Home Page  
 
 

SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary featuring Japanese-film scholar Donald Richie
  • A 30-minute documentary on the making of Drunken Angel, created as part of the Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create
  • Kurosawa and the Censors, a new, 25-minute video piece that looks at the challenges Kurosawa faced in making Drunken Angel

Drunken Angel


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Akira Kurosawa
Starring: Takashi Shimura, Toshiro Mifune, Reisaburo Yamamoto, Michiyo Kogure, Chieko Nakakita
1948 | 98 Minutes | Licensor: Toho Co.

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #413
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: November 27, 2007
Review Date: September 6, 2010

Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca

Share:

SYNOPSIS

In this powerful early noir from the great Akira Kurosawa, Toshiro Mifune bursts onto the screen as a volatile, tubercular criminal who strikes up an unlikely relationship with Takashi Shimura's jaded physician. Set in and around the muddy swamps and back alleys of postwar Tokyo, Drunken Angel is an evocative, moody snapshot of a treacherous time and place, featuring one of the director's most memorably violent climaxes.

Forum members rate this film 7.9/10

 

Discuss the film and DVD here   


PICTURE

Akira Kurosawa’s classic film, Drunken Angel, is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this dual-layer disc. The picture has been window boxed with a black border around the image.

Notes in the booklet point out that the condition of the original materials for the film have deteriorated severely and that this transfer comes from a master positive. The digital transfer itself looks good, presenting no digital problems of note. The image is primarily limited by the source materials, which do show considerable wear and tear, despite the best efforts of those that worked on the transfer. The image can look soft around the images, never presenting a considerable amount of detail, and while contrast looks to be spot on through most of the film there are moments where whites are blooming or blacks can look crushed. Vertical scratches are always present throughout the film and there are some marks and scratches, along with stains, but I imagine these could have been far worse and that most of this type of damage has been removed.

Though it shows it’s age I actually imagined worse. It’s been cleaned up as well as one could expect (maybe even more so) and the digital transfer is at least not problematic.

6/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

Screen Capture

AUDIO

The Japanese Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track also shows its age. There’s a hiss noticeable in the background along with a few pops. The audio also sounds distorted, with voices coming off edgy and weak, and singing during a dance sequence comes off screeching. Overall it’s weak but it’s about what I expected.

5/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion’s new special edition gathers together a few supplements, first starting with a new audio commentary by film scholar Donald Richie. Richie covers the production and offers his analysis, as expected, but this commentary is lifted up a level because Richie was actually on set during some of the shoot because he was friends with the film’s composer, Fumio Hayasaka. This allows him to relate a couple of first-hand accounts about filming, specifically Kurosawa’s use of music in the film. He also can give some historical context, talking about the Yakuza at the time and the thriving black market, as well as the transitional period after the war. It’s a great little track, covering the film from every aspect he can, and also manages to keep it quick and engaging during the entire running time.

The next feature is another segment from the series Akira Kurosawa: It is Wonderful to Create. Each segment of the series covers a particular film in the director’s filmography and Criterion has been including them with each of their Kurosawa releases (most of them at any rate.) This one of course focuses on Drunken Angel covering the film from its early production stages to its release, and then a later stage adaptation. But a good chunk of it gets into detail about how Kurosawa discovered actor Toshiro Mifune, the two first working together during this film. Detail is given as to how Mifune became an actor after the war (which was accidental as he originally went to Toho to gain employment as a cameraman.) This portion of the documentary also shows photos of a very young Mifune, including baby photos, and we also see some photos of Mifune in the Army Flying Corps. Like the other segments it’s a very informative and engaging piece, thoroughly covering the making of the film. It runs 31-minutes and has been divided into 6 chapters.

The final segment has been exclusively recorded for this release, focusing on Kurosawa and the censors. Hosted by Danish film scholar Lars-Martin Sorensen and running 25-minutes, he covers Kurosawa’s early work and his problems with Japanese censors, and then having to deal with American and British censors after the war. Though he talks a bit about a few of Kurosawa’s post war films, he spends most of the time talking about the issues Kurosawa had with Drunken Angel. Though Kurosawa had said this was his first film in the way it was the one he had most control over, he still had to submit his script in for review, even making some of the changes recommended to him by the censors (though not all apparently.) Sorensen, along with photos of the actual script with notes by the censors, goes through some of the changes and describes a few of the original intentions for the film, including a different ending. Though dry overall, and maybe a little too long, it’s an educational piece about film censorship in Japan before, during, and after the war.

Criterion also includes a rather thick booklet that, which first features an essay on the film’s story and themes by Ian Buruma. Criterion then includes an excerpt from Kurosawa’s book Something Like an Autobiography. These excerpts naturally focus on Drunken Angel and here Kurosawa gets into detail about the influences, the development of the doctor character, the black market areas of Tokyo, and, of course, Toshiro Mifune. It’s a great read and an excellent inclusion on Criterion’s part.

Though small in number they’re an excellent collection of supplements overall, thoroughly covering the making of the film and Japan and its studio system after the war.

8/10

CLOSING

Criterion has done an excellent job with this release. Despite the conditions of the materials used, the image still does look rather good, better than I would have expected, and the supplements are informative and actually entertaining. It comes with a high recommendation.


View packaging for this DVD

Share: 



Purchase From:
amazon.com  amazon.ca  




Join our Facebook Group (requires Facebook account)

This site is not affiliated with The Criterion Collection