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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • Japanese PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interview with translator and historian William Scott Wilson about the real-life Musashi Miyamoto, the inspiration for the hero of the films
  • Theatrical Trailer

Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Hiroshi Inagaki
Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Rentaro Mikuni, Kuroemon Onoe, Kaoru Yachigusa, Mariko Okada, Mitsuko Mito, Eiko Miyoshi, Akihiko Hirata
1954 | 93 Minutes | Licensor: Toho Co.

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $69.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #14
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: June 26, 2012
Review Date: June 23, 2012

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SYNOPSIS

In the first part of the epic Samurai Trilogy, Toshiro Mifune thunders onto the screen as the iconic title character. When we meet him, Miyamoto is a wide-eyed romantic, dreaming of military glory in the civil war that is ravaging the seventeenth-century countryside. Twists of fate, however, turn him into a fugitive. But he is saved by a woman who loves him and a cunning priest who guides him to the samurai path. Though the opening installment of a series, this film, lushly photographed in color, stands on its own, and won an Academy Award for the best foreign-language film of 1955.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Hiroshi Inagakiís The Samurai Trilogy gets a much needed upgrade from Criterion. The first part, Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto, is presented on the first dual-layer disc of the two-disc Blu-ray set in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 in a new 1080p/24hz transfer. The film also shares the disc with the second part of the trilogy. The fact the two films share the same disc doesnít seem to present any issues.

The original DVDs, released over 13 years ago, were atrocities, and frighteningly the transfers got worse as you made your way through each film. They were in need of updates and while it was certainly a long time coming the wait was definitely worth it.

Musashi Miyamoto comes out looking absolutely stunning. The improvements over the previous DVD edition are enormous. We first get a far sharper image with better rendering of the finer details, like the blades of grass in numerous scenes (you can make out individual strands easily.) Colours look far better as well, retaining the Eastmancolor look far better than the DVD, which always seems to have a heavy yellow tint to it. Blacks crush a bit but again also look better than the DVDís blacks.

Some minor damage remains but itís been cleaned up beautifullyófar better than what the DVD hadófilm grain remains and looks natural, and I didnít detect any significant artifacts. Some minor pulsating remains and it appears there are frames missing in places but none of it is distracting or of any major concern. Overall, a far more film-like presentation, not the fuzzy mess that the DVD was.

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 linear PCM mono track also offers an improvement, sounding cleaner and sharper than what the DVD offered. Age is still a limiting factor and thereís nothing much in the way of fidelity, but it sounds clean and doesnít have any apparent damage.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion has released The Samurai Trilogy as one single release, spreading the films over two discs on Blu-ray (three on DVD) and have divided supplements between them. We actually donít get much here, but since the DVDs only presented trailers this release can still be considered an upgrade.

All three films receive interviews from translator and historian William Scott Wilson, who talks about the real Musashi Miyamoto. Here Wilson talks about the popularity of the historical figure, who has appeared in many stories and films. He talks about the actual Musashi and makes comparisons between the film, the novel on which it is based, and the actual man, with the book and film both took their share of liberties. He also talks about other people in Musashiís life who appear in the film, like the priest Takuan, and also points out many of the characters in the film that are pure fiction. Iím not sure if heís annoyed or amused by the inaccuracies, but he offers a decent primer on the actual Musashi Miyamoto. This first interview runs over 8-minutes.

Criterion then includes the same theatrical trailer found on the original DVD, though this one has been thoroughly remastered.

The booklet included covers all three films, first with an essay by Stephen Prince about the trilogy, Inagaki, and the actual Musashi. Wilson then provides a short essay on Musashiís Book of the Five Rings and his philosophies found within. Bruce Ederís essays from the original DVD releases are missing.

Iím sort of stunned we donít receive much else and I was hoping Criterion would go all out with this but at least the supplements add some context for those of us unfamiliar with the real Musashi Miyamoto.

3/10

CLOSING

Iím still disappointed Criterion yet again skimped on supplements, but the new transfers for the films are well worth the upgrade.


View packaging for this Blu-ray

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