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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.35:1 Widescreen
  • Japanese PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interviews with Kazuo Koike, the writer of the manga on which the films are based, and screenwriter Norio Osada
  • Trailers

Lady Snowblood

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Toshiya Fujita
1973 | 97 Minutes | Licensor: Toho Co.

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #790
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: January 5, 2016
Review Date: December 29, 2015

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SYNOPSIS

Gory revenge is raised to the level of visual poetry in Toshiya Fujita's stunning Lady Snowblood. A major inspiration for Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill saga, this endlessly inventive film, set in late nineteenth-century Japan, charts the single-minded path of vengeance taken by a young woman (Meiko Kaji) whose parents were the unfortunate victims of a gang of brutal criminals. Fujita creates a wildly entertaining action film of remarkable craft, an effortless balancing act between beauty and violence.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

The Criterion Collection presents Lady Snowblood on Blu-ray (in their release The Complete Lady Snowblood) in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 in a new 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation. It comes from a new 2K scan of a 35mm low-contrast print struck from the original negative. The film shares a dual-layer disc with the filmís sequel, Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance.

Arrow had previously released the films together on Blu-ray in the UK back in 2012. I havenít seen that edition, though heard complaints about the presentation of the blacks, which, judging from various screen captures Iíve seen, come off more milky and gray. That certainly isnít an issue here, with the blacks looking deeper and inkier, unquestionably more ďblack,Ē though this isnít without its issues. I donít know how the film is supposed to look admittedly: previous DVD versions and airings on television have all looked different in terms of colours, and Criterionís also looks different. Contrast looks to have been boosted quite a bit, probably leading to the deeper blacks, and some details look to be washed out because of it, particularly in low lit scenes. This also leads to pastier skin tones, Lady Snowblood looking rather pasty herself. But, in all honesty, the look suits the film and I admittedly rather liked how it looked. The contrast also plays nicely against the colours, which pop out all the more, the reds of spurting and/or draining and/or pooling blood specifically, looking very deep and rich, rendered nicely without issues with bleeding.

The transfer itself is also very clean. It does share the disc with another film and a handful of features, but the encode actually looks pretty good, and I didnít detect the usual issues Iíve come across lately, at least in darker scenes, where blocking patterns are evident. Film grain is present and looks adequately rendered and natural largely. And despite the issues I mentioned previously, where some details get washed out in dark objects because of the contrast boosting, detail levels are very good throughout in brighter areas. The source can have some minor fluctuations and there can be some softer shots, but generally speaking the image is pretty sharp and I was very pleased with this aspect.

There are a couple of minor specs scattered about, and some minor fluctuations, but the source is otherwise in great shape and the clean-up job is impressive. I have a feeling that some might complain about the contrast, and again I donít know how it was ever intended to look, but I like how this presentation has turned out.

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

Some dated sound effects can sound a little too sharp and edgy but the monaural 1.0 PCM track is otherwise fine enough. Dialogue is clear, music is nicely controlled, and there is an inkling of fidelity and depth to the whole thing. Volume levels are nicely mixed and nothing comes off too harsh. Limited a bit by age but it presents the film adequately.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Paired with Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance, each film technically gets their own special features, though theyíve been primarily grouped together with the first film. From the main menu you can either select this film or its sequel. From there the sub menus present the chapters and set up options, along with the supplements. For the purposes of this review I will only cover the features grouped with Lady Snowblood.

The biggest treat would probably be the new interview with the author of the Lady Snowblood graphic novels, Kazuo Koike. Itís only 10-minutes long but fairly dense, with Koike talking about the origins of the character and his desire in creating a story around a woman assassin, a subject that usually centers around males. He also talks about the artwork, the films, and shares his opinion on Meiko Kaji, who plays the lead. Mixed in to the interview are still shots of the actual novels so we get a glimpse of the storylines and artwork, which, based on what I see, shows that the film looks to be somewhat close to the source. The interview is very loose and occasionally funny, Koike a fairly lively subject. If the release as a whole lacks one major thing itís really more information on the original graphic novels but this, in its brief amount of time, does give a decent overview.

Following this is an interview with screenwriter Norio Osada, who adapted the graphic novels for the first film and then wrote the script to the second film. He spends most of his 21-minutes of screen time giving a back story to how the first film came into being and the difficulty in adapting a graphic novel, which was a new challenge for him but one heundoubtedly welcomed. During the last few minutes he talks about the sequel, Love Song of Vengeance and the direction he went on that, breaking more away from the source. Even if itís not as entertaining as Koikeís itís still an enlightening overview on the development of the films, with Osada explaining some of his choices, and what it was like working with Toshiya Fujita and actor Meiko Kaji, both of whom were, surprisingly, fairly resistant to the film.

The supplements then close with the filmís theatrical trailer and the release comes with an insert, one of Criterionís fold-out road map style ones (though it at least includes a nice looking poster image on one side), featuring an essay by Howard Hampton. Hampton writes about the seriesí politics and style, and the shift between the two films. It offers a decent analysis of the films.

We get ultimately get a couple of strong supplements for the film, though again I would have liked a little more about the novels themselves.

5/10

CLOSING

In the end itís a solid release. The supplements arenít packed in here but the two interviews are both very good and offer an illuminating enough look at the source material and the process of adapting it. Along with the strong looking transfer (and the fact its paired with the second film) this release comes as a high recommendation to fans of the films.


View packaging for this Blu-ray

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