310-313 Rebel Samurai: Sixties Swordplay Classics

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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Martha
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310-313 Rebel Samurai: Sixties Swordplay Classics

#1 Post by Martha » Mon Aug 01, 2005 1:35 pm

Rebel Samurai: Sixties Swordplay Classics

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REBELLION! The political and cultural tumult of the early 1960s shook Japan as it did the rest of the world. Japanese filmmakers responded to the changing times by disguising themes of dissent in the traditional form of the swordplay film, or chanbara. Previously populated by heroic samurai, self-sacrificing ronin, and historical figures who exemplified noble Japanese virtues, the genre began embracing a new kind of hero, or antihero: the lone outcast, distrustful of authority but maintaining a personal code of honor. These four classic films, from four masters of Japanese cinema, turn a genre upside down, redefining for a modern generation the meaning of loyalty and honor, as embodied by the iconic figure of the samurai.

Samurai Rebellion

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Toshiro Mifune stars as Isaburo, an aging swordsman living a quiet life until his clan lord orders that his son marry the lord's mistress, who has recently displeased the ruler. Reluctantly, father and son take in the woman, and, to the family's surprise, the young couple fall in love. But the lord soon reverses his decision and demands the mistress's return. Against all expectations, Isaburo and his son refuse, risking the destruction of their entire family. Director Masaki Kobayashi's Samurai Rebellion is a gripping story of a peaceful man who finally decides to take a stand against injustice.

Special Features

- New, restored high-definition digital transfer
- Excerpt from a 1993 interview with director Masaki Kobayashi
- Original theatrical trailer
- New essay by Japanese-film historian Donald Richie
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- Plus: a new essay by Japanese-film historian Donald Richie

Criterionforum.org user rating averages

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Sword of the Beast

[img]http://criterion_production.s3.amazonaws.com/release_images/1043/311_box_348x490_w100.jpg[/img]

Legendary swordplay filmmaker Hideo Gosha's Sword of the Beast chronicles the flight of retainer Gennosuke, who kills one of his clan's ministers as part of a reform plot. He is pursued by his former comrades, and the betrayal so shakes his sense of honor that he decides to live in the wild, like an animal. There he encounters a motley group who are illegally mining the shogun's gold and, with the aid of another master swordsman, gets a chance not just at survival but to recover his name and honor.

Special Features

- New, restored high-definition digital transfer
- A new essay by Japanese-film and -culture critic Patrick Macias
- New and improved English subtitle translation

Criterionforum.org user rating averages

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Samurai Spy

[img]http://criterion_production.s3.amazonaws.com/release_images/1043/311_box_348x490_w100.jpg[/img]

Years of warfare end in a Japan unified under the Tokugawa shogunate, and samurai spy Sasuke Sarutobi, tired of conflict, longs for peace. When a high-ranking spy named Tatewaki Koriyama defects from the shogun to a rival clan, however, the world of swordsmen is thrown into turmoil. After Sasuke is unwittingly drawn into the conflict, he tracks Tatewaki, while a mysterious, white-hooded figure seems to hunt them both. By tale's end, no one is who they seemed to be, and the truth is far more personal than anyone suspected. Director Masahiro Shinoda's Samurai Spy, filled with clan intrigue, ninja spies, and multiple double crosses, marks a bold stylistic departure from swordplay film convention.

Special Features

- New, restored high-definition digital transfer
- Exclusive new video 16-minute interview with director Masahiro Shinoda
- Gallery of key characters in the film
- New essay by film scholar Alain Silver
- New and improved English subtitle translation

Criterionforum.org user rating averages

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Kill!

[img]http://criterion_production.s3.amazonaws.com/release_images/1726/313_kill_w100.jpg[/img]

In this pitch-black action comedy by Kihachi Okamoto, a pair of down-on-their-luck swordsmen arrive in a dusty, windblown town, where they become involved in a local clan dispute. One, previously a farmer, longs to become a noble samurai. The other, a former samurai haunted by his past, prefers living anonymously with gangsters. But when both men discover the wrongdoings of the nefarious clan leader, they side with a band of rebels who are under siege at a remote mountain cabin. Based on the same source novel as Akira Kurosawa's Sanjuro, Kill! playfully tweaks samurai film convention, borrowing elements from established chanbara classics and seasoning them with a little Italian western.

Special Features

- New, restored high-definition digital transfer
- Original theatrical trailer and teaser
- New essay by film and culture critic Howard Hampton
- New and improved English subtitle translation

Criterionforum.org user rating averages

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All discs available individually or as part of the Rebel Samurai: Sixties Swordplay Classics collector's set!

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Cinephrenic
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#2 Post by Cinephrenic » Mon Aug 01, 2005 1:43 pm

I was thinking they should have thrown in Inagaki's Samurai Saga. Maybe they release it as a single release like Sword of Doom and Harakiri.

