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Prison Walls: Abashiri Prison I-III [2 X Blu-ray]
 

Abashiri Prison (1965)      Another Abashiri Prison Story (1965)

Abashiri Prison: Saga of Homesickness (1965)

 

 

Constructed in the late nineteenth century to house political prisoners, Japan’s infamous Abashiri Prison served as the inspiration for a popular and prolific run of yakuza movies released between 1965 and 1972. The Masters of Cinema series is proud to present the first three entries in this landmark series, directed by the “King of Cult” Teruo Ishii (Shogun’s Joy of Torture) and starring a titan of Japanese genre cinema, Ken Takakura (The Bullet Train).

In Abashiri Prison, Takakura stars as Shinichi Tachibana, a yakuza sent to Abashiri as punishment for an attack on a rival gangster. He intends to serve his time as a model prisoner until he is shackled to the bullish Gonzo Gonda (Kōji Nanbara), unwittingly roped into an escape attempt orchestrated by Heizo Yoda (Tōru Abe) and forced to face the frozen wilderness of Hokkaidō. In Another Abashiri Prison Story, Tachibana has just been released when he stumbles across a stash of diamonds recently stolen in a heist – and attracts unwanted attention from criminals and cops alike. Finally, in Abashiri Prison: Saga of Homesickness, Tachibana reunites with his former yakuza associates, who are trying to go straight. That is, at least, until old rivals come looking for trouble…

Ken Takakura would reprise the role of Tachibana in another seven films under the Abashiri Prison banner – all of them helmed by Teruo Ishii – before the series was rebooted as New Abashiri Prison in 1968, leading to a further eight installments with Takakura in the lead. It all began with these early entries, presented here for the first time ever on Blu-ray from brand new restorations of the original film elements by Toei.

Posters

Theatrical Release: April 18th, 1965 - October 31st, 1965

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Review: Masters of Cinema - Region FREE - Blu-ray

Box Cover

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Bonus Captures:

Distribution Masters of Cinema#285 - 287 - Region FREE - Blu-ray
Runtime Abashiri Prison (1965): 1:31:00.830
Another Abashiri Prison Story (1965): 1:26:44.198
Abashiri Prison: Saga of Homesickness (1965): 1:28:56.456
Video

2.35:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,568,555,216 bytes

Abashiri Prison: 23,755,474,176 bytes

Another Abashiri Prison Story: 22,695,332,160 bytes

Video Bitrate: 30.52 / 30.61 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

2.35:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 43,459,243,188 bytes

Abashiri Prison: Saga of Homesickness: 30,857,963,520 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.71 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

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

Bitrate Abashiri Prison Blu-ray:

Bitrate Another Abashiri Prison Story Blu-ray:

Bitrate Abashiri Prison: Saga of Homesickness Blu-ray:

Audio

LPCM Audio Japanese 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Commentaries:

Dolby Digital Audio English 320 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 320 kbps / DN -31dB

Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio:
Masters of Cinema

 

Edition Details:

Brand new audio commentary tracks by Tom Mes, Chris Poggiali and Mike Leeder & Arne Venema
Tony Rayns on Abashiri Prison – brand new interview with critic and Asian cinema expert Tony Rayns (30:41)
Brand new video appreciation by Jasper Sharp and Mark Schilling (29:26)
Trailers (2:45 / 2:50 / 2:21)

9

PLUS: A collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Mark Schilling
Limited edition O-card slipcase featuring new artwork by Tony Stella


Blu-ray
Release Date: June 17th, 2024
Transparent
Blu-ray Case inside slipcase

Chapters 9 / 8 / 9

 

 

Comments:

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

ADDITION: Masters of Cinema Blu-ray (June 2024): Masters of Cinema have transferred the first three films of the Abashiri Prison Series to Blu-ray; Teruo Ishii's 1965 Abashiri Prison (aka "Abashiri bangaichi",) Another Abashiri Prison Story (aka "Zoku Abashiri bangaichi"), and the third (of eighteen in total) 1965's Abashiri Prison: Saga of Homesickness (aka "Abashiri bangaichi: Bōkyō hen") They are cited as being from "restorations of the original film elements supplied by Toei." These are spread over two dual-layered Blu-rays. The 1080P image quality is not as crisp as the simultaneously released The Valiant Red Peony Blu-ray package, reviewed HERE. These show more texture but have infrequent inconsistencies - usually of a short duration but are noticeable. Abashiri Prison is fully in black and white and looks quite strong with a pleasing heavy appearance. The lesser of the three films, Another Abashiri Prison Story, has interiors that look quite green. Abashiri Prison: Saga of Homesickness has inherent softness and a couple of lapses in visual quality (see samples below.) Overall I was quite pleased with my viewings. You get used to the thick image in no time - love the widescreen.

