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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto" or "Miyamoto Musashi" or "The Legend of Musashi" or "Master Swordsman" or "Samurai" )

directed by Hiroshi Inagaki
Japan 1954

Miyamoto Musashi was the greatest samurai and swordsman in the history of Japan. Originally born in 1584, he ran away from home, age 13 ,to join fight at the battle of Sekigahara, then drifted around until he began studying Zen, which in terms lead to him devoting the rest of his life perfecting his two-sword style. He had 16 official duels, many fought with the bukken (the wooden sword), and his lifework was the book “Gorin no Sho” (book of five rings), a treatise on bushido and Zen.

In 1954 two Musashi films were made. One by Toei, the first of six, where Musashi was portrayed as a wild rebel, an opportunist and rapist, another by Toho, first of three, where Musashi was depicted as a rebel without a cause, finding one in Zen and becoming a noble samurai. Where Musashi in real life was quiet a rebel, dressing as a peasant, using the bukken rather than the katana, history is more interested in telling the story of a wild animal transformed to the noblest of creatures thru Zen and bushido. Legend simply is more fascinating that reality.

In this, the first of the Toho films, we follow Musashi from when he runs away to join the battle of Sekigahara. Deserting, he and his friend, Matahachi, find shelter with a widow and her daughter, who seduces Matahachi and eventually leads him astray. Musashi returns to his home, but Matahachi’s mother has turned everyone against him, so he is captured and treated like a criminal. Escaping, he is finally given the option to study bushido and Zen. The film ends with Musashi asking his love, Otsu, to give him up, to consider him dead, because his path is different than the one she is walking.

Alone it is rather abrupt, as it is the first of three and it really cannot be seen on its own, but as a whole, this trilogy represents some of the finest studio work Toho ever has made. This the first is perhaps the weakest of the three. It spends a lot of time introducing characters, especially Musashi, Matahachi and Otsu, and it sets up strings of fate which the later films will play upon.

What strikes one first is Toshiro Mifune as Musashi. Where most only are familiar with his superb acting thru the films of Akira Kurosawa, his role as Musashi is some of this finest work. Mifune has this amazing ability to range from raging animal to humble samurai.

One also cannot avoid to notice the stunning cinematography. Again, this is the weakest in cinematography. A lot of shots are outdoors, as we deal with first Sekigahara, then the peasant house, then later on Musashi’s escape into the mountains, but later on, as the films begin to explore its characters, it picks up. The use of especially medium shots vs. long shots are beautiful, and at times the use of colours and medium shots remind me of Douglas Sirk.

 

Henrik Sylow

Theatrical Release: September 26, 1954

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Comparison:

Crash Cinema - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Criterion Collection - Region 0 - NTSC vs. ArtsMagic - Region 2 - PAL vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Big thanks to Ole Kofoed and Henrik Sylow for all the DVD Screen Caps!

 

1) Crash Cinema - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT

2) Criterion Collection - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) ArtsMagic - Region 2 - PAL - THIRD

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

 

Box Covers

 

 

 

You may also buy the Three Samurai films (Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto, Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple, Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island) in a Criterion Boxset - saving over purchasing individually.

               

Distribution Crash Cinema
Region 0 - NTSC

Criterion Collection Spine #14

Region 0 - NTSC

ArtsMagic
Region 2 - PAL
Criterion Collection - Spine #14 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:33:17 1:34:10 1:33:26 1:33:49.665
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.10 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.3 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.95 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 45,891,434,527 bytes

Feature: 20,521,697,280 bytes

Video Bitrate: 25.49 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

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

Bitrate:

Crash

Bitrate:

Criterion Collection

 

Bitrate:

 

ArtsMagic

 

Bitrate:

Blu-ray

 

Audio 2.0 Dolby Digital Japanese Monaural 1.0 Dolby Digital Japanese Monaural

2.0 MPEG Japanese Monaural

LPCM Audio Japanese 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Subtitles English (non-removable) English, None English (non-removable) English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Crash Cinema

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Japanese Sword Making Technique - Japanese with subs. (17:39).
• Box-Set with Samurai I-III

DVD Release Date: May 18, 2004
3-DVD Keepcase with outer sleeve.
Chapters 9

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• 4 page insert
• Original Japanese Trailer (2:50)

DVD Release Date: July 21, 1998 (Reissue: May 18, 2004)
Amarey

Chapters 34
 

Release Information:
Studio: ArtsMagic

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Trailers:
• Samurai 1 (2:25)
• Samurai 2 (1:47)
• Samurai 3 (1:34)
• Red Lion (2:00)
• Ambush at Blood Pass (1:46)
• Zatoichi the Outlaw (1:31)
• Biographies for Hiroshi and Mifune
• Cast gallery
• Artwork for Babycart Assasin, Zatoichi and Lady Snowblood
• Notes of Musashi's 'Book of 5 rings': Introduction and The Ground Book