Has anyone seen Shinoda's Samurai Spy and like to comment on it?

Narshty
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#3 Post by Narshty » Mon Aug 01, 2005 2:04 pm

It's nice that Criterion's sense of cool hasn't burned out completely. Should be a tasty riposte to all those claims that "Kurosawa is the ONLY director of samurai movies!!" Hopefully it'll be a rip-roaring companion piece to Blue Underground's splendidly entertaining Spaghetti Western Collection.
cinephrenic wrote:Has anyone seen Shinoda's Samurai Spy and like to comment on it?
I've never even heard of the movie, but -- ninja spies!!

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What A Disgrace
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#4 Post by What A Disgrace » Mon Aug 01, 2005 2:16 pm

All of these titles will be available to own separately, I believe. Each one has a MSRP of $29.95.

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FilmFanSea
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#5 Post by FilmFanSea » Mon Aug 01, 2005 3:07 pm

Geez, is October the unofficial Testosterone Month at Criterion, or what?

While I'm happy for the samurai genre fans, nothing here interests me much, except possibly Samurai Rebellion based on Henrik's review at DVD Beaver. I guess I'll see how much I like Harakiri before taking the plunge on this one.

In the meantime, I'll continue pining for the 'kindler, gentler' Japanese films from Ozu, Mizoguchi, Naruse.

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Cinephrenic
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#6 Post by Cinephrenic » Mon Aug 01, 2005 3:21 pm

This is not a boxset, but a giftset for those who are curious.

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Alain3000
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#7 Post by Alain3000 » Mon Aug 01, 2005 4:58 pm

Am excited about these films because they are from directors whose films I haven't seen very much. I liked from what I've seen of Okamoto so far(Samurai Assassin, Sword of Doom, Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo) as of Kobayashi(Kwaidan, Hymn to a Tired Man), Shinoda(Pale Flower, Double Suicide) so I am interested in seeing these upcoming films. Also interested in seeing the Gosha film as I haven't seen anything from the director.

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zedz
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#8 Post by zedz » Mon Aug 01, 2005 5:19 pm

FilmFanSea wrote:Geez, is October the unofficial Testosterone Month at Criterion, or what?

In the meantime, I'll continue pining for the 'kindler, gentler' Japanese films from Ozu, Mizoguchi, Naruse.
Yeah, it's been a great year for Japanese cinema from Criterion, but hardly a balanced one! This batch makes twelve 'testosterone-fuelled' Japanese films (if you include Crazed Fruit, which I haven't seen yet) so far, with Ran still to come.

Still, they have added one woman director to their roster during that time, so who are we to complain?

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cafeman
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#9 Post by cafeman » Mon Aug 01, 2005 8:31 pm

I`ve only seen Samurai Rebellion, and it`s a masterpiece and my favorite Samurai film (though I haven`t seen as many of those as I`d like). Depending on the price, I might blind buy the box.

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Nihonophile
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#10 Post by Nihonophile » Mon Aug 01, 2005 11:16 pm

Alain3000 wrote:Am excited about these films because they are from directors whose films I haven't seen very much. I liked from what I've seen of Okamoto so far(Samurai Assassin, Sword of Doom, Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo) as of Kobayashi(Kwaidan, Hymn to a Tired Man), Shinoda(Pale Flower, Double Suicide) so I am interested in seeing these upcoming films. Also interested in seeing the Gosha film as I haven't seen anything from the director.
I'm in the same position as you. I'm especially excited about Samurai Rebellion and I have faith in Shinoda and Okamoto.

Jeez Criterion give me a chance to buy Harakiri first :D

DrewReiber
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#11 Post by DrewReiber » Tue Aug 02, 2005 3:38 am

Nihonophile wrote:I'm in the same position as you. I'm especially excited about Samurai Rebellion and I have faith in Shinoda and Okamoto.

Jeez Criterion give me a chance to buy Harakiri first :D
Hah! Nihonophile, your head must be on fire at this point.

I'm really surprised Criterion stepped up to handle these releases, I would have presumed all of these to be HVE titles. I guess I should have known better after Sword of Doom and Harakiri. I still haven't seen the former, though I look forward to it. What a surprising month!

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Cinephrenic
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#12 Post by Cinephrenic » Tue Aug 02, 2005 4:54 am

When It came to releasing Japanese films this year, it has sure been weird so far. First we had four Suzuki's and six samurai flicks this year alone. Where is Mizoguchi, Oshima, Teshigahara, & Naruse? These are great titles, but the real babies are being kept in the crib. Come on Criterion, be a good mother!

