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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 5 Discs
FEATURES
    Includes the films I am Waiting, Rusty Knife, Take Aim at the Police Van, Cruel Gun Story, and A Colt is My Passport

Nikkatsu Noir


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Koreyoshi Kurahara, Toshio Masuda, Seijun Suzuki, Takumi Furukawa, Takashi Nomura
2009 | 440 Minutes | Licensor: Nikkatsu Co.

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $69.95 | Series: Eclipse from the Criterion Collection | Edition: #17
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: August 25, 2009
Review Date: August 10, 2009

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SYNOPSIS

From the mid-1950s to the early 1970s, wild, idiosyncratic crime movies were the brutal and boisterous business of Nikkatsu, the oldest film studio in Japan. In an effort to attract youthful audiences growing increasingly accustomed to American and French big-screen imports, Nikkatsu began producing action potboilers (mukokuseki akushun, or "borderless action") modeled on the western, comedy, gangster, and teen-rebel genres. This bruised and bloody collection represents a standout cross section of the nimble nasties Nikkatsu had to offer, from such prominent, stylistically daring directors as Seijun Suzuki, Toshio Masuda, and Takashi Nomura.

Forum members rate this film 8.3/10

 

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PICTURE

For their 17th Eclipse box set entitled Nikkatsu Noir, Criterion presents five Nikkatsu crime films, including I Am Waiting, Rusty Knife, Take Aim at the Police Van, Cruel Gun Story, and A Colt is My Passport, all of which have been spread over five single-layer discs. I Am Waiting is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1, Rusty Knife in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and the other films all presented in 2.45:1. All but I Am Waiting have been enhanced for widescreen televisions while that film, the only full frame film, has been picture boxed.

The image on all five films looks fairly good, though they do vary in overall quality. Print wise I Am Waiting looks to be in the worst shape, displaying the most amount of damage, which is limited mostly to scratches, debris, and flickering, and is also the softest looking of the films. Rusty Knife comes off a little better with fewer flaws but still looking a little soft around the edges. The prints can look a little faded, blacks coming off a more of a dark gray. The last three films are in the best shape and look to come from extensively restored sources. They still have a few flaws but they’re infrequent.

The transfers could have benefitted from more room on a dual-layer disc but they are acceptable overall. Other than I Am Waiting detail is sharp across all of the films, except where limited by the source materials (a few car chases found across the films look a little soft and out of focus, but I suspect this is inherent in the source materials used.) Criterion has tried to preserve some film grain but it leads to some obvious compression artifacts and noise. Some patterns are a little problematic, presenting moiré effects, and edge enhancement shows up from time to time. For the first three films contrast can look at little off as well, the films either too light or too dark giving the impression contrast has been slightly boosted.

Despite some of the issues with the transfers I was quite happy with them, Criterion still putting a great deal of effort into what in essence is one of their budget lines.

7/10

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.

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I Am Waiting

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I Am Waiting

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I Am Waiting

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I Am Waiting

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Rusty Knife

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Rusty Knife

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Rusty Knife

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Rusty Knife

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Take Aim at the Police Van

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Take Aim at the Police Van

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Take Aim at the Police Van

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Take Aim at the Police Van

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Cruel Gun Story

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Cruel Gun Story

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Cruel Gun Story

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Cruel Gun Story

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A Colt is My Passport

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A Colt is My Passport

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A Colt is My Passport

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A Colt is My Passport

AUDIO

All five films present Japanese Dolby Digital 1.0 mono tracks. They vary in quality as well, getting better through each film, but as a whole they’re decent enough. They can come off a little edgy and the music can sound a little rough, but dialogue is adequate, and gunshot effects are rather loud, startling at times.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

As this is an Eclipse title there are no supplements to be found other than notes written by Asian film critic Chuck Stephens. I Am Waiting actually comes with an insert with about three pages of notes, while the other titles contain the usual one page set of liner notes. The insert acts as a sort of introduction to the set, covering the genre of the films in this set (crime films aimed at drawing in younger audiences) and a bit on Nikkatsu and the film I Am Waiting. The notes found over the remaining titles concentrate specifically on their respective titles, also covering the films’ directors and stars (Joe Shishido getting the most coverage.) As usual with Eclipse notes they’re excellent reads.

1/10

CLOSING

After the displeasure I experienced with their previous Alexander Korda Eclipse set, I was pleased to find Criterion is back on track again with this set of Nikkatsu crime films. I’m a sucker for gangster films from any part of the world and this set did not disappoint. The films are all visually energetic, taut, and fun (but if I had to choose a favourite it might be A Colt is My Passport, which was easily the most unique of the bunch.) The transfers on all five films have their problems but they are still better than I would have expected. It comes with a high recommendation and may, for me, tie their Hisoshi Shimizu set as one of the best Eclipse releases so far this year.


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