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PostPosted: Wed Nov 03, 2004 12:04 pm 

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The Samurai Trilogy

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The Samurai Trilogy, directed by Hiroshi Inagaki and starring the inimitable Toshiro Mifune, was one of Japan’s most successful exports of the 1950s, a rousing, emotionally gripping tale of combat and self-discovery. Based on a novel that’s often called Japan’s Gone with the Wind, this sweeping saga fictionalizes the life of the legendary seventeenth-century swordsman (and writer and artist) Musashi Miyamoto, following him on his path from unruly youth to enlightened warrior. With these three films—1954’s Oscar-winning Musashi Miyamoto, 1955’s Duel at Ichijoji Temple, and 1956’s Duel at Ganryu Island—Inagaki created a passionate epic that’s equal parts tender love story and bloody action.

Disc Features

- New high-definition digital restorations of all three films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray edition
- New interviews with translator and historian William Scott Wilson about the real-life Musashi Miyamoto, the inspiration for the hero of the films
- Trailers
- New English subtitle translations
- PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by film historian Stephen Prince and William Scott Wilson

Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto

In the first part of the epic Samurai Trilogy, Toshiro Mifune thunders onto the screen as the iconic title character. When we meet him, Miyamoto is a wide-eyed romantic, dreaming of military glory in the civil war that is ravaging the seventeenth-century countryside. Twists of fate, however, turn him into a fugitive. But he is saved by a woman who loves him and a cunning priest who guides him to the samurai path. Though the opening installment of a series, this film, lushly photographed in color, stands on its own, and won an Academy Award for the best foreign-language film of 1955.

Criterionforum.org user rating averages


Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple

Toshiro Mifune furiously embodies swordsman Musashi Miyamoto as he comes into his own in the action-packed middle section of the Samurai Trilogy. Duel at Ichijoji Temple furthers Miyamoto along his path to spiritual enlightenment, as well as further from the arms of the two women who love him: loyal Otsu (Kaoru Yachigusa) and conniving yet tragic Akemi (Mariko Okada). The film also brings him face to face with hoards of rivals intent on cutting him down, especially his legendary rival Kojiro (Koji Tsurata). The titular climax is one of Japanese cinema’s most rousingly choreographed conflicts, intensified by Jun Yasumoto’s color cinematography and Ikuma Dan’s triumphant score.

Criterionforum.org user rating averages


Samurai III - Duel at Ganryu Island

A disillusioned Musashi Miyamoto (Toshiro Mifune) has turned his back on the samurai life, becoming a farmer in a remote village, while his nemesis Kojiro (Koji Tsurata) now works for the shogun. Circumstances bring them back together for one final face-off. Though it’s marked by a memorably intense final battle sequence, the rousing conclusion to the Samurai Trilogy is engaged with matters of the heart as well, as Miyamoto must ask himself what it is that makes a warrior and a man.

Criterionforum.org user rating averages



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PostPosted: Mon Nov 08, 2004 11:16 am 
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What is it about Toshiro Mifune and these films, that makes we want to sport a top knot? I wonder if Otsu is still waiting by the bridge?


Last edited by Napier on Fri Mar 16, 2012 6:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2005 2:45 pm 
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I've seen six of the director's works(Samurai Trilogy, Saga, Banners, Incident) and noticed two common themes. One, unrealized dreams whether its for glory(Samurai Banners), love(Samurai Trilogy, Samurai Saga, Samurai Banners), or riches(Incident at Blood Pass). The other is the love triangle in five of the films. I also noticed that Inagaki's films are less on action(though there are some action scenes here and there) and more on character development, their desires, and their fate within a historical whirlpool of destiny. History in five of the films goes against the characters desires.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2006 1:18 am 
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does anyone happen to know if the back of the Boxed DVDs differ from the ones that are packaged separately? The back of my MM has the scene on the beach and the one on Criterion DVD.com has a teal background.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2006 10:46 am 
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The Boxset they released is completely the same as the old released discs. I certainly hope someone else besides Toho Japan would rerelease this.

A few months ago Toho released these 3 on DVD remastered in HD, and although I havent seen the quality, I know it must be great. Unfortunately as usual, no subtitles on them.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2006 10:48 am 
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manicsounds wrote:
A few months ago Toho released these 3 on DVD remastered in HD

Well, if Toho has done a new HD master, you can be sure Criterion will follow with a reissue soon thereafter. "Soon", of course, meaning "sometime in the next 5 years."


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2006 2:30 pm 
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these films really are in need of revisiting. I just watched Samurai I last night and it really looks quite poor by current standards, and according to Donald Richie each film has been extensively edited for the American releases, which is what Criterion released.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2006 3:58 pm 

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I just finished watching the trilogy the other day and was disappointed (to say the least) in all the scratches and pops in the film. Here's hoping that Criterion decides to re-release this one soon. Lord knows I'd buy a remastered Samurai trilogy before a remastered Grey Gardens...


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2006 10:21 pm 
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blindside8zao wrote:
does anyone happen to know if the back of the Boxed DVDs differ from the ones that are packaged separately? The back of my MM has the scene on the beach and the one on Criterion DVD.com has a teal background.

The one on Criterion DVD is the first print. When Criterion released the boxset they did change the back, as the original one was poor marketing. I guess the single disc edition edition followed.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 25, 2006 1:17 am 
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mrschroeder1982 wrote:
I just finished watching the trilogy the other day and was disappointed (to say the least) in all the scratches and pops in the film. Here's hoping that Criterion decides to re-release this one soon. Lord knows I'd buy a remastered Samurai trilogy...

Watched this a few years back. With the knowledge that they were early DVD titles, so was pretty okay with the overall quality. Until I got to #III... Way too many speckles on that last one as opposed to the other two. Kind of hard to ignore at times. But otherwise enjoyed.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 29, 2006 2:57 pm 
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"The Boxset they released is completely the same as the old released discs. I certainly hope someone else besides Toho Japan would rerelease this."

Good old chinese quasi-piraters Bo Ying have a box set of all three for US$10 floating around China and Hong Kong. They're the same transfers as the CC discs as far as I can tell. Probably out there on eBay and a good blind buy as opposed to the CCs for the time being.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 02, 2009 12:54 am 

Joined: Mon Jun 25, 2007 4:58 pm
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Man, I would love for this trilogy to get a re-release.
More than one scene has given me that 14 year old watching Star Wars back in the day rush. It's sincerely moving stuff in a adolescent kind of way.
The old color stock mixed with artificial backdrops and sets creates that mythical fairy tale feel that's so often lacking in the more jaded and mature (ha! ha!) fantasy films these days. I'd love to know how they lit all those nighttime fight scenes. (there's loads of them particularly in Samurai II). My feeling is some are "Day for night" shots, but not all as they are so subtly done that it's hard to tell. At any rate the lighting is very elegantly done.
Plus the musical score rocks...


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2009 9:50 pm 

Joined: Tue Feb 24, 2009 9:35 am
I bet this eventually gets rereleased. if it does eric skillman definitely does the packaging... (wasn't this one of his first?)
what a shame is is no other inagaki has made it to the collection yet. maybe an eclipse in 10 years?
i saw samurai saga on ifc samurai saturdays janus logo and all. it was great.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2009 5:59 pm 
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ehimle wrote:
i saw samurai saga on ifc samurai saturdays janus logo and all. it was great.

Samurai Saga is probably my favorite of the Inagakis I've seen and a better adaptation of Cyrano than Jose Ferrer's. The more I see of his work, the more I like it. I've always loved his approach to color -- though I sometimes wonder if his colors were meant to be quite so pastel in the theater.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 09, 2011 1:24 am 
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I'm running through the trilogy right now, and it's certainly watchable and entertaining, but it really feels like it could be a great movie experience- someone above mentioned that this is a cutdown version, and judging from the occasional expository subtitles that don't correspond either to voice or text within the movie and some of the choppy leaps between story points that seems eminently plausible. Between that and the horrible overall quality of the presentation (fuzzy, washed out images, weak soundtrack, zero extras, and even the occasional typo in the subtitles) it's hard to feel as though I'm not watching something that's been crippled.

Are there any kind of rumors about a re-release for these? I'm not sure I can think of anything outside of maybe Good Morning that needs it worse.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 09, 2011 1:37 am 
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Scarlet Empress easily has the worst transfer of the in print titles, but I agree that a revisit to these three would be greatly beneficial. They can be intensely fun, but aside from the acting and direction a lot of it feels like it could be better and even just a new set of subtitles would improve the experience immensely. Sadly I doubt this will happen as Criterion has been distancing themselves from the more straightforward entertainment titles recently. I hope I'm wrong though as there is so much to be had with these three.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 09, 2011 3:27 am 
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The second one is damn near ruined by the low picture quality- it's almost impossible to follow the action in the night scenes. The chopped up editing doesn't help, since characters seem to pop up unmotivated (where the hell did Matahachi's mother come from? At the end of the first movie she and the group she's with were going to attack Musashi at the castle, and then they pop up out of nowhere in a totally different place three years later) and some of the intercutting seems off.

I think I'd be a little muddy on some of the characterizations regardless, though- all the women seem to trip over themselves to find a way to wind up miserable, and the priest seems like a pretty serious asshole when he tells Otsu to wait for Musashi and then, three years later, tells Musashi to abandon her.

Still worth watching, though. Some of the camera moves, particularly during the fight scenes, are amazing, and Mifune could pretty much carry the whole movie with his performance.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2012 5:31 pm 
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Matt 5 1/2 years ago wrote:
manicsounds wrote:
A few months ago Toho released these 3 on DVD remastered in HD

Well, if Toho has done a new HD master, you can be sure Criterion will follow with a reissue soon thereafter. "Soon", of course, meaning "sometime in the next 5 years."

Not far off actually.

Blu-ray upgrades announced for June 26th. No specs or cover art known yet.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2012 7:04 pm 
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What a glorious announcement. One of my very first Criterion purchases in the dawn of the DVD age.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2012 7:29 pm 
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I love all the Kurosawa samurai films. I think that Sword of Doom is probably the best non-Kurosawa samurai film I've seen and am quite fond of Hara Kiri. Three Outlaw Samurai underwhelmed me to the point where, when the streaming got jammed up on Hulu, I didn't care to finish the other half of it later. Napier or other enthusiasts out there, how does the trilogy compare to the films I've seen? Do you think the restored version would be worth a blind buy based on my tastes?


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:04 pm 
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It's a blind buy. I can't wait for new transfers in Blu-ray. Watching Priest Takuan head into the hills after Takezo, led me to make my own "takuan" pickles. Don't miss this. It's among Inagaki's best and a samurai saga for the masses.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:11 pm 
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The trailer for each film are on the respective individual pages, Warren. That could help your decision.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2012 3:18 am 

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Has anyone questioned why there is not at least a 10 min thing on the William Holden voice-over on the first film, or is that just an IMDb rumor?


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2012 7:24 pm 
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And for those interested in other adaptations on film, remember that Animeigo has also released the excellent Toei "Musashi Miyamoto" 5-film set from the 1960's on DVD, also starring Rentaro Mikuni (as Takuan in this other series).


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2012 7:40 pm 
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duck duck wrote:
Has anyone questioned why there is not at least a 10 min thing on the William Holden voice-over on the first film, or is that just an IMDb rumor?

Britannica confirms


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