan boy Shusaku. Even though certain Australians, who had lived through the Japanese bombing of Darwin during WW2 protested against having a Japanese series airing on the national network they couldn't quell the mania the show inspired in its young fans. "The Samurai" booted "The Mickey Mouse" club out of the after school ratings race and in 1965 when series star Koichi Ose toured Australia making promotional appearances he was mobbed by adoring boys and girls.

This "Samurai"-mania is revisted in a new 52-minute documentary directed by Marco Sinigaglia titled "Shintaro! The Samurai Sensation that Swept a Nation". Sinigaglia speaks to Australian celebrities like comedian Steve Bedwell and writer/producer Santo Cilauro about how the series affected them as children. The doc has already aired on Australian TV and is now posied to be released on DVD on April 21st. You can read all about the doc as well as check out an interview clip with Bedwell, Cilauro and other prominent Australians at the film's official site here. Check out the opening to the series below while you're out it.

Thanks to Sci-Fi Japan for pointing the way to this documentary.

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