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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "High and Low" or "Tengoku to jigoku", "Heaven and Hell" or "The Ransom")

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/kurosawa.htm
Japan 1963

Toshiro Mifune is unforgettable as Kingo Gondo, a wealthy industrialist whose family becomes the target of a cold-blooded kidnapper in Akira Kurosawa’s highly influential High and Low (Tengoko to jigoku). Adapting Ed McBain's detective novel King's Ransom, Kurosawa moves effortlessly from compelling race-against-time thriller to exacting social commentary, creating a penetrating portrait of contemporary Japanese society.

****

"Kurosawa is the undisputed master of the widescreen frame, using it to its fullest potential. He frames shots expertly, using the full frame from edge to edge. Oftentimes this requires some fairly intricate choreography, especially in the long takes he uses so often. Another area in which Kurosawa's work is unparalleled is the use of distances and spatial relationships to highlight the relationships among his characters. For the early part of the film, Mifune dominates the frame in every shot, his immaculate white shirt and cardigan standing out luminously amongst the other players. Kurosawa frames him carefully; Mifune is always in the center, in the foreground, always the biggest physical presence on the screen."

Excerpt from Erick Harper's Review found HERE

Posters etc.

Theatrical Release Date: November 26, 1963

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Comparison:

Criterion (2-disc REISSUE) - Region 1- NTSC vs. Madman - Region 4 - PAL vs. BFI - Region 2- PAL vs. Criterion Region 0 - NTSC vs. MEI AH (Hong Kong) Region 0 - NTSC vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Criterion DVD screenshots by Ashirg and Ole Koefood of DVDBasen

1) Criterion (2-disc REISSUE) Region 1- NTSC LEFT

2) Madman - Region 4 - PAL SECOND

3) BFI - Region 2- PAL THIRD

4) Criterion (original) - Region 0 - NTSC FOURTH

5) Mei Ah - Region 0 - NTSC FIFTH

6) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

DVD Box Covers

  

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Distribution Criterion Collection- Spine # 24 (REISSUE)
Region 1 - NTSC 

Madman

Region 4 - PAL

BFI Video

Region 2- PAL

Criterion Collection- Spine # 24
Region 0 - NTSC 
MEI AH Home Video
Region 0 - NTSC
Criterion Collection, spine #24 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 2:23:25 2:17:29 (4% PAL speedup)

2:23:10 (converted directly from NTSC)

2:23:15 2:23:40  2:23:41.029 
Video

Widescreen - 2.31:1

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 7.14  mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

2.54:1 Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.10 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

Widescreen - 2.53:1

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.8 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

Widescreen - 2.35:1
Average Bitrate: 7.14  mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
Widescreen - 2.46:1 (cropped from original aspect ratio)
Average Bitrate:  4.29 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,292,234,613 bytes

Feature: 32,700,794,880 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 25.99 Mbps

 

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Criterion (REISSUE)

Bitrate:

Madman

Bitrate:

BFI

Bitrate:

Original Criterion

Bitrate:

MEI AH

Bitrate:

Blu-ray

Audio Japanese (Dolby Digital 4.0) Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono), Japanese (Dolby Digital 4.0) Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono) Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)

Japanese (Dolby Digital 1.0)  

DTS-HD Master Audio Japanese 2526 kbps 4.0 / 48 kHz / 2526 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 4.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Subtitles English or none English or none English (non-removable) English or None Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, English or None English or none
Features:

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.31:1

 


Extras:
• Audio commentary featuring Akira Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince

Disc 2
• A documentary on the making of High and Low, created as part of the Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create (36:58)
• Rare video interview with actor Toshiro Mifune, conducted by TV talk-show host Tetsuko Kuroyanagi (30:29)
• New video interview with actor Tsutomu Yamazaki, who plays the kidnapper (19:02)
• Theatrical trailers from Japan and the U.S.
• 38-page Liner notes booklet featuring a new essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien and an on-set account by Japanese film scholar Donald Richie

 

DVD Release Date: July 22nd, 2008
Transparent Keep Case

Chapters 28

Release Information:
Studio: Madman

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.54:1

Edition Details:
• 20 pages booklet with Essay by Dr. Adrian Danks.
• Picture and poster gallery.
• Trailers for Tokyo Story, An Autumn Afternoon, Early Summer, Ikiru and Seven Samurai.

