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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • Japanese Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary by Japanese film expert Michael Jeck
  • Original US theatrical trailer

Seven Samurai

1999 Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Akira Kurosawa
Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Keiko Tsushima, Yukio Shimazaki, Kamatari Fujiwara, Daisuke Kato, Ko Kimura, Minoru Chiaki, Seiji Miyaguchi, Yoshio Kosugi, Bokuzen Hidari, Yoshio Inaba
1954 | 203 Minutes | Licensor: Toho Co.

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #2 | Out of print
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: March 16, 1999
Review Date: December 20, 2010

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SYNOPSIS

A desperate village hires seven samurai to protect it from marauders in this crown jewel of Japanese cinema. No other film so seamlessly weaves philosophy and entertainment, delicate human emotions and relentless action. Featuring Japan's legendary star, the great Toshiro Mifune, Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai is an inspired epic, a triumph of art, and an unforgettable three-hour ride.

Forum members rate this film 9.4/10

 

Discuss the film and DVD here   


PICTURE

Criterionís original DVD for Akira Kurosawaís Seven Samurai presents the film on one dual-layer disc in its original aspect ratio of about 1.33:1.

Though I was happy to have the film on DVD originally, even upon its initial release the problems with the transfer (which is more than likely a port of what was presented on their laserdisc) were evident, and even now it looks worse. First, the film does look fairly rough presenting a variety of flaws including scratches, tears, marks, and blotches. But admittedly at the time this didnít bother me as much since it still looked better than a VHS version I had seen, but Criterionís new edition (on DVD and Blu-ray) present a far cleaner image.

The big problem with the transfer is the fact itís laced with artifacts, possibly because Criterion decided to stuff the 3.5 hour film onto one disc. Thereís ringing and plenty of noise throughout, and itís obvious and always there. The image is still fairly soft and contrast is off with crushed blacks. Details are lost in darker scenes. Pixelation is also an issue during some moments, most noticeable in some shots of trees blowing in the wind.

I lived with it for years but always hoped something better would come out. Thankfully Criterion did revisit the film and I would direct all to look at either the 3-disc DVD or new Blu-ray edition.

3/10

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

The mono track is also lousy, but some of it has more to do with the source. Thereís still plenty of noise in the background along with pops and scratches. Itís flat as a whole, and music can be screeching. The track also has a slightly synthesized sound to it. Though the tracks present on the new editions arenít perfect, theyíre still much better than whatís presented here.

3/10

SUPPLEMENTS

The DVD comes with one big feature, a decent but problematic audio commentary by scholar Michael Jeck, which also appears on the new editions. Itís a little dry, and does contain some interesting historical observations, and notes on Kurosawaís technique and attention to detail, but in the latter area theyíre not things most people will miss on their own. It also falls victim to being a play-by-play, simply calling out the action on screen. I canít completely blame Jeck, though, since he does have to carry it for well over 3 hours. He does an admirable job, but the new commentary on the new editions, which spreads the work out over multiple scholars and historians, works a little better.

The disc then closes with the American theatrical trailer. The first printing (which is incredibly rare) also includes a film restoration demonstration that was removed at the behest of Toho (apparently they didnít like Criterion showing how poorly they had been treating the film over the years.) Unfortunately the edition I have doesnít have this as an option in the menu. Thereís also an insert with a short essay by David Ehrenstein, which makes a decent primer.

And unfortunately thatís it. Again, the new editions are the way to go, which present a variety of documentaries and interviews, as well as a newer commentary. It also includes the Jeck commentary so you donít lose anything.

3/10

CLOSING

At the time I was happy to get the film on DVD but even then, back in í99 when I first purchased this disc, the release was problematic. The transfer isnít good and the one supplement isnít at all satisfying. Even if one came across this used and cheap, I would still point them to the newer 3-disc DVD edition, or 2-disc Blu-ray edition.


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