SAMURAI MYSTERY

The recent DVD/video releases have raised some questions, namely some of the dubbing is not as we remember it. Some people find Shintarōís voice different, though not me. However, I think a couple of different people dubbed Tonbei, one with a voice quite similar to Makiís own and another with a rather high-pitched "preppy" sort of voice one associates with college students in an American surfing film. Most distracting.

However, it is with the "Iga Ninjas" story some real discrepancies arise. Most egregious is that Genkūrōís band are referred to as "Kōga" ninja, rather than Iga in the current releases yet I distinctly remember they were called Iga ninja when I first saw the series in the 1960s. That they are Iga ninja is born out not only in the Japanese sources but in the letter Genkūrō pins up in the first episode where he signs himself head of the 10 Iga ninja. Itís as if someone somewhere decided that it would be too confusing to call them Iga ninja as the Iga ninja were supposed to be the good guys but the whole point was that not all Iga were attached to the shogun as Tonbei and his boss, Mochizuki, were.

This then begs the question, was another dubbed version made and was it purchased by NINE in the 1970s? Alex Paige recalls that they were called "Kooga" (pronounced as written) when he watched it in 1978. As he wrote up each episode after seeing it, one can assume this recollection is accurate. He also notes that the dubbing on some episodes is credited to George A Reid & Associates and on others to William Ross, and that in the Siren releases it seems less voice artists are doing the dubbing, just Bill Ross and a few chums altering pitch to sound different. My recollections (which maybe faulty after all this time) is that "Gensai" was dubbed with a similar deep voice to that used for "Fūma Kotarō/Kongō of Kōga" which would have been appropriate as they were all played by Amatsu Bin. I was quite surprised that "Genzō the Spider", another of Amatsuís characters, had such a bland voice in the Siren and Galaxy video releases as I think I would have noticed if it was too much different from the other Amatsu roles.

Alex also says the title credits in the Siren releases use a different type-face and font from episodes seen on Foxtel or earlier video releases, for example, "Mission to Kyoto" was called "Road to Kyoto" in 1978 as he duly noted it down. However, "Mission to Kyoto" was the title used in the 1960s release as the loglines in TV Week and TV Times indicate.

It seems that perhaps three different versions can be identified. If so, why were they made and when? Did the soundtrack become damaged and have to be over-dubbed at some point (with only a couple of people doing it, so long after the event)? And if so, why did NINE buy a new version in the 1970s for an old b/w childrenís series that had long had its day and was only used for repeats in the early morning?

And can anyone tell me why the opening sequence for the Phantom Ninja story was tacked on to the opening credits of Koga Ninjas and several other stories in the Siren release? It is rather confusing to see these characters all running abreast down the main streets of Edo when none those actors appears in Koga Ninjas and that story is set mostly in rural areas.

The openings to the Fuma Ninjas part one and two, and Ninja Terror are completely new and completely tacky compared with the original ones. It looks as if someone, armed with the garden shears, hacked out random action sequences from some of the episodes and pasted them together finishing with a wobbly shot of smoke and sky and overlaid this with the story title in a very bland italic script which looks like something done with Microsoft Word. The original openings for these three stores were much more atmospheric, particularly the one for Ninja Terror with the smoke rising from a censor at an altar and the sound of monks chanting in the background. It has a very sinister air and the Negoro Ninja often wore the guise of different types of monks (Garyūdōshi was seriously into the murkier aspects of Japanese mysticism). So if you still have the old Siren video releases, donít throw them away because there you still have the original, correct and far more interesting opening sequences. In the case of the first episode of the Fuma Ninja series, they even cut out the very beginning where some guards are going round saying, "This is a ninja-proof wall", thanks to a very crude piece of editing.

And arenít we all getting a little tired of the way part of the Iga Ninjas opening is spliced into every one of these stories? Especially as they feature a close up of Genkūrō and actor Katsuki Toshiyuki does not appear in any story after that one.

It would be interesting to see if this mess occurs in the Japanese language versions. Did the Japanese do this at some point or did whoever own the rights to the English language version (if they are indeed separate entities)? I have three Japanese language episodes on video but they donít help much because the first is the very first episode (not yet released on DVD so we canít compare), the second is from Iga Ninjas anyway and the third (the very last episode) lacks an opening sequence at all.

Can anyone shed any light on this, or has anyone noticed similar oddities?