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(aka 'Kuroneko" or "Yabu no naka no kuroneko' or 'Black Cat from the Grove')

directed by Kaneto Shindō
Japan 1968

 

In this poetic and atmospheric horror fable, set in a village in war-torn medieval Japan, a malevolent spirit has been ripping out the throats of itinerant samurai. When a military hero is sent to dispatch the unseen force, he finds that he must struggle with his own personal demons as well. From Kaneto Shindo, director of the terror classic Onibaba, Kuroneko (Black Cat) is a spectacularly eerie twilight tale with a shocking feminist angle, evoked through ghostly special effects and exquisite cinematography.

***

Kaneto Shindo's Kuroneko — released to great acclaim in 1968 — is a sparse, atmospheric horror story, ascribing to the director's philosophy of using beauty and purity to evoke emotion. Eccentric and more overtly supernatural than its breakthrough companion piece, Onibaba (1964), Kuroneko revisits similar themes to reveal a haunting meditation on duty, conformity, and love.

In this magnificently eerie and romantic film — loosely based on the Japanese folktale The Cat's Return — a mother and daughter-in-law (Nobuko Otowa & Kiwako Taichi) are raped and murdered by pillagers, but return from the dead as vampiric cat spirits intent on revenge. As the ghosts lure soldiers into the bamboo groves, a fearless samurai, Gintoki (Kichiemon Nakamura), is sent to stop their reign of terror.

Kuroneko remains a standout film of the kaidan eiga genre of period ghost stories often based on old legends or kabuki plays. Marking Shindo's first use of wire work as Yone and Shige battle against samurai blades, the film is subtly complimented by Kiyomi Kuroda's award-winning chiaroscuro cinematography, Hikaru Hayashi's vibrant score, and riveting performances from many of the greatest actors of Japan's Golden Age of film.

 

Theatrical Release: February 24th, 1968 - Tokyo

Reviews        More Reviews         DVD Reviews

Comparison:

Eureka - Region 2 - PAL vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 2 - PAL - LEFT

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

Box Cover

   

Distribution Eureka Video - Masters of Cinema # 14 - Region 2 - PAL Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray  Spine # 584

Masters of Cinema - Spine #56

Region 'B' - Blu-ray

Runtime 1:34:27  1:39:41.016 1:39:21.413
Video 2.30:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.49 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,014,576,934 bytes

Feature: 29,191,790,592 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 34.97 Mbps

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 29,662,568,568 bytes

Feature: 29,108,358,720 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

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

Bitrate:

Bitrate: Criterion Blu-ray

Bitrate: MoC Blu-ray

Audio Japanese (Dolby Digital 1.0)  LPCM Audio Japanese 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit LPCM Audio Japanese 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Subtitles English, None English, None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Eureka Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 2.30:1

Edition Details:

• Production stills gallery using Toho promotional material
• 24-page booklet with a new essay by Doug Cummings, and a reprint of a vintage interview with Shindo by Joan Mellen

DVD Release Date: August 22nd, 2005

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 13

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion Collection

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,014,576,934 bytes

Feature: 29,191,790,592 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 34.97 Mbps

Edition Details:

• Video interview with director Kaneto Shindo from the Directors Guild of Japan (1:00;28 in 1080i)
• New video interview with critic Tadao Sato (16:57 in 1080i)
• Theatrical trailer (2:27 in 1080P)
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Maitland McDonagh and an excerpt from film scholar Joan Mellen’s 1972 interview with Shindo

Blu-ray Release Date: October 16th, 2011
Transparent Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 37  

Release Information:
Studio: Eureka Video

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 29,662,568,568 bytes

Feature: 29,108,358,720 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Edition Details:

• Theatrical Trailer (2:28)
• 32-PAGE BOOKLET with an essay by Doug Cummings; a 1972 interview with Shindō conducted by Joan Mellen; and rare archival imagery.

Blu-ray Release Date: June 24th, 2013
Transparent Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 13

 

Comments:

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

ADDITION: Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray (June 2013): Wildly different 1080P image quality with, obviously, two different sources. It was very hard to be sure I had exact frame captures and the two ladies applauding is the only one I am totally confident. The Masters of Cinema is much darker, thicker and, like the DVD, has a shade more information in the frame. Both are dual-layered with a strong bitrate. It will come down to personal preference as I have no idea which is more theatrically accurate. IMO, there are many scenes where the grittier, and darker, UK transfer better suits the macabre atmosphere of the film.

I notice no difference between the Criterion and MoC lossless sound - both in linear PCM mono and both have optional English subtitles. The Masters of Cinema is code-locked to region 'B'.

Criterion have the superior extras - MoC lose the production still but keep the liner notes and add a theatrical trailer. The film is significantly more haunting via the MoC presentation - or maybe I am just getting more spooked each time I see it. Recommended!    

***

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - September 11': The new Criterion 1080P transfer has superior contrast to the MoC DVD.  Whites are brighter and black levels are deeper. Detail improves but there is some loss of information - notably on the side edges. The dual-layered Blu-ray has some pleasing grain and occasional depth. It provides an impressive presentation.

Criterion, predictably remain true to the source with a linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps. I didn't do any direct comparisons but can trust the clean and clear Criterion advances modestly with their lossless audio. There are optional English subtitles on the region 'A'-locked Blu-ray disc.

The Criterion extras include an hour-long interview with director Kaneto Shindo conducted for the Directors Guild of Japan in April of 1998 by Shindo's former assistant, director Seijiro Koyama. In it Shindo discusses his diverse body of work - it is presented in 1080i in Japanese with English subtitles. There is also another interview, conducted by Criterion in 2011 with renowned Japanese-film critic Tadao Sato who offers his insights on the cinematic accomplishments and cultural significance of Kuroneko. There is also a theatrical trailer (2:27 in 1080P) and liner notes booklet featuring an essay by film critic Maitland McDonagh and an excerpt from film scholar Joan Mellen’s 1972 interview with Shindo.

This is such a cool horror and the best I have seen of the genre in a classical Japanese setting. I can easily state that the new Criterion Blu-ray provided me a riveting and chilling presentation - regardless of seeing the film on at least two occasions previously. Perfect - and strongly recommended! 

***

Another wonderful Japanese film from the past brought to us by Eureka's Master of Cinema series. I see no digital flaws in this progressