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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • Japanese PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary featuring Japanese-film expert Michael Jeck
  • Documentary on the making of Throne of Blood, created as part of the Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create
  • Two alternate subtitle translations, by Japanese-film translator Linda Hoaglund and Kurosawa expert Donald Richie
  • Trailer

Throne of Blood

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Akira Kurosawa
Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Isuzu Yamada, Minoru Chiaki, Akira Kubo, Takamaru Sasaki, Yoichi Tachikawa, Takashi Shimura, Chieko Naniwa
1957 | 109 Minutes | Licensor: Toho Co.

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #190
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: August 25, 2015
Review Date: August 24, 2015

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SYNOPSIS

A vivid, visceral Macbeth adaptation, Throne of Blood, directed by Akira Kurosawa, sets Shakespeare's definitive tale of ambition and duplicity in a ghostly, fog-enshrouded landscape in feudal Japan. As a tough warrior who rises savagely to power, Toshiro Mifune gives a remarkable, animalistic performance, as does Isuzu Yamada as his ruthless wife. Throne of Blood fuses classical Western tragedy with formal elements taken from Noh theater to create an unforgettable cinematic experience.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

After releasing it in a dual-format edition last year, featuring both the Blu-ray and the DVD, Criterion now presents Akira Kurosawaís Throne of Blood in a Blu-ray only edition. The film is again presented in the aspect ratio of about 1.37:1 on this dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation from a new 2K restoration, scanned from the original 35mm fine-grain master positive (the negative is long gone according to the booklet notes).

This is the exact same Blu-ray disc that was found in the dual-format release, other than the disc art, which does differ. Popping it into my player it even tried to jump to the same position on the disc and also held the same bookmarks I had made on the other edition. Disc contents also appear to be the same doing a quick scan of the folder structure on my computer. Therefore I wasnít surprised to see the transfer looks the same as what was found on the previous edition.

The notes suggest that this transfer was created from the same source as what was used for the original DVD, though again I donít think this transfer is the same one that was found on the DVD. Itís far sharper, delivering far more detail (though the original DVD wasnít a real slouch itself), and the restoration work is more thorough: frame jumps and shifts found on the old DVD are now gone, larger marks and scratches have been removed, and the image overall is far more stable. Contrast looks pretty good, with nice transitions in the grays, and fairly rich blacks. It may have been boosted a bit but nothing egregious.

Damage does remain and is limited primarily to small bits of debris and very fine scratches, but nothing too bad and itís easy to ignore. In all itís still a satisfying improvement over the old DVD, looking much sharper and cleaner in its presentation.

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 Blu-ray delivers a lossless Japanese linear PCM 1.0 mono track. There is a limitation because of the age, and some of the dialogue and music comes off edgy. The track can also sound a bit flat and lifeless, but it at least doesnít have a tinny sound to it. The track has also been cleaned up nicely, and I didnít notice any cracks, pops, or drops.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Since the disc is the same as whatís found in the dual-format edition all of the features found there have been carried over to here (which means all of the material from the original DVD is also here).

The first feature is the option of two different subtitle translations, one by Linda Hoaglund and another by Donald Richie. To my understanding the Richie one is probably closer to older translations, while the Hoaglund one is a completely new translation. The Hoaglund one is the default and itís meant to capture the more theatrical nature of the film. It's also quite stronger, sometimes more vicious. Richie's is also good as well but differs in that it is less stagey. It's actually fascinating to watch both versions because the movies end up being quite different, even though the same thing is being said 90% of the time, just in a different way. For example, Hoaglund has a samurai state an official has made a peace offering, while Richie's states he has offered to shave his head. Richie's translation usually gets more to the point, but I have to admit Hoaglund's is actually a bit of fun and does fit the tone of the film. Ultimately it will be up to the viewer.

The same audio commentary by Michael Jeck is also here. I wasnít entirely fond of his track for Criterionís Seven Samurai release (his commentary has appeared on all of Criterionís releases of that film) but this one works a little more for me. Jeck talks about every aspect of the film, from its production history to its set design and the members of the cast and crew. He gives little side notes and makes comparisons between the film and MacBeth. He also likes to mention possible symbolism in the film, but doesn't seem too concerned with it. With a number of anecdotes (including an amusing about a correspondence between Kurosawa and Laurence Olivier) he keeps the track going and everything he has to say is engaging. Well worth listening to. (I should mention that you should probably have the Richie subtitles up while listening to the commentary because Jeck's comments actually seem to refer to that translation.)

Not on the original DVD (but also found on the dual-format edition) is Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create. The 23-minute piece looks at the making of the film, concentrating on the Noh Theater aspects to the film, even interviewing a Noh performer who examines its use in the film. Thereís also a look at some of the technical aspects, from set design to the filmís thrilling climax involving a large number of arrows. Criterion has been sticking these on all of the Kurosawa releases that they can and yet again itís strong inclusion.

The release then closes with the filmís original theatrical trailer.

The exact same booklet from the dual-format edition is here, which features the same content found in the original DVDís booklet, including Stephen Princeís essay on the film, and essays by both Linda Hoagland and Donald Richie on their respective translations. All material appears to be the same between this booklet and the previous booklets.

The Kurosawa releases are rarely stacked and though this one does add more material not included on the original DVD release it still feels fairly slim. But between the making-of and Jeckís commentary I still felt fairly satisfied with the material.

6/10

CLOSING

Basically this is a Blu-ray only edition for those that passed on the dual-format edition because it contained a DVD (which honestly makes no sense since it wasnít taking up any more space and you still got a perfectly functional Blu-ray). It also isnít any cheaper than the dual-format edition. At any rate, itís still a decent release, featuring some good supplements and a nice transfer, improving over the original DVD.


View packaging for this Blu-ray

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