A time-traveling Samurai wakes up in L.A. and causes havoc

Frozen for over 400 hundred years, a samurai warrior from Feudal Japan is thawed out and unleashed in present day Los Angeles. Ghost Warrior (also known as Swordkill) is a guilty pleasure from the 1980s when ninjas and other elements of Japanese culture were a popular fad in American entertainment. In fact, Ghost Warrior is much in the vein of popular ninja films made around the same time by Cannon Films.

This Charles Band production stars Janet Julian (King of New York, Humongous) and Hiroshi Fujioka. Exploring how an honorable samurai warrior from the past would deal with modern society and its ills in the big city, it’s a fun slice of cheesy goodness.

Yoshimitsu (Hiroshi Fujioka) is a strict man of honor that follows the samurai’s Bushido code. The samurai warrior is nearly killed by a rival clan after seeing his beloved perish at their hands. Yoshimitsu falls into a deep mountain river where he ends up frozen for over 400 hundred years. Brought back to life by a team of American scientists after skiers discover his frozen body in Japan, Yoshimitsu is a man displaced out of his own time and culture.

Dr. Alan Richards (John Calvin) and Chris Welles (Janet Julian) are the people helping Yoshimitsu gain his bearings in this strange world to him. Chris Welles is supposedly an expert on Asian history, though this team of scientists has no one that properly speaks Yoshimitsu’s ancient Japanese dialect. That might have been more helpful than locking him in a room. There are some amusing moments when Welles strongly suggests handing his swords over will make him feel better. Handing deadly weapons over to a trained killer is always a winning recipe for safety.

This is a B-movie that doesn’t try to drag things out and has some exciting set pieces…

A greedy orderly watching over Yoshimitsu leads to a misunderstanding and the samurai warrior escapes into the streets of Los Angeles. Yoshimitsu doesn’t speak any language known in Los Angeles and can barely communicate, so his sword does his talking for him when he comes cross a vicious street gang terrorizing an elderly man. When the police learn of a man dressed up as a samurai warrior killing people, that begins to spell the beginning of the end for our time displaced samurai.

Surprisingly for a low-budget action movie, Ghost Warrior is respectful toward the historical reality of samurai warriors and their code of honor. Hiroshi Fujioka is convincing as a samurai transported hundreds of years into the future, which helps sell this crazy premise.

What prevents it from becoming anything more than a guilty pleasure is a paper-thin plot and a villainous turn by one of the scientists that lacks proper development. It is fun seeing an authentic samurai dropped into a modern city, which is a sure way to know if you’ll like Ghost Warrior or not. This is a B-movie that doesn’t try to drag things out and has some exciting set pieces, including Yoshimitsu squaring off against a gang inside a dark warehouse. It is the right mix of action and drama, wrapping up before things get boring.

Movie ★★★★☆

Ghost Warrior Blu-ray screen shot 3

Scream Factory has made a double feature with Ghost Warrior and The House Where Evil Dwells, both samurai B-movies from the 1980s. They share a single BD-50. Ghost Warrior was produced in 1984 and theatrically released in 1986. This older telecine transfer shows better than expected clarity but rather soft fine detail. The following comments solely pertain to Ghost Warrior.

For an older MGM property, the HD transfer isn’t overly processed but lacks the stunning improvement seen in newer film scans. Scream Factory heavily advertises the fact that The House Where Evil Dwells received a new transfer for this set, indicating Ghost Warrior wasn’t as fortunate.

The 80-minute main feature is encoded in AVC, averaging a solid 28 Mbps. The early scenes of Feudal Japan are rougher with its thicker grain and reduced contrast. Presented in an appropriate 1.85 aspect ratio at 1080P resolution, Ghost Warrior shows a modest gain in picture quality. The dated transfer appears to come from stable film elements with fairly consistent black levels and contrast, if dull in color. A few stray nicks and scratches mark the print but don’t substantially interfere in the video.

Ghost Warrior doesn’t look dramatically better in picture quality on Blu-ray but receives an adequate, dated transfer. However, the mild improvements in overall definition and sharpness are welcome. There are no egregious technical errors in the soft, film-like presentation and Scream Factory hasn’t tinkered with the film’s original aesthetic.

Video ★★★☆☆

Ghost Warrior comes with a 2.0 DTS-HD MA soundtrack that Scream Factory claims to be in stereo. If it is a stereo mix, it’s a narrow stereo mix. The soundstage is tight and centered. A rich symphonic score by Richard Band is heard in crisp fidelity with solid dynamics. The low-budget film has startlingly clean audio and music for a film of this ilk, including a brief appearance by hair metal band W.A.S.P. Dialogue remains completely intelligible at all times.

Optional English SDH subs in a white font are included. Having never seen Ghost Warrior before, there are exchanges in Japanese that I don’t know if they were intended to be translated for English-speaking audiences or not. Yoshimitsu speaks in an ancient form of Japanese only barely recognizable to modern Japanese speakers, but there are other instances of modern Japanese dialogue that go untranslated. It doesn’t really hurt the audience’s understanding of the narrative but may have been present on early prints of the film.

Audio ★★★☆☆

The double feature BD sees reversible cover art and each movie’s trailer as the bonus features.

Ghost Warrior Trailer (03:00 in HD)

Extras ☆☆☆☆☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.


Click on the images below for full resolution 1080P screenshots taken directly from the Blu-ray. The images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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