Nikkatsu Diamond Guys: Volume 1


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Nikkatsu, the oldest film studio in Japan, inaugurated a star system in the late 1950s, finding talent and contracting to their Diamond Line for a series of wild genre pictures. This collection celebrates these "Diamond Guys" with three classic films from directors Seijun Suzuki (Branded to Kill), Toshio Masuda (Rusty Knife) and Buichi Saito (Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril).

An old hand at tough guy action roles, Hideaki Nitani (Tokyo Drifter, Massacre Gun) stars in Suzuki's Voice Without a Shadow. Asako, a former telephone operator once heard the voice of a murder suspect which has continued to haunt her. Years later her husband invites his boss, Hamazaki, over for dinner and she realises his voice is suspiciously like that of the killer. Before she can investigate further, Hamazaki is found dead and her husband becomes the prime suspect...

Next, 50s subculture icon Yujiro Ishihara (Crazed Fruit) stars in Masuda's Red Pier as "Jiro the Lefty", a killer with a natural talent. Shortly after arriving in Kobe, he witnesses a man die in a crane accident which turns out to be a cover-up for a murder. Jiro soon finds himself on the run, tailed by a determined cop...

Finally, in Saito's The Rambling Guitarist, mega star Akira Koabyashi (Battles Without Honour and Humanity) stars as wandering street musician Shinji, who falls in with mob boss Akitsu after saving one of his henchmen in a bar fight. Tasked by Akitsu with evicting an offshore fishery, Shinji finds himself in the middle of a very unusual domestic dispute...

Presented on Blu-ray and DVD for the first time in the West, these thrilling genre films feature Nikkatsu s leading talent at their best.

Picture 7/10

Arrow Video presents a new dual-format set delivering three Nikkatsu genre films featuring their “Diamond Guys,” in this case Hideaki Nitani, Yujiro Ishihara, and Akira Kobayashi (Jo Shishido also appears in one of the films, though plays what could be considered the villain). The release, aptly titled Nikkatsu Diamond Guys: Volume 1, features the films Voice Without a Shadow, Red Pier, and The Rambling Guitarist, and presents them on a single dual-layer Blu-ray disc in their original aspect ratios, which in this case is 2.35:1 for all three. The films are also spread out over two dual-layer DVDs.

Working with masters provided to them by Nikkatsu, Arrow has delivered a rather nice looking presentation for each film. There has been some decent restoration work by the looks of it, as damage isn’t anywhere near as bad as I would have expected it to be, though some issues remain. The biggest source “problems” are very obvious splices that appear during cuts, which I found to be more prominent in Voice Without a Shadow. Other source flaws are pretty minor on the other hand, with only a few specs of debris and minor scratches showing up, nothing too bad. Contrast levels on the two black and white films (Voice Without a Shadow and Red Pier) are nicely balanced with decent black levels and smooth tonal shifts. The colour film, The Rambling Guitarist, looks pretty strong itself. Fluctuations and shifts in the colours are apparent in a few cases but in general colours are also nicely balanced and saturation is strong.

The digital transfers themselves are all very strong. Of the three I’d probably say The Rambling Guitarist looks best as it delivers probably the most amount of detail with a better defined grain structure. But the other films aren’t too shabby themselves, delivering decent textures and details where they can, though sadly there can be a bit of a haze present in both. None of the films present any abnormal digital anomalies that stand out out.

In the end all three films look very good. Any limitations are primarily with the source materials themselves and nothing to do with the actual transfer or encode.

(The standard definition presentations on the DVDs also look pretty good themselves, though I admittedly only sampled them. They are held back a bit by the format, lacking as much detail as the Blu-rays and showing more obvious compression, though even this is nicely managed.)

Audio 6/10

All three films come with lossless PCM 1.0 mono tracks. They are all about on the same level: overall quality is pretty good but they are a bit flat lacking anything in the way of range and fidelity. Music can also get very edgy and harsh in places. In the end, though, this is more a limitation of the materials and not really an issue with the transfer itself.

Extras 4/10

If Criterion got their hands on these films and decided to release them together I have no doubt the release would have been a DVD-only Eclipse set featuring no supplements whatsoever. Not only does Arrow actually deliver the films in rather nice high-def presentations on Blu-ray, but they actually supply a few special features.

The big supplement is an introduction by writer Jasper Sharp. Divided into two sections (one dedicated to Yujiro Ishihara and the other Hideaki Nitani) Sharp first discusses the Japanese film industry of the period before talking about Nikkatsu specifically and their contracted “diamond guys.” He then goes over each actor’s career and the different genres they appeared in. It’s a great little introduction but what proved to be more valuable was the great booklet that Arrow has included, featuring essays by Stuart Galbraith, Mark Schilling, and Tom Mes, each covering a different film while also covering other aspects, like Schilling writing a bit more about Red Pier’s director, Toshio Masuda. It’s a great booklet, adding more value to the release.

Arrow has also included theatrical trailers for each film along with a “Preview” sampling of Volume 2, which features trailers for Tokyo Mighty Guy, Danger Paws, and Murder Unincorporated. There is also a gallery featuring production photos for each film. On the Blu-ray these are all grouped together but on the DVDs they respectively accompany each film. The Sharp introduction and the preview gallery can be found on the second DVD.

Not loaded but since I was pretty much coming to this release like I would an Eclipse set it was nice to get more context around each of the films and the actors that appear in them.


Genre fans will certainly want to pick this up. The grouping of films is a little odd but they’re a fun collection and Arrow does a fantastic job in delivering them on Blu-ray. The set comes with a very high recommendation.


Year: 1958 | 1958 | 1959
Time: 92 | 99 | 77 min.
Series: Arrow Video
Licensor: Nikkatsu Co.
Release Date: January 26 2016
MSRP: $49.95
3 Discs | DVD-9/BD-50
2.35:1 ratio
2.35:1 ratio
Japanese 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono
Japanese 1.0 PCM Mono
Subtitles: English
Regions 1/2/A/B
 Specially recorded video discussions with Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp on Diamond Guys Hideaki Nitani and Yujiro Ishihara   Original trailers for all three films and trailer preview for Diamond Guys Vol. 2   Extensive promotional image galleries for all three films   Booklet featuring new essays on all three films and director profiles by Stuart Galbraith, Tom Mes and Mark Schilling