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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Japanese PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Video piece featuring new interviews with director Seijun Suzuki and assistant director Masami Kuzuu
  • Interview with Suzuki from 1997
  • Original theatrical trailer

Tokyo Drifter

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Seijun Suzuki
Starring: Tetsuya Watari, Chieko Matsbara, Hideaki Nitani, Tamio Kawachi, Tsuyoshi Yoshida, Ryuji Kita
1966 | 82 Minutes | Licensor: Nikkatsu Co.

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #39
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: December 13, 2011
Review Date: December 22, 2011

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SYNOPSIS

In this jazzy gangster film, reformed killer Phoenix Tetsu's attempt to go straight is squashed when his former cohorts call him back to Tokyo to help battle a rival gang. This onslaught of stylized violence and trippy colors got director Seijun Suzuki (Branded to Kill) in trouble with Nikkatsu studio heads, who were put off by his anything-goes, in-your-face aesthetic, equal parts Russ Meyer, Samuel Fuller, and Nagisa Oshima. Tokyo Drifter is a delirious highlight of the brilliantly excessive Japanese cinema of the sixties.

Forum members rate this film 8/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Criterion gives Seijun Suzukiís out-there Yakuza flick Tokyo Drifter a much needed upgrade on Blu-ray, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this dual-layer disc in a new 1080p/24hz transfer.

The original DVD from 1999 was a mess; I assume it was a poorly done port from their original Laserdisc edition. It was laced with halos, jitters, pixilation, moirť effects, shimmering, compression artifacts, poor colour rendering, and, to top it all off, an incorrect aspect ratio presentation that squished the image in on the left and right sides, making everything thinner than it should be.

The Blu-ray, thankfully, improves substantially over all of that. The ratio has been corrected so no one looks like a pillar, colours are more natural and far cleaner, and also much more vibrant, better presenting Suzukiís style. Other than some mild pixilation noticeable in a few spots noise and other artifacts arenít an issue, and the image looks far more filmic with better rendering of the filmís grain. The filmís style does hamper it in some ways, like in overall definition which is never all that sharp, coming off like it was filmed just a smidge out-of-focus, which Iím pretty sure was the case. Whites can bloom but again this looks inherent in the film, but colours donít appear to bleed like they did in the DVD, and the reds look much better, though I noticed a little bit of blocking in the blending between reds and darker colours. The opening sequence is in black and white and contrast has been boosted severely, which is intentional, but you can make out more details easier here than you could with the DVD, which presented black blobs.

Thereís a few minor nicks here and there but in general the source materials are in impressive shape. At last we get the presentation we were hoping for and Criterion has absolved itself of its previous sins.

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 lossless PCM mono track also improves upon the DVDís (which was, not surprisingly, poor itself) but the sound quality is still rough. Thereís still an edge to everything and dialogue sounds incredibly distorted in places. Music is also uneven, with a heavy tinny sound, and the title song comes off far more grating because of it.

The DVDís track showed all of these same traits though was far more hollow and flat. This track offers a bit of an improvement but I think the overall quality of the source materials is whatís still limiting the presentation.

5/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion ports over everything (or I should say, the one thing) from the DVD edition and only adds on a theatrical trailer and a new interview with director Seijun Suzuki and assistant director Masami Kuzuu. Unfortunately this new feature, recorded this past summer, is only 12-minutes long and also feels to have been rushed through; in what could possibly be an ode to the filmís editing style the piece moves from one topic to another without a natural segue, occasionally leaving me wondering how we got to this discussed topic all of a sudden. In the piece we jump back and forth between the two, who were recorded separately, as they cover multiple aspects of the filmís production from the title song to the limited budget and then the studioís reaction to the film. Thereís a bit about the studio system in Japan at the time, or at least what it was like at Nikkatsu, and how they centered on the stars. Thereís also a little bit of discussion about the filmís original ending. Suzuki addresses the comments about people calling the film surreal but says ultimately ďthatís just how it turned out.Ē As rushed as it may feel I did enjoy it, though it was sad to see Suzuki in fairly poor health.

Criterion then includes the 20-minute piece that was found on the original DVD edition, which is yet another interview with Seijun Suzuki, which was taken in 1997 during a retrospective of his work. Here Suzuki talks specifically about his work at Nikkatsu and the politics there at the time. He goes over how he was able to get out of directing bad scripts, talks about their tight shooting schedules, the limited budgets, and just the hoops he had to jump through to get films made there. He talks some more about the production of Tokyo Drifter and some of his other films, and again goes over the filmís original ending. Some of the information in here is repeated but itís still worth watching for the director reflecting on his body of work.

The booklet then contains an essay by Howard Hampton but Manohla Dargisí essay from the original DVD didnít make it over.

Though the supplements are fine in terms of quality there is very little here, only 35-minutes or so worth, 20 of which comes from a previous edition, making this release feel incredibly overpriced (it really only has about 15-minutes more of material in comparison to the 1999 DVD edition and that one was priced at around $30.) In this regard the supplements are a huge letdown.

4/10

CLOSING

The supplements are slight and because of this the edition feels overpriced at an MSRP of $39.95, but those waiting for a stellar transfer to replace Criterionís previous eyesore will be very pleased. Despite some minor issues it does look fantastic!


View packaging for this Blu-ray

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