BD 289-291 The Valiant Red Peony

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What A Disgrace
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BD 289-291 The Valiant Red Peony

#1 Post by What A Disgrace » Thu Mar 21, 2024 11:05 am

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SYNOPSIS
Originally released between 1968 and 1972, the Red Peony Gambler series is a cornerstone of the ninkyo eiga genre and a clear influence on such cult favourites such as Lady Snowblood and Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill. The Masters of Cinema series is proud to present the first three Red Peony Gambler films, starring Sumiko Fuji (13 Assassins) and directed by three titans of Japanese genre cinema in Kōsaku Yamashita, Norifumi Suzuki and Tai Katō.

Set during the Meiji era, Red Peony Gambler stars Fuji as Ryuko Yano, the daughter of a gambler. When her father is murdered, Ryuko takes on a new name derived from the crimson flower tattooed on her shoulder – “Oryu, the Red Peony” – and sets out for revenge. Then, in Red Peony Gambler 2: Gambler’s Obligation, Oryu falls in with a group of yakuza attempting to monopolise the silk trade. When machinations within the gang lead to a betrayal, the Red Peony takes action. Finally, in Red Peony Gambler 3: The Flower Cards Game, Oryu meets a pair of star-crossed lovers as she becomes embroiled in a conflict between rival yakuza clans.

Fuji would go on to play the Red Peony five more times, cementing the character as the archetype for many of the vengeful women to follow in Japanese cinema and beyond. These early entries in the Red Peony Gambler series are presented here for the first time ever on Blu-ray from brand new restorations of the original film elements by Toei.

SPECIAL FEATURES
Limited edition O-Card slipcase featuring new artwork by Grégory Sacré (Gokaiju) [2000 copies]
1080p HD presentation of all three films from restorations of the original film elements supplied by Toei
Original Japanese audio tracks (uncompressed LPCM mono)
Optional English Subtitles
Brand new audio commentary tracks on all three films
Tony Rayns on Red Peony Gambler – brand new interview with critic and Asian cinema expert Tony Rayns
Trailers
A collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Jennifer Coates (Making Icons: Repetition and the Female Image in Japanese Cinema, 1945–1964) and Joe Hickinbottom

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What A Disgrace
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Re: BD 289-291 The Valiant Red Peony

#2 Post by What A Disgrace » Thu Mar 21, 2024 12:53 pm

As with the Abashiri Prison series, hopefully the sequels will follow in due time, especially since we have another Kosaku Yamashita and two more Tai Kato films in the franchise.

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Finch
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Location: Edinburgh, UK

Re: BD 289-291 The Valiant Red Peony

#3 Post by Finch » Sun Jun 16, 2024 1:11 pm

I enjoyed the first film a great deal though Wakayama's wide-eyed mugging was a little jarring after seeing him first in his more serious later roles. That kind of comedy isn't his strong suit. Fuji has a lot of charisma and great chemistry with Ken Takakura. I liked Yamashita's staging of the action and his sense of pacing. I loved his other film that got a UK release lately, Big Time Gambling Boss, so I'm looking forward to discovering more of his films. Eureka call him a titan of Japanese cinema in their blurb for Red Peony Gambler which, based on this first film and especially Big Time Gambling Boss, I could be persuaded to buy, but I'm definitely not believing it for Norifumi Suzuki; the second film has more unnecessary side plots and annoying comic relief, and it really piles on the misery and tragedy for the family who Oryu lodges with, to the point that it got obnoxious for me. I was also left wishing that the movie wasn't repeating some tropes (a mysterious man suddenly intervenes in a tricky situation for Oryu and then assists her in the final confrontation) so soon after the first film. This series is fairly progressive in putting a woman front and center but it's a bit disappointing that in the details it doesn't go a bit further. Maybe I'm expecting too much from a modern vantage point. I did really like the second movie's closing shot of Oryu that circles back to the opening but I found the second film, contrary to popular opinion, less impressive than the first and too grim and melodramatic. Looking forward to Tai Kato's entry later this week.

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Finch
Joined: Mon Jul 07, 2008 5:09 pm
Location: Edinburgh, UK

Re: BD 289-291 The Valiant Red Peony

#4 Post by Finch » Fri Jun 21, 2024 2:31 pm

One thing that immediately sticks out in the third film is Kato's shift from studio sets to the outdoors. Instead of her address to camera from a stage, you get to see Oryu immediately in action pre-credits. The movie feels more lived in, grittier, muddier. Kato uses low angles and more close-ups than Yamashita and Suzuki, and the lighting is a bit more inventive: in a knife fight halfway through the film, Oryu and her opponents are only illuminated by the lights from a passing train, and lighting gels are used in parts of the Kimura family's mansion. Trains are a big motif throughout the film: the opening scene takes place on a rail; an escape occurs at a train station and a train is repeatedly heard and its smoke seen as it passes over a bridge that Fuji and Takakura seek shelter under from the rain and snow. The film also makes better use of Tomisaburo Wakayama who finally gets to hint at a more imposing presence with a scene-stealing twist. The movie felt a little longer than the first two but it is by a hair the highlight of this set. If Toei restore the remaining five, I'd be in for another boxset.

Film 1: B, Film 2: C, Film 3: B+

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