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Stray Dogs & Lone Wolves: The Samurai Film Handbook [Paperback]

Patrick Galloway

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Book Description

May 1 2005

Finally, a book about the ever-popular genre of samurai film. Stray Dogs & Lone Wolves provides essential background on the samurai warrior in Japanese culture to help explain what makes these tales of loyalty, revenge and explosive swordsmanship so watchable. It covers top directors and stars and has over 50 original reviews of a wide variety of films, from classics like Samurai Trilogy and Yojimbo to influential films like Lady Snowblood, plus newly released hits like Takeshi Kitano’s Zatoichi. With American directors like Quentin Tarentino increasingly influenced by Japanese films, this book is as much a guide to style as it is a solid film reference.

"Galloway's thoughtful and personal touches make this book much more than just a vital reference for samurai film fans." -- The Asian Reporter

"Galloway's contextualization of the genre is masterly, one of the clearest and most succinct explanations I have read on teh whole historical samurai phenomenon." -- The Daily Yomiuri

"Without a doubt, Galloway knows his stuff." -- Yellow Menace

From the publisher: Check out Patrick Galloway's latest book, Asian Shock: Horror and Dark Cinema from Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, & Thailand

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Stone Bridge Press (May 1 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1880656930
  • ISBN-13: 978-1880656938
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 18 x 1.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 454 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #691,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Film critic Patrick Galloway won over readers with film guides Stray Dogs & Lone Wolves: The Samurai Film Handbook, and Asia Shock: Horror and Dark Cinema from Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, and Thailand. A lifelong student of Asian philosophy and culture, Galloway has traveled in Japan, Hong Kong, India and Nepal. He lives in the Bay Area.

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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chambara - o - Rama Sept. 9 2005
By Zack Davisson - Published on Amazon.com
Patrick Galloway is no film scholar, and "Stray Dogs and Lone Wolves: The Samurai Film Handbook" is no didactic, insightful critique of a unique and subtle genre. Instead, he is an unabashed fan who has written a gushing fan book full of excitement and energy, as befits the nature of the subject. This is not to put any doubt on his knowledge. Super-fan that he is, one would be hard pressed to find a more knowledgeable expert on the Samurai genre. From the most ludicrous splatterfest to the most powerful and moving drama, Galloway treats each film with respect and notes the quality of its merits on its own terms.

Taking this films decade by decade, Galloway highlights the best that each period has to offer. He kicks things off right with "Roshomon" and "Seven Samurai" in the 1950's, moves through the Golden Age of the 60's with such films as "Yojimbo," "The Tale of Zatoichi," "Hara Kiri" and "Samurai Rebellion," into the 70's with "Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx" and the "Kill Bill" inspiration "Lady Snowblood: Blizzard from the Netherworld," the 80's and beyond with "Kagemusha," "Roningai" Kitano Takeshi's "Zatoichi" and the magnificent "Twilight Samurai." He plucks the absolute best from each era, and leaves you hungry to watch every magnificent offering.

Each review is packed with information on story, actors and historical setting. Ever a fan instead of a scholar, Galloway refuses to give away endings or crucial plot points, so that the films can still be fully enjoyed by eager viewers. The availability of each film is also rated, and Galloway specifically tries to review accessible films, rather than long out-of-print obscurities.

Along with his great reviews, he has side galleries such as the "Character Actor Hall of Fame," with bios of all those guys you see hanging around the various Samurai flicks, but never quite put a name too, and tidbits from "Takuan the Know-It-All Priest," which offers insight into Japanese Samurai culture, dress and relationships. He also includes four prefacing essays, "The World of the Samurai," "The Samurai Film Genre," "The Artists," and "Seeing the Films" which help set the stage for the film reviews to follow.

While always a fan of Samurai flicks, "Stray Dogs and Lone Wolves" has set me on the path to becoming a full-fledged fanatic. It has become my checklist to take shopping for DVDs or to the local rental shop, and so far it has never let me down. The more I see, the more I want to see, and I am constantly referencing back to this book, appreciating it even more as I see the films.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars popular introduction to these popular Japanese films Aug. 29 2005
By Henry Berry - Published on Amazon.com
Dissatisfied with the academic reference books on this popular Japanese film genre of samurai films, the longtime student of Asian and Japanese culture Galloway wrote this jaunty, learned reference providing "historical background, cultural insights, production anecdotes, actor and director bios, and detailed plot synopses" for more than 50 of the films from the 1960s into the '90s. Besides the classics "Seven Samurai" and "Rashomon," others of the numerous films included are "Three Outlaw Samurai," "Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance," "Heaven and Earth," and "Band of Assassins," as well as "Samurai Reincarnation" and "The Razor: Sword of Justice" and others in the series these two are a part of. Galloway's outstanding guide treats the films as part of the global popular culture rather than "foreign" films calling for explanation in terms of some film theory or film critic's abstruse, involved ideas.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Solid Primer on the Samurai Genre Oct. 17 2005
By Kevin J. Closson - Published on Amazon.com
As a long time collector of the samurai genre I really appreciated this book. Although I have read scholarly books and articles about the genre, I too always felt there was something missing to bridge the gap between the fan and the higher levels of learning.

The book is written more as an introduction to the genre, so it is more for the average person than for someone who has seen most of the movies in the book. I like the way it is simple, but not simplistic. Mr. Galloway gives some basic background history, actor/director bios, and can talk about the movie without giving away crucial parts or endings to spoil the story.

Part of the problem I have seen on the internet in discussing the genre is a tendency to violate all of the above. I've seen Japanese history seriously mangled, and people clueless about basic background issues a Japanese person might know going into a movie. So, what you may read on the net is a lot of opinion, but have nothing to do with what the director intended. Just because one sees a Japanese movie does not make one an expert in Japanese history, culture, or religious/ethical issues a movie may bring up. That factual basis is lacking, and this is where I think Galloway's book is a good foundation in understanding the basics of all of this.

The one minor area I think was weak in the book is the "availability" of movie issue in the book. This is really a "relative" issue of how well you know how to use a search engine these days. Almost all of these movies in the book I found in the past pretty easy to find. These days if you know how to use amazon, or google you can get your movies in a few clicks. Almost anything English subtitled you can find on a search engine. There are a few tricks to this though so it is good to check up on who is selling you movies. It is the stuff that is not subtitled and not on Japanese websites you have to know a few things and few people to get, but I suspect most people reading this will not care too much about those movies since they lack subtitles.

So, it is a good book to have, or if you know someone that wants to get into these movies then this would be a good place to start.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good source for Samurai films... Nov. 29 2005
By Michael Valdivielso - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Do you like a certain actor? Look him up. Like a cetain director? Look him up. Want films from a certain decade or wish to know some of the plot before buying it? Look it up! This book is FAR from the complex list of Samurai films, but it hits on the major ones and the people who brought them about. I had a few films I truly enjoyed, such as RoninGai, The Hidden Fortress and Yojimbo to name a few. But with this book I was able to expand my library to include such titles as Lone Wolf and Cub and Zatoichi. A must for ANY library on film or Japanese culture.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A handy handbook March 3 2006
By Kevin Fellezs - Published on Amazon.com
This book is an absolute must for chambara fans, both newbies and fans seeking new films to explore. This is a handbook - a "practical reference" book, as Galloway states right at the beginning [7]. The first three chapters provide a nice overview for the "detailed plot synopses that follow" (although, as Galloway also states, he never gives away an ending) [47].

In fact, Galloway is explicit about the purpose of this reference book. It "provides historical background, cultural insights, production anecdotes, actor and director bios" [47] and the aforementioned plot synopses. Those looking for a more Leonard Maltin-like review guide should probably look elsewhere.

Unlike another reader, however, I was not disappointed by a lack of reviews - it is quite clear that Galloway picked his films carefully and that he's an enthusiastic booster for each film in the book.

As for misinformation, film budgets and the financial equations used to calculate them are always arguable. What is not arguable, however, is the depth of research Galloway undertook with regard to the information about directors, actors, scripts, and Japanese language and history. I would be amazed if Tatsuya Nakadai would allow his name to be attached to a book that misrepresented the genre or the creative people who produced these films (Nakadai is a well-known Japanese actor who appears in several of the films described in the book and provides a "thumbs up" review blurb on the book's back cover).

I think it is evident that the films chosen for inclusion are the result of Galloway's belief that these particular films are important for aesthetic as well as historic reasons and, well, because he enjoys them and wants to share his enthusiasm for these films with other viewers.

Similar to a list of last year's "best movies," one can always argue for the inclusion or exclusion of a particular film. However, Galloway is explicit about his desire to whet appetites for Japanese film (and not just chambara or jidai-geki, either) by providing an entertaining and highly readable guide to a selection of films he considers representative of the best in the genre. This is not meant to be an exhaustive or encyclopedic survey of every chambara produced.

This is a handbook for those movie fans who want more background on an already-loved genre and, more importantly, this is a must-have book for those who are beginning to explore the wonderful world of Japanese samurai films. Buy the book and begin expanding your cinematic world!

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