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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 II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Hiroshi Inagaki
Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Koji Tsuruta, Kaoru Yachigusa, Mariko Okada, Michiyo Kogure, Mitsuko Mito, Daisuke Kato, Kuroemon Onoe, Sachio Sakai, Kokuten Kodo
1955 | 103 Minutes | Licensor: Toho Co.

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $69.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #15
RLJ Entertainment

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

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SYNOPSIS

Toshiro Mifune furiously embodies swordsman Musashi Miyamoto as he comes into his own in the action-packed middle section of the Samurai Trilogy. Duel at Ichijoji Temple furthers Miyamoto along his path to spiritual enlightenment, as well as further from the arms of the two women who love him: loyal Otsu (Kaoru Yachigusa) and conniving yet tragic Akemi (Mariko Okada). The film also brings him face to face with hoards of rivals intent on cutting him down, especially his legendary rival Kojiro (Koji Tsuruta). The titular climax is one of Japanese cinema's most rousingly choreographed conflicts, intensified by Jun Yasumoto's color cinematography and Ikuma Dan's triumphant score.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Hiroshi Inagakiís The Samurai Trilogy gets a much needed upgrade from Criterion. The second part, Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple, 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 first part of the trilogy. The two films sharing the same disc doesnít seem to be of any real concern in terms of the transfer.

The original DVDs, release over 13 years ago, were atrocities, and frighteningly the transfers got worse as you made your way through each film. The second one became an ugly, dark mess, losing all detail and looking incredibly mushy. All of the films were in need of an upgrade and thankfully the long wait was worth it.

Duel at Ichijoji Temple starts off a little rough: colours look a little more washed than I had expected after the first film, the frame jitters about a bit and damage is more apparent, but after the titles the film settles in and we get the Eastmancolor look again. The opening duel was near impossible to see on the DVD, all details almost obliterated to the point where you could barely make out the action. I actually assumed originally it could have been just a badly done day-for-night shot. Now on this Blu-ray I can make out everything far better and can also see what is obviously a set, not an exterior day-for-night shot like I had originally figured. It was just so wonderful finally being able to clearly see what was going on. Same goes for the final showdown in the film, which was also a dark, yellow mess on the DVD.

Like the first filmís new transfer details here come off much sharper. Though there are a few fuzzy moments, detail levels are high; on a stony beach you can make out tiny pebbles as clear as day. Colours again look much better, with some striking reds and blues, and blacks also look excellent despite some minor crushing. Thereís some minor damage remaining but it looks far clearer than the old DVD, and there is some pulsating but itís not heavy or overly distracting. Film grain is again rendered well and never looks like noise. There was some shimmering in some tighter patterns onscreen, an issue I didnít notice with the first film, but itís also inconsistent.

Overall itís another great improvement over the DVD, a sharper, more filmic presentation.

7/10

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

This soundtrack, another linear PCM mono track, sounds a little more muffled than the first filmís but doesnít present any significant damage and sounds clean overall. Dialogue is still intelligible and the music, though still flat itself, sounds much better than the screechy mess on the DVD.

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. For this second one, which runs 7-minutes, Wilson talks primarily about Musashiís, well, profession I guess you could say, that of a swordsman who traveled the land getting into duels in hopes of perfecting his technique. He also talks about how he differed from other swordsman in that he was never looking to be hired or to find the security of a Dojo, it was just always about his art and improving it. He also talks about many of the events that occur in the film and how the film actually gets timelines wrong and takes yet more liberties. Like the other interviews found in the set itís probably too short but it does offers some great background information about the real Musashi Miyamoto.

Criterion then includes a theatrical trailer.

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.

Again 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, and it is especially nice to be able to clearly see some key scenes finally.


View packaging for this Blu-ray

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