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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Japanese PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Video piece featuring new interviews with director Seijun Suzuki and assistant director Masami Kuzuu
  • Interview with Suzuki from 1997
  • New interview with actor Joe Shishido
  • Original theatrical trailer

Branded to Kill

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Seijun Suzuki
Starring: Joe Shishido, Mariko Ogawa, Annu Mari, Koji Nanbara
1967 | 91 Minutes | Licensor: Nikkatsu Co.

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #38
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: December 13, 2011
Review Date: December 23, 2011

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SYNOPSIS

When Japanese New Wave bad boy Seijun Suzuki (Tokyo Drifter) delivered this brutal, hilarious, and visually inspired masterpiece to the executives at his studio, he was promptly fired. Branded to Kill tells the ecstatically bent story of a yakuza assassin (Joe Shishido, the chipmunk-cheeked superstar from Gate of Flesh) with a fetish for sniffing boiled rice who botches a job and ends up a target himself. This is Suzuki at his most extreme-the flabbergasting pinnacle of his sixties pop-art aesthetic.

Forum members rate this film 8.3/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Criterion re-issues Seijun Suzukiís Branded to Kill on Blu-ray, giving the film a whole new 1080p/24hz high-definition digital transfer in the filmís original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on a dual-layer disc.

First noticeable improvement over the DVD is that contrast is much better, with whites looking to be under better control. Blacks are fairly deep but details donít get overly lost in them. Sharpness and detail is significantly improved, with clothing threads or pores on faces coming through much clearer, and edges are cleaner and better defined. Film grain is present and looks to be rendered naturally, and most importantly I didnít detect any distracting instances of compression noise.

With more of a restoration or at least better print materials acting as the source of the transfer, this is the cleanest Iíve seen the film and it looks fairly film-like. A very welcome improvement.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The lossless PCM mono track also sounds to have been restored and comes off significantly cleaner, but thereís still a bit of edge to the dialogue, music sounds a bit distorted, and there isnít much power there overall. Still itís a lot easier on the ears in comparison to the original DVD.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion ports most of everything from the DVD (meaning they moved one of the two features on it over) but have also added some new material starting with a new 12-minute interview with director Seijun Suzuki and assistant director Masami Kuzuu. Similar to the new interview with them found on the new Tokyo Drifter edition they talk about the production of the film starting with the studioís involvement in casting and the issue with casting the female leads since nudity was involved. Thereís details about some of the more surreal touches like the butterflies (which Suzuki explains away as ďit was in the scriptĒ so he filmed it) and he also explains how he was able to make it for the low budget thanks primarily to the product placement of the rice cooker that also appears to have, humourously enough, led Suzuki and team to giving Shishidoís character the rice fetish. Thereís a little about Suzukiís dismissal and the lawsuit that followed but not much. In all itís incredibly short and a bit disappointing in this regard but worth watching none-the-less.

Following this is another new interview, this time an 11-minute one with actor Joe Shishido. With his cheek implants now removed Shishido talks about why he got them (which he admits was a mistake) and then talks in great detail about his work and the films he did with Suzuki, including Branded to Kill naturally. He also talks about working as an actor in the Japanese studio system, Nikkatsu in particular. We get the usual anecdotes and such, but this is a very off-kilter interview, and Shishido is one of the more engaging, forthcoming, and funny interviewees Iíve come across on a feature like this. Thereís a couple of surprise moments I wonít spoil, offering a couple of good laughs and making this possibly the best feature on the disc.

Criterion then includes an Seijun Suzuki recorded at a retrospective of his work back in 1997, which also appeared on the original DVD. At 14-minutes itís brief but very insightful as Suzuki talks a little about his early work at Nikkatsu, offers some thoughts on his films, gets into how he was able to quickly edit his films (in most cases he was done after only a day because he shot only what he needed,) states that he really only made films for entertainment purposes and not as art, and then offers his thoughts on ďfilm grammar.Ē He only talks a little about Branded to Kill and Joe Shishido (he admits itís hard for him to recall much of anything from the shoot) but he does get into his firing from the studio and the lawsuit that followed. Though the grammar and the spelling of the subtitle translation is questionable (and yes, me stating that is a case of ďpot calling kettle blackĒ) itís a great interview, especially itís amusing conclusion where the interviewer and Suzuki go to a local bar and have a couple of drinks, where Suzukiís ďactingĒ career briefly comes up. That last part especially makes it worthwhile.

The disc then closes with the theatrical trailer.

Missing from this edition is a photo gallery of poster art for Shishidoís films that was provided by composer John Zorn. This was a cool feature and I do actually miss it, but Criterion has been skimping on these lately and it seems to have become common for them not to carry these types of items over. Zornís essay is also missing from the booklet but Tony Rayns provides an excellent, and lengthy essay about Suzuki and his later films.

Overall itís an improvement over the DVDís features but they still feel slight (about 40-minutes in total) considering the price, but theyíre enjoyable and informative enough.

5/10

CLOSING

Strong upgrade overall with a far better presentation and stronger supplements, though still slight for the price. But fans will be happiest with the significant improvement in the A/V and for that it comes recommended.


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