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FilmFanSea
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#13 Post by FilmFanSea » Tue Aug 02, 2005 12:38 pm

cinephrenic wrote:When It came to releasing Japanese films this year, it has sure been weird so far. First we had four Suzuki's and six samurai flicks this year alone. Where is Mizoguchi, Oshima, Teshigahara, & Naruse? These are great titles, but the real babies are being kept in the crib. Come on Criterion, be a good mother!
I have to believe that these Japanese niche releases were more a business decision than an aesthetic one, and may represent a more aggressive attempt to encourage the precious male 18-25 demographic to buy into the collection (sort of like the way US symphony orchestras are programming more creatively to attract a younger audience).

I have no problem with this as long as Criterion is able to achieve a good balance of 'canon masterpieces' and 'niche' titles. Having said that, I think it's time they threw a bone (i.e. Ozu, Mizoguchi, Naruse, et al.) to us blue-haired old ladies.

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davida2
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#14 Post by davida2 » Wed Aug 03, 2005 4:19 am

FilmFanSea wrote:Geez, is October the unofficial Testosterone Month at Criterion, or what?

While I'm happy for the samurai genre fans, nothing here interests me much, except possibly Samurai Rebellion based on Henrik's review at DVD Beaver. I guess I'll see how much I like Harakiri before taking the plunge on this one.

In the meantime, I'll continue pining for the 'kindler, gentler' Japanese films from Ozu, Mizoguchi, Naruse.
I am happy to see more Kobayashi - I'm hoping that they'll move on to some of his less obtainable work - The Human Condition trilogy and the post-Rebellion films.

But I agree with you - the wait for Mizoguchi and Naruse is stretching towards infinity, and the Suzuki/Fukasaku onslaught ceased to be exciting long ago...

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lord_clyde
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#15 Post by lord_clyde » Wed Aug 03, 2005 5:04 am

Davida2 wrote:
and the Suzuki/Fukasaku onslaught ceased to be exciting long ago...
I respectfully disagree. Nothing is more exciting than a Suzuki and/or Fukasaku release! :D

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#16 Post by ByMarkClark.com » Wed Aug 03, 2005 12:11 pm

SAMURAI REBELLION is fantastic. I've heard good things about SWORD OF THE BEAST, but haven't seen it. Never heard of the other 2.

I am torn between buying just REBELLION and renting the others or just plunking down for the set.

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zedz
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#17 Post by zedz » Wed Aug 03, 2005 7:23 pm

FilmFanSea wrote: I have to believe that these Japanese niche releases were more a business decision than an aesthetic one, and may represent a more aggressive attempt to encourage the precious male 18-25 demographic to buy into the collection (sort of like the way US symphony orchestras are programming more creatively to attract a younger audience).
I think the big clue is that this is the third Samurai-themed 'collector's set' Criterion has released (out of a total of five). Obviously somebody's buying them!

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Doctor Sunshine
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#18 Post by Doctor Sunshine » Wed Aug 03, 2005 11:01 pm

I suspect they may well release another new set in the near future. According to the Film Forum, Janus also holds the rights to BANDITS VS. SAMURAI SQUADRON and SAMURAI SAGA plus, I'm sure, many others. Bring it on. By December I expect another samurai collectors set, Ran and at least 3 more Suzukis.

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manicsounds
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#19 Post by manicsounds » Thu Aug 04, 2005 12:06 am

"Kill" is truly one i've been waiting for. There is a non-subbed Japanese DVD out,
but it is way to expensive for a bareboned release.

I also love the title, and how the japanese title "Kiru" and the English title sound (pretty much) the same and have the same meaning.

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daniel p
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#20 Post by daniel p » Thu Aug 04, 2005 12:12 am

OT, but in reference to the last post:
manicsounds wrote:I also love the title, and how the japanese title "Kiru" and the English title sound (pretty much) the same and have the same meaning.
That's actually the case for quite a lot of Katakana. Some other examples are:

Bitamin = Vitamin
Birrus = Virus
Combini = Convenience Store
Wandafuru Raifu = Wonderful Life (actually After Life - 1998 Hirokazu Koreeda film)
A recent Japanese film (which looks really bad by the way) Debiruman = Devilman

It's like Ringu - which has the added "u" due to their pronounciations. And the "r" in "Kiru!" is due to their difficulty in pronouncing our letter "l".

I lived in Japan for a while and picked up on a lot of these words/terms.
Last edited by daniel p on Thu Aug 11, 2005 11:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Godot
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#21 Post by Godot » Sat Aug 13, 2005 4:03 am

jon wrote:
cinephrenic wrote:
Has anyone seen Shinoda's Samurai Spy and like to comment on it?

I've never even heard of the movie, but -- ninja spies!!

It's a very exciting movie, quite a lot of fun, but also formally inventive enough that it hints at Shinoda's later Double Suicide (and builds on Pale Flower). I'll try not to reveal any big spoilers, but if you want to be completely surprised by the style and plot, skip this post.

I caught this two years ago on IFC as part of a Kill Bill 2 promotion (with Sword of Doom, Kill!, Samurai Rebellion, and Three Outlaw Samurai (Gosha's first film)). I've seen it 3-4 times since, and I'm still confused by the plot details. This is not helped by the similarity of many characters' names (to this Western eye) or by the deception and double crossing rampant in the story (it does concern defectors, spies, and double agents between two warring clans in historical Japan, after all). In some ways this recalls The Big Sleep and Miller's Crossing, two films that required multiple viewings before I appreciated them. For film noir fans, Samurai Spy has some exciting similarities to recurring noir plot elements: key characters' relationships are hidden, clues seem to point one way but later re-interpretation points another, our "hero" has been drawn into a violent intrigue he clearly wants to avoid, he's ultimately trying to solve the murders of two people he's close to for "personal reasons", all evidence points toward his guilt, there's a final confrontation with almost extemporaneous accusations/admissions/solutions (cf Maltese Falcon, Big Sleep, Miller's Crossing, and a hundred Agatha Christie stories). I also liked the key use of a symbol to add intrigue (and reveal relationships), and there's a 5-minute love scene that appears to have been directed by Alain Resnais.

Visually, Shinoda uses long-shot and obscured perspective during some of the fight scenes, which not only raises the tension but also adds to keeping the viewer off-balance and in the dark (another key noir theme to the surrealists). This is key during the climactic fight, which makes the last shot of Through the Olive Trees look like a Leone close-up. Shinoda also reinforces this with a heavy fog shrouding the participants from each other (and the viewer from the action). The camera tracks during a couple of sword battles, and Shinoda has an interesting style of contrasting posed or slow-moving figures (often in the foreground) with battle action at different depths of the screen image. Two opposite examples are a marvelous foregrounded duel with a horse racing directly at the camera in the center of the image, and a duel in deep-background at the end of an alley that is interrupted (amusingly) by a "haunted" boy who wanders through the action from the foreground. Shinoda sparingly but effectively uses slow-motion during the fights, and expressionistic imagery when one character is nearly unconscious.

The most dynamic scenes feature our hero's confrontations with the mysterious white-robed ninja spy (the cover photo subject), and a daring rescue of captives under heavy guard. One of these confrontations starts with our hero illuminated by a sliver of light through a doorway, which he uses to gauge his attacker's movements. The ninja skills of the spys are well-integrated without being explained or trickery, including an exciting defense against a barrage of arrows. Shinoda also drops in a number of fantastic ninja elements, such as 20-foot vertical leaps, slow-motion leaping jousting passes, and never-miss throwing knives and stars. If the movie ended 2 minutes earlier, I would have loved it even more.

Joe Bob's rating:
73 deaths by swordplay
11 deaths by throwing knives and stars
2 nude breasts
1 severed hand
1 severed arm
1 severed leg

I recommend this movie.

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feihong
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#22 Post by feihong » Mon Aug 15, 2005 12:29 am

I'll second Samurai Spy. Having seen a lot of Shinoda recently, it is one of his most entertaining and appealing movies, a real puzzle flick with some of the most beautiful cinematography in the genre.

Sword of the Beast is also a wonderful movie, with an excellent central performance. Shima Iwashita is very young and totally divine here, and it has a good place in Gosha's chambara collection--as thematically resonant as Goyokin or Tenchu, though perhaps a little rangier and slightly more didactic. Still, a wonderful, well-acted and tense drama. Of the films in this collection, Samurai Spy and Sword of the Beast are definitely my favorites.

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kortik
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#23 Post by kortik » Fri Aug 19, 2005 7:23 am

this is awesome addition to my Japanese film collection. Kiru is awesome film with an exellent actor Tatsuya Nakadai. Harakiri
If any of you interested in Japanese films check out
www.ninjadojo.com especially their forums

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Sekoya
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#24 Post by Sekoya » Sat Oct 01, 2005 5:56 pm


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the dancing kid
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#25 Post by the dancing kid » Sun Oct 09, 2005 8:34 pm

I watched both Sword of the Beast and Samurai Spy this weekend (for some reason netflix had these two available but not the others). Sword was pretty fun, and actually reminded me a bit of Suzuki's Tattooed Life because of the "outlaw(s) on the run" premise and the strong distrust of authority. It was almost wall to wall swordfighting, and some of the duels were pretty impressive. This was my first Gosha film, and I'm looking forward to seeing more, Criterion or not. Spy was okay, although of the Shinoda's I've seen so far it ranks near the bottom. I'm planning on watching the interview tonight, which might increase my appreciation of it a bit, but overall I feel pretty indifferent toward it.

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