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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 III: Duel at Ganryu Island

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Hiroshi Inagaki
Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Koji Tsuruta, Kaoru Yachigusa, Mariko Okada, Michiko Saga, Takashi Shimura
1956 | 104 Minutes | Licensor: Toho Co.

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $69.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #16
RLJ Entertainment

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

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SYNOPSIS

A disillusioned Musashi Miyamoto (Toshiro Mifune) has turned his back on the samurai life, becoming a farmer in a remote village, while his nemesis Kojiro (Koji Tsuruta) now works for the shogun. Circumstances bring them back together for one final face-off. Though it's marked by a memorably intense final battle sequence, the rousing conclusion to the Samurai Trilogy is engaged with matters of the heart as well, as Miyamoto must ask himself what it is that makes a warrior and a man.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Hiroshi Inagakiís The Samurai Trilogy gets a much needed upgrade from Criterion. The third part, Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island, is presented on the second single-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 original DVDs, released over 13 years ago, were atrocities, and frighteningly the transfers got worse as you made your way through each film. The third one was the worst of the bunch, horrendously blown out, mushy, and interlaced to boot. Thankfully we finally get a strong presentation of the film, making the wait worth it.

Duel at Ganryu Island is a brighter, warmer looking film in comparison to the others, but thankfully itís a little more under control here in comparison to the old DVD, which washed away everything. Colours look far better with smooth rendering and no bleeding, and black levels also come off far better despite some crushing in places. The improvements in colour and in the blacks make the final duelís photography far more beautiful than what the DVD could show. Sharpness and detail are also greatly improved here and the film remains sharp throughout its running time.

The print presents a few minor flaws but is generally clean, far better than the DVDís presentation and film grain is yet again rendered beautifully. I couldnít detect any adverse artifacts in the transfer. Like all of the other films in this release it looks stunning and offers an exceptional improvement over the previous DVD.

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

Like the other soundtracks for the films in this set the linear PCM mono track here suffers a bit from age in that itís flat and lifeless, but dialogue is clear, the music doesnít present any noticeable issues, and there is no damage to speak of.

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 third one, which is the longest, running at 10-minutes, Wilson talks primarily about the actual duel that concludes the film. He offers what little he knows about the challenger, Kojiro Sasaki, which is limited to his clever sword technique and his flashy fashion sense, and then talks about how the actual duel played out, which is not exactly like how itís presented in the film. He then goes into Musashiís life after he duel and also talks a bit about his book The Book of the Five Rings. I wish there was more material like this to be found on the set, and maybe more on the book (which gets some coverage in the included booklet) but itís nice we at least get some historical context here at the very least.

The theatrical trailer then closes off the filmís and setís supplements.

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

Overall I was hoping we might get quite a bit more in the way of supplements but Criterion at least gives some historical context in its extras. But the new transfers certainly make this set worth picking up. All three films look great, far better than the disastrous DVDs. Working out to just over $23 a film (at MSRP, Iím sure you can find the set cheaper elsewhere) the set comes with a high recommendation.


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