 

DVD Release Date: May 21, 2001
Keep Case

Chapters 10

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• New interviews with translator and historian William Scott Wilson about the real-life Musashi Miyamoto, the inspiration for the hero of the films

• On Musashi Miyamoto Part 1 (8:37)
• Trailers
• PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by film historian Stephen Prince and Wilson

Blu-ray Release Date: June 17th, 2012
Transparent Blu-ray Case

Chapters 20

Comments

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

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray (June 2012): I'll make the same comments for all three - 1954’s Oscar-winning Musashi Miyamoto, 1955’s Duel at Ichijoji Temple, and 1956’s Duel at Ganryu Island on Criterion Blu-ray look tremendous. You only need to view the screen captures to see the huge difference and superiority over the green video-like SD-DVD versions. It makes them look unwatchable. Grain, detail, colors - what a triumph. Parts one and two are on the first, a dual-layered, Blu-ray and part three is one a second disc single-layered  Blu-ray. The audio goes via a linear PCM and the uncompressed monaural soundtracks sound superb if not dynamic. Supplements offer interviews with translator and historian William Scott Wilson about the real-life Musashi Miyamoto, the inspiration for the hero of the films and a trailer for each film plus a booklet featuring essays by film historian Stephen Prince and Wilson. Incredibly impressive all-round and it was like seeing the film from scratch - the transfer was that good. Bravo to Criterion - a rousing thumbs up. Don't miss these masterpieces in 1080P!

Gary Tooze

***

ADDITION - Crash Cinema (July -04) - this is from the 'The First Samurai: Book of Five Rings Collection' DVD set of all Three films of the trilogy. Not much worth saying - pretty poor from Crash Cinema all round. Hazy, burned-in subtitles. I've put a capture from the "How to make make a sword" featurette as the last capture on the page. It's also in bad shape. All this does is make the Criterion look better.

***

Criterion has a nice enough picture, but suffers from edge enhancement. I do not consider it as bad as many say it is, but it does lack in quality. The sound is pretty bad, audible scratches and in desperate need for a remastering.

Next to it the ArtsMagic looks horribly bad. Colours are faded and bloom, there are edge enhancement halo’s and it simply is way below acceptable norms for DVD. I have a long play copy of the Criterion laserdisc and it looks about the same. The bitrate curve, the mpeg audio and the general poor condition suggests that this is a direct copy for a VHS source.

Really curious is, that the trailer is of superior quality to the film, both on the Criterion and ArtsMagic. Especially the Criterion trailer looks "flawless".

 - Henrik Sylow


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

Tokyo Story

by Yasujiro Ozu, Kogo Noda, Donald Richie, Eric Klestadt

Ozu by Donald Richie

A Hundred Years of Japanese Film by Donald Richie

Check out more in "The Library"


Menus

(Crash Cinema - Region 0 - NTSC LEFT vs. Criterion Collection - Region 0 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. ArtsMagic - Region 2 - PAL - RIGHT)
 

 
 

Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 


 

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

 

Subtitle Sample

 

1) Crash Cinema - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Criterion Collection - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) ArtsMagic - Region 2 - PAL - THIRD

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

 

 


Screen Captures

 

1) Crash Cinema - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Criterion Collection - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) ArtsMagic - Region 2 - PAL - THIRD

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

 

 


 

 

1) Crash Cinema - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Criterion Collection - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) ArtsMagic - Region 2 - PAL - THIRD

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

 

 


 

1) Crash Cinema - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Criterion Collection - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) ArtsMagic - Region 2 - PAL - THIRD

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

 

 


 

 

1) Crash Cinema - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Criterion Collection - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) ArtsMagic - Region 2 - PAL - THIRD

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

 

 


 

1) Crash Cinema - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Criterion Collection - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) ArtsMagic - Region 2 - PAL - THIRD

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

 

 


 

The only extra in 'The First Samurai: Book of Five Rings Collection' - How to Make a Sword

 

 

 

 


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Report Card:

 

Image:

Blu-ray

Sound:

Blu-ray

Extras:

Blu-ray

 

Box Covers

 

 

 

You may also buy the Three Samurai films (Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto, Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple, Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island) in a Criterion Boxset - saving over purchasing individually.

               

Distribution Crash Cinema
Region 0 - NTSC

Criterion Collection Spine #14

Region 0 - NTSC

ArtsMagic
Region 2 - PAL
Criterion Collection - Spine #14 - Region 'A' - Blu-ray



 

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Gary Tooze

Many Thanks...