NOTE: We have added 112 more large resolution Blu-ray captures (in lossless PNG format) for DVDBeaver Patrons HERE

On their Blu-rays, Masters of Cinema use linear PCM mono tracks (24-bit) in the original Japanese language. There is machismo confrontations from yelling voices to physical attacks - punches, swords etc.. The score for all three films is credited to a Japanese jazz pianist (who started out covering Thelonious Monk tunes) named Masao Yagi (Inferno of Torture, Yakuza Law, An Actor's Revenge, Orgies of Edo) plus there are songs in the films by the star; Abashiri bangaichi and Otoko no uramachi performed by Ken Takakura. Dialogue is reasonably consistent via the uncompressed transfer. Masters of Cinema offer optional English subtitles on their two Region FREE Blu-rays

The Masters of Cinema Blu-rays offer a new commentary for each of the three films. For Abashiri Prison the commentary is by Tom Mes (The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film.) He talks about Ken Takakura becoming a huge star because of this film, how it was initial shown in a double bill - as the 'B' feature - giving proof of the pioneering popularity of Yakuza genre films in early 1965. He remarks on Kōji Tsuruta (Samurai Trilogy, Sympathy for the Underdog) being a bigger star than Takakura at the time, that Abashiri Prison is a turning punt in many ways and praises the restoration, and that the first film was not as big a hit as any of the sequels. The most iconic film in the series is almost the least successful (critically acclaim at the time.) For Another Abashiri Prison Story the commentary is by Chris Poggiali (These Fists Break Bricks: How Kung Fu Movies Swept America and Changed the World.) He discuses the cast and their other films, Hajime Itō, the author of the novel Abashiri Bangaichi (Abashiri Prison,) director Teruo Ishii and much more. For Abashiri Prison: Saga of Homesickness the commentary was by Mike Leeder (editor of 100% Jackie Chan: The Essential Companion) and Arne Venema. They mention the alternative titles of the film; Abashiri Prison 3, Duel on the Wharf etc.., they address the 'black face' used in the film, compare Ken Takakura to Andy Lau, why the bar in the folk was called The "Holland Inn", actor Hideo Sunazuka (Blind Woman's Curse), the films family themes and much more. We also get a brand new 1/2 hour interview with Tony Rayns on Abashiri Prison where the critic and Asian cinema expert talks about how Japan did film series differently from the West, mentioning the Yoji Yamad's Tora-San group of films. He talks about the early Yakuza genre and Toei Studios, the Hokkaido prefecture location for some of the films in the series - it's western-genre parallels, the director Teruo Ishii - it's very informative. Included is a brand new 1/2 hour video appreciation by Jasper Sharp (author of the Historical Dictionary of Japanese Cinema and Behind the Pink Curtain: The Complete History of Japanese Sex Cinema) and Mark Schilling - author of The Yakuza Movie Book. They talk about this being the first time the series has been released on video in the West, they share details of the productions, actor Kanjūrō Arashi, The Defiant Ones connection and plenty more. It is filled with edifying content. There are also original trailers for each film. The package offers a limited edition O-card slipcase featuring new artwork by Tony Stella and a collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Mark Schilling.    

Masters of Cinema's Abashiri Prison Series on Blu-ray is quite a landmark. I am wondering if we will get more of the iconic series released on Blu-ray since Toei are now supplying their restorations. The films are very machismo and Ken Takakura is a charismatic cool customer navigating the Yakuza terrain. There is talk of the first film, Abashiri Prison, being a remake of Stanley Kramer's The Defiant Ones from 1958, although the only connection is two escaped prisoner's interactions when fleeing and being handcuffed/ chained together. At best director, re-writer director Teruo Ishii may have been considering an homage. I was entertained - more by the first and third entries and am curious about more from the series. There is a lot of value here in Masters of Cinema's double Blu-ray package; a commentary for each film, astute Tony Rayns, plus an informative appreciation and a booklet. Recommended.

Gary Tooze

 


Menus / Extras

 

Blu-ray 2


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

 

Abashiri Prison (aka "Abashiri bangaichi")

 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


Another Abashiri Prison Story (aka "Zoku Abashiri bangaichi")

 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


Abashiri Prison: Saga of Homesickness (aka "Abashiri bangaichi: Bōkyō hen")

 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


Drop in quality (32 minutes and 34 minutes) of Abashiri Prison: Saga of Homesickness

 

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More full resolution (1920 X 1080) Blu-ray Captures for DVDBeaver Patreon Supporters HERE

 

Abashiri Prison (aka "Abashiri bangaichi")

 

 

Another Abashiri Prison Story (aka "Zoku Abashiri bangaichi")

 

Abashiri Prison: Saga of Homesickness (aka "Abashiri bangaichi: Bōkyō hen")

 

 
Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

  

Bonus Captures:

Distribution Masters of Cinema#285 - 287 - Region FREE - Blu-ray


 


 

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