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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - January, 2011

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"Yojimbo & Sanjuro (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

movie-january-2011-yojimbo-sanjuro

Synopsis

The masterless (ronin) samurai Yojimbo, who slyly manipulates two warring clans to his own advantage in a small, dusty village, was so entertainingly embodied by the brilliant Toshiro Mifune, that it was only a matter of time before he returned in a sequel. Made just one year later, Sanjuro matches Yojimbo’s storytelling dexterity, yet adds a layer of world-weary pragmatism that brings the duo to a thrilling and unforgettable conclusion.

Sanjuro: In Kurosawa’s sly companion piece to Yojimbo, the jaded samurai Sanjuro helps an idealistic group of young warriors weed out their clan’s evil influences, and in the process turns their image of a proper samurai on its ear.

Yojimbo: To rid a terror-stricken village of corruption, wily ronin samurai Sanjuro (Toshiro Mifune) turns a range war between two evil clans to his own advantage in Akira Kurosawa’s visually stunning and darkly comic Yojimbo.

Specifications

  • Criterion Collection
  • 1961-1962, B/W, Not Rated, 3 Hr 26 min
  • Aspect Ratio:1.35:1
  • Codec: MPEG 2 1080p
  • NTSC
  • Japanese with English subtitles
  • Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Eijirô Tôno, Tatsuya Nakadai, Keiju Kobayashi, Yûnosuke Itô
  • Directed by Akira Kurosawa
    Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

If you liked “Fist Full of Dollars” or “Last Man Standing”, you’ll love these two films from which others have drawn their inspiration. Great stories with even greater character development with a mix of intrigue, action and wry comedy. Mifune is a world weary samurai we can identify with. He is both a superman and a common man rolled into one. In fact, he is so highly entertaining and iconic that after seeing these films, when you hear the word samurai, you’ll think of Mifune's character. Not a lot of blood until the final showdown in Sanjuro. Tarantino would have been pleased with climactic duel at the end.

Technical

The highlights of these brand new sets are definitely the new high definition transfers, absolutely gorgeous in every sense of the word. The images are crisp and razor sharp. Grain and dirt are practically non existent and the images have not been digitally scrubbed to death. I never knew black and white could look so good with blu-ray, but these films are well nigh perfect in presentation. B/W seems the be the perfect medium for these films which just look and feel right. Sound is almost as great as the picture. Included is the original mono track in Japanese as well as an optional 3.0 DTS-MA track that was created to preserve the original Perspecta simulated stereo effects. Subtitles are clear and easy to follow. Yet another outstanding Criterion re-master.

Extras

Restored high-definition digital transfers, Optional DTS-HD Master Audio Perspecta 3.0 soundtracks, audio commentaries by film historian Stephen Prince, documentaries on the making of Yojimbo and Sanjuro, theatrical trailer and teasers, stills galleries and a booklet featuring essays by film writers.