Released back in 1979, the Japanese movie G.I. Samurai kicks a ton of ass: in it, a squad of Japan's Self-Defense Forces on maneuvers are thrown through a time rift to 16th Century Japan and have to face warlords, calvary, and, of course, ninjas. Led by Second Lieutenant Yoshiaki Iba (Sonny Chiba), the group of hapless soldiers decide their best bet to re-open the time rift and get home is create a paradox by conquering Japan for themselves. (Well, of course. Duh!) Below the jump, the awesome (and long!) Dutch trailer for this great B movie, info about its troubled production, and news of a recent American re-release on DVD.
Based on Ry Hanmura's hugely successful novel, Time Slip (as it was known internationally) was Kadokawa Productions' attempt to stage a huge period film, but perhaps not even the largest budget could've captured some of the more epic scenes from the novel (such as an attack on a Japanese castle with anti-tank missles). Additionally, the Japanese Self Defense Force, which had considered supporting the production, declined after reading the script. (Which, considering one of the film's plot points is a group of mutinous soldiers who steal a PT Boat and go on a coastal rape-a-thon, probably isn't that surprising.) As a result, the filmmakers had to make do with surplus military hardware or, in the case of the troop's state-of-the-art tank, build it themselves. Apart from Kadokawa Productions' pluck and non-inconsiderable resources, the production had another ace up its sleeve: Sonny Chiba, who not only starred in the film, but choreographed the sweeping action scenes with his Japan Action Club. Between Kadokawa's resources and Chiba's talent, the last half of Time Slip crackles with action scenes bolder and bigger than the first half of the film would lead you to expect: the soldiers of the 20th Century, confident in their superior firepower, find themselves outfoxed and outflanked by the strategy and the vast numbers of their 16th Century opponents. Although it's these scenes that cause me to excitedly pass on copies of Time Slip (under its delightful U.S. re-release monicker, G.I. Samurai) to fellow action film fans, I'm always struck by this film's subtext: although Chiba's Second Lieutenant Yoshiaki Iba is an honorable man and an accomplished soldier, he's seduced by war leader Nagao Kagetora's overtures to overthrow the Shogun and rule Japan together. Japan's brutal history is too much of Iba's self-identity to resist, and he and his men pay the price. While frequently cheesy (they production company spent all of three dollars on the special effects for the actual time slip, and I sometimes wonder if Japanese filmmakers of the '70s ever came across a hilariously inappropriate sappy ballad they didn't like), Time Slip is a great B movie. And while researching this article, I came across a recent two-disc DVD release on Amazon. While I can't vouch for what's on the second disc, this flick is a fine addition for anyone's collection of tank vs. samurai films—even if it doesn't have a narrator intoning "Time Slip—The Day of the A-Pocalypse" over it. [GI Samurai via IMDB] The author is greatly indebted to Patrick Macias' insert notes from the Ventura Entertainment DVD release of G.I. Samurai for historical information and context.