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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Japanese PCM Mono
  • Japanese DTS-HD 3.0 Stereo
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary by film historian and Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince
  • A 35-minute documentary on the making of Sanjuro, created as part of the Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create
  • Theatrical trailer and teaser
  • Stills gallery of behind-the-scenes photos
  • New and improved English subtitle translation

Sanjuro

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Akira Kurosawa
Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Keiju Kobayashi, Yuzo Kayama, Reiko Dan, Takashi Shimura, Kamatari Fujiwara, Takako Irie, Yanosuke Ito
| Minutes | Licensor: Toho Co.

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #53
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: March 23, 2010
Review Date: March 9, 2010

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SYNOPSIS

Toshiro Mifune swaggers and snarls to brilliant comic effect in Akira Kurosawa's tightly paced, beautifully composed Sanjuro. In this sly companion piece to Yojimbo, the jaded samurai Sanjuro helps an idealistic group of young warriors weed out their clan's evil influences, and in the process turns their image of a "proper" samurai on its ear. Less brazen in tone than its predecessor but just as engaging, this classic character's return is a masterpiece in its own right, now presented in a new high-definition digital transfer.

Forum members rate this film 8/10

 

Discuss the film and DVD here   


PICTURE

Along with their release of Yojimbo Criterion presents Akira Kurosawaís sequel Sanjuro in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this dual-layer Blu-ray disc. The transfer is presented in 1080p/24hz.

Like with Yojimbo my basis for comparison is again with Criterionís original non-anamorphic DVD from 1999. I have not seen the 2007 re-issue, which contained an all new anamorphic transfer (and the same supplements as what is found on here.) And again, like with the Blu-ray of Yojimbo, the difference in quality is astounding.

The picture is sharp with incredible definition and detail, and it manages to retain a film-like look, preserving the filmís grain. Though very minor I noticed in wider shots there were some issues with patterns on the charactersí kimonos, where a shimmering effect is created. I also felt that contrast had been boosted a bit on certain occasions, though admittedly this could have been the intended look, but whites can look a little too strong and in a few scenes, particularly the final showdown, it can look washed out with white. Otherwise the transfer has strong blacks and distinct gray levels. The print has also been nicely cleaned up (compared to the original 1999 DVD, which had plenty or marks,) but it still has few stray hairs and marks, though very, very few.

Again, despite any issues, many will be more than thrilled with it. It looks striking and was more than I could have possibly hoped for it.

8/10

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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AUDIO

Again, like with their Blu-ray of Yojimbo, Criterion gives us two Japanese audio tracks: a Linear PCM mono track and then a 3.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track, converted from the filmís original Perspecta track. In the end it will probably come down to personal preference as both sound good and both are the filmís original soundtrack. Perspecta can be best described as a fake stereo track (technically it still used one channel,) and it was used by Toho and some Hollywood studios. Of the two I do like the 3.0 track a little better as it comes off a bit more dynamic than the mono track, which is a weaker and hollower. The 3.0 track is limited to the front three speakers of course, but it fills them out nicely and there is some noticeable panning, though I canít say if this has to do with some persuasion on Criterionís part or if this is how the track was originally done. But whether you go with that or the mono track theyíre both fairly clean and sharp, with natural sounding dialogue, and decent, if occasionally tinny, music. Again it will come down to preference.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

As I stated before Iím coming to this new Blu-ray from the original 1999 DVD edition, which only contained a trailer as a disc supplement. Yet coming from that edition to this didnít feel like too significant of an upgrade.

The big supplement would of course be the audio commentary by Stephen Prince, responsible for a number of other commentaries for Kurosawaís films and also responsible for the track that came with Criterionís edition of Straw Dogs, one of my favourite scholarly tracks. He treats the commentary found on here and the Blu-ray of Yojimbo as one track shared between the two films. I wasnít overly thrilled with his track on Yojimbo, finding it just an average scholarly track, but have to admit I was less enthused with his track found on here, which in turn can be even dryer. He gives a brief rundown on the production history of the film, which turned into a sequel to Yojimbo, and then makes a lot of comparisons between the two pictures, the use of the same actors in different roles, the sense of humour between the two films, and disputes suggestions that the character Mifune plays in each film are different. Itís this aspect, the comparisons, that proves less interesting since the things he points out are obvious to begin with and I felt he spends too much time on this. He does also offer some historical context to the time period in which the film takes place, though very little, and I did like his discussion on how these two films influenced Samurai films from then on (particularly the now famous blood spurt.) In the end I canít say itís worth much of a listen, at most maybe a sampling from the index menu. Other than that itís skippable.

Much better is another segment from the Toho Masterworks series, Akira Kurosawa: It is Wonderful to Create. Running 35-minutes this doc covers the production of Sanjuro through a series of interviews with actors Keiju Kobayashi, Koshio Tsuchiya, Kunie Tanaka and Tatsuya Nakadai, cinematographers Takao Saito and Daisuke Kimura, script assistant Teruyo Nogami, and a few others, including archival footage with Kurosawa. Thereís mention of how Kurosawa reworked another script to become Yojimboís sequel, thereís more on Kurosawaís attention to detail (involving thousands of Camellia flowers,) an interesting note that Kurosawa wanted to inject colour into the film, though was unable to do this at the time (he would do it later with High and Low,) and we even get an example as to how the sword slicking sound effects were accomplished. But the most intriguing element from the doc is the last third, which is completely devoted to the final duel and the work and effects that went in to it. Hiroshi Kuze, son of the sword play coordinator for the film, Ryu Kuze, gives an example of the final sword move in the film, and we even get a breakdown of the move through photos. Thereís also a lot of talk about the final effect (as Iíll call it to hopefully not give a spoiler) in the film, and Nakadai gives an amusing recollection of that moment and explains how the face heís making in the scene is not really acting. Itís a great little piece, one of my favourites in the series so far.

The disc then closes with some basic features, including a theatrical trailer showing some behind the scenes footage, and then a teaser trailer that simply shows Mifune and Nakadai walking through the studio lot. We then get a very small stills gallery presenting about ten or so photos in total.

The included booklet contains the same essay by Michael Sragow found in the original DVDís insert, though slightly changed here and there. The booklet also includes reprints of interviews that appeared in a 2002 DVD edition released in Japan. The interviews are by production designer Yoshiro Muraki, actor Keiju Kobayashi, and script assistant Teruyo Nogami. All are worth reading through.

And that unfortunately covers it. While the booklet and the documentary are good, I canít say I was thrilled with the commentary. The Blu-ray is certainly strong in other areas but in supplements itís very weak, making the $40 MSRP all the more questionable.

5/10

CLOSING

Despite my disappointment in the supplements I found the other aspects of this Blu-ray very strong, specifically the video transfer, which is gorgeous and on that alone this disc gets a recommendation. But I would certainly direct everyone into picking up the box set containing both Yojimbo and Sanjuro instead, since itís actually a better deal. At $40 Sanjuro is a little overpriced (looking at it from a supplement perspective at least) and the box set has an MSRP of under $70 for the two films, and Iím sure most will be able to find it even cheaper. I think anyone looking at getting the films should go that route. Both discs look and sound exceptional on Blu-ray and all of those looking forward to these releases will certainly not be disappointed.


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