DVD Release Date: June 2006
Keep Case.

Chapters 16

Release Information:
Studio: BFI Video

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.53:1

 


Extras:
• Kurosawa Bio
• Mifune Bio

• Upcoming Releases

• Acknowledgements


DVD Release Date: March 28th, 2005
Transparent Keep Case

Chapters 21

 
Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen letterbox - 2.28:1

Extras:
• Color bars
• Chapter Selection

DVD Release Date: October 13, 1998
Keep Case

Chapters 24

Release Information:
Studio: MEI AH Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen - 2.46:1 (horizontally cropped from original aspect ratio)

Extras:
• Static Screen Kurosawa Filmography and bio in both English and Traditional Chinese
• Listing of Other available Mei Ah DVDs

 

DVD Release Date: Spring 1998
Plastic Snap Case

Chapters 18

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion
 

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,292,234,613 bytes

Feature: 32,700,794,880 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 25.99 Mbps


Extras:
• Audio commentary featuring Akira Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince
• A documentary on the making of High and Low, created as part of the Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create (37:02 in 1080i)
• Rare video interview with actor Toshiro Mifune, conducted by TV talk-show host Tetsuko Kuroyanagi (30:31 in 1080i)
• New video interview with actor Tsutomu Yamazaki, who plays the kidnapper (19:05 in 1080i)
• Theatrical trailers from Japan (3:30 in 1080i), Teaser from Japan (1:54 in 1080i) and the U.S. (1:43 in 1080i)
• Liner notes booklet featuring an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien and an on-set account by Japanese film-scholar Donald Richie

 

Blu-ray Release Date: July 26th, 2011
Transparent
Blu-ray Case

Chapters 28

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - July 11': Like Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast this is the third transfer for an early Criterion spine number from that company spanning almost 13years since the first effort - a non-anamorphic rendering. The Blu-ray appears to have improved a shade more than I was anticipating. In some respects the image has only a mild superiority but in others the notable depth is apparent and the high level contrast in 1080P is impressively apparent. This looks quite good - and I'm certain as detailed as we are likely to see for home theater presentation. The source is the same and hence there is shade more information in the frame than the Criterion RE-issue DVD from 2008 - but still doesn't reach the level of 'scope' ratio of the BFI (as discussed below.) Upon zooming-in grain is tight and consistent though not especially rich enough to support a heavy texture on the visuals. Still, there is no denying this is HD and, despite some early contrast flickering, looks splendid in-motion. I suspect most Kurosawa fans will be more than satisfied with the appearance.

On the audio-front Criterion keep the 4.0 channel Perspecta sound that is transferred in an impressive DTS-HD Master at 2526 kbps in original Japanese. Mifune's grunts are more imposingly powerful and it becomes a keen curiosity to note the separation. It's really kinda cool and the sound does export better depth when infrequently called upon. Criterion have the optional English subtitles and the disc is again coded for region 'A'.

Extras duplicate the 2-disc RE-issue with the expert Stephen Prince commentary and all video extras (as noted below) are accessible on the lone Blu-ray disc rendered in HD (1080i.)

 It's so incredible to see how far world cinema fans have come in the past dozen years comparing the, now unwatchable, dual-sided Mei Ah to the pristine levels of high-definition via Criterion's essential Blu-ray package. One of the easiest recommendations of the year... buy will confidence! 

***

ADDITION: Criterion (2-disc REISSUE) - Region 1 - NTSC - July 08': We received a few emails requesting to know what the aspect ratio of this new Criterion re-issue is. They advertised it as 2.35:1 but it's really about 2.31 (not to split hairs) and you can see that it doesn't extend as far as the both the 2.50-ish BFI and Madman releases. The REISSUE is a shade wider than the original Criterion transfer and as the use of the widescreen is so prominent in this release (mentioned numerous times in the Stephen Prince commentary) it should be meticulously noted. But the Criterion does show more on the bottom of the frame than their nearest competition too. This may be getting too picky for some - so we'll simply report the differences - you may judge for yourself if it is important enough to quibble over. 

I suspect the Criterion have some of their digital restoration done (not simply a new print source - which I believe it also has) with whites looking brighter and blacks occasionally darker. What also may have improved the Criterion appearance is that it is tight to the frame edges utilizing the full horizontal resolution. Bottom line is that it looks very good with a shade of noise showing more near the end of the film. If you look at the captures showing people's hair and faces you can definitely see that it exposes more detail. As far as sharpness goes it looks the best of all 5 of these editions. It is also definitely brighter, but I it doesn't appear to be to the detriment of the image integrity.

For audio - Criterion states on the package 'New, restored high-definition digital transfer with original four-track surround sound' and I do notice the upgrade on my system. It's not overpowering but it is there and I appreciate the subtleties that it can bring to the table. The Australian Madman release offers this 4.0 channel Perspecta sound as well as a 2.0 channel. Criterion have their usual excellent subtitles (sample, below) advertised as 'New and improved English subtitle translation' - and I'm not going to argue.

Extras are where Criterion usually outshine their opponents and this is another primo case. As this is a favorite Kurosawa film, I really enjoyed the Stephen Prince commentary. He is prepared and professional - I'd say this was as thorough and informative as a Tony Rayns effort. Of all the the Prince commentaries I've heard this may be my favorite (reminding me that I also quite enjoyed his one on Red Beard). On disc 2 there are three featurettes - first a 40 minute documentary on the making of High and Low, excerpted from the Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create. It has short interviews with Kurosawa and many of the actors as well as individuals involved in finalizing the script. What I also enjoyed was a rare video interview with actor Toshiro Mifune, conducted by TV talk-show host Tetsuko Kuroyanagi. It runs a smooth 30 minutes and, funnily enough, I don't recall seeing him interviewed before. This was very light but still enjoyable to see the man outside the confines of a scripted film. There is also a 20-minute 2008 video interview with actor Tsutomu Yamazaki, who plays the kidnapper in High and Low. There is a section for some theatrical trailers from both Japan and the U.S. and finally a nicely appointed 38-page Liner notes booklet featuring a new essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien and an on-set account by Japanese film scholar Donald Richie.

Great package - I'm so very happy to replace my old Criterion DVD as it was one of their poorest efforts (non 16X9, bare-bones etc.). It's great to have the film looking so good and with all the extras - I'll definitely revisit the Prince commentary (it was a lot to take in on one sitting). Yes, we endorse and recommend!

Gary Tooze  

***

ADDITION: Madman - Region 4 - PAL: The (original) Criterion still tends to look the sharpest but we have that ratio thing. The Madman, like the BFI edition, has a huge black border circumventing the image limiting the horizontal resolution (see Capture #1 - blue border indicating the windowboxing amount). On the positive it is the ONLY release with Perspecta- stereo sound. It has that mesmerizing super widescreen with a nice booklet. I suppose the Region 4 Madman is the definitive at present.

***

ADDITION: BFI (March 2005): Well, this is another fine mess - not 'progressively encoded'  and converted directly from an NTSC source (see times). Non-removable English subtitles. But this is only the start - halos, ghosting and combing are rife throughout the presentation. Thick black borders are around the image not fully utilizing the horizontal resolution.

What comparing this image to the others 2 discs does do is show how much appears to have been cropped from both the (original) Criterion and the Mei Ah. The BFI does at least contain some extras, albeit text screens. Only thing we can say about it is it won't look that bad on a regular tube TV. I actually thought it wasn't too bad on my 28 inch tube, but it really shows up when you watch on any LCD, Plasma, TFT, laptops, etc.  In BFI's defense it is anamorphic and this is how they were received from Toho in Japan (BFI were only offered the restored NTSC Digibeta, so had to make do with that.). A small bravo for giving us the full ratio as well.

The (original) Criterion is still flawed, non 16X9 and ridiculously priced in the upper tier of Criterion dollar value with zero extras. We are still waiting for an acceptable DVD release of this masterpiece film.

***

The MEI AH disc is single layered scattered over 2 sides. Everything about this spells out that the DVD was made as inexpensively as possible, even the English subtitles are grammatically incorrect most of the time. Funnily enough though it does beat out the (original) Criterion for "Extras" which has none at all. The MEHI AH has Kurosawa Filmography and listing of a few other MEI AH Kurosawa DVDs. The MEI AH is hardly better than a worn VHS copy, and unless you require simplified or traditional Chinese subs then there really is no comparison. In fact, I'll go so far as to state that your time might be better spent learning Japanese than in purchasing this Hong Kong disc.


Recommended Reading for Japanese Film Fans (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

 

The Japan Journals : 1947-2004,

by  Donald Richie

The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film
by Tom Mes and Jasper Sharp

Kon Ichikawa (Cinematheque Ontario Monographs)

by James Quandt, Cinematheque Ontario

Shohei Imamura (Cinematheque Ontario Monographs, No. 1)
by James Quandt
Eros Plus Massacre: An Introduction to the Japanese New Wave Cinema (Midland Book, Mb 469)
by David Desser
The Films of Akira Kurosawa by Donald Ritchie

Ozu by Donald Ritchie

A Hundred Years of Japanese Film by Donald Richie

Check out more in "The Library"


Menus

Criterion (REISSUE)

 

Disc 2

(Madman - Region 4 - PAL LEFT vs. BFI - Region 2- PAL RIGHT)

 

 (Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC LEFT vs. Mei Ah - Region 0 - NTSC RIGHT)

 

Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

Subtitle sample - Criterion REISSUE TOP vs. Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM


Screen Captures

1) Criterion (2-disc REISSUE) Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Madman - Region 4 - PAL SECOND

3) BFI - Region 2- PAL THIRD

4) Criterion (original) - Region 0 - NTSC FOURTH

5) Mei Ah - Region 0 - NTSC FIFTH

6) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

Capture # 1

 


1) Criterion (2-disc REISSUE) Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Madman - Region 4 - PAL SECOND

3) BFI - Region 2- PAL THIRD

4) Criterion (original) - Region 0 - NTSC FOURTH

5) Mei Ah - Region 0 - NTSC FIFTH

6) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

Capture # 2

 


1) Criterion (2-disc REISSUE) Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Madman - Region 4 - PAL SECOND

3) BFI - Region 2- PAL THIRD

4) Criterion (original) - Region 0 - NTSC FOURTH

5) Mei Ah - Region 0 - NTSC FIFTH

6) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

Capture # 3

 


1) Criterion (2-disc REISSUE) Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Madman - Region 4 - PAL SECOND

3) BFI - Region 2- PAL THIRD

4) Criterion (original) - Region 0 - NTSC FOURTH

5) Mei Ah - Region 0 - NTSC FIFTH

6) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

Capture # 4

 


1) Criterion (2-disc REISSUE) Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Madman - Region 4 - PAL SECOND

3) BFI - Region 2- PAL THIRD

4) Criterion (original) - Region 0 - NTSC FOURTH

5) Mei Ah - Region 0 - NTSC FIFTH

6) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

Capture # 5

 


1) Criterion (2-disc REISSUE) Region 1- NTSC TOP

2) Madman - Region 4 - PAL SECOND

3) BFI - Region 2- PAL THIRD

4) Criterion (original) - Region 0 - NTSC FOURTH

5) Mei Ah - Region 0 - NTSC FIFTH

6) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

Capture # 6

 

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 

 


Hit Counter


Report Card:

 

Image:

 Blu-ray

Sound:

 Blu-ray

Extras: Criterion / Blu-ray

 

DVD Box Covers

  

Thinking of buying from YesAsia? CLICK HERE and use THIS UPDATED BEAVER PAGE to source their very best...

Distribution Criterion Collection- Spine # 24 (REISSUE)
Region 1 - NTSC 

Madman

Region 4 - PAL

BFI Video

Region 2- PAL

Criterion Collection- Spine # 24
Region 0 - NTSC 
MEI AH Home Video
Region 0 - NTSC
Criterion Collection, spine #24 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Recommended Reading for Kurosawa Fans (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

 

Check out more in "The Library"






 

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Gary Tooze

Many Thanks...