Teinosuke Kinugasa’s Gate of Hell has gone through an impressive restoration and is delivered to Blu-ray by Criterion on a single-layer disc in its original aspect ratio of about 1.37:1. The high-definition transfer is delivered in 1080p/24hz.
Despite winning a couple of Academy Awards, including Best Foreign Film, Gate of Hell was hard to come by on home video with the only release I know of in North America being a VHS release from Home Vision Entertainment (the Masters of Cinema label would release the film on Blu-ray in the UK.) Some of the problems could be related to apparent troubles with the original source: an early colour film from Japan, the film had supposedly deteriorated over the years with the colours severely fading. The film went through a vigorous restoration in 2011 and that’s what has been used as the source for this release.
There’s a heavy golden hue to the film, which I’m guessing is intentional (admittedly I have not seen the film before) but the colours overall look absolutely wonderful. There are plenty of blues, greens, oranges, reds, purples, sharing the screen at any given time and they’re beautifully rendered, absolutely vibrant, just jumping off of the screen. Any apparent issues with colour are obviously now gone. Black levels are decent but not great; some night scenes present some minor crushing.
The digital transfer looks very good itself, with no apparent digital problems or artifacts. The image is fairly sharp throughout, with a few softer sequences here and there that I blame more on the source. The source has some other minor blemishes and marks but there’s nothing of big concern here.
It was a long wait but it was worth it. The transfer looks beautiful. 9/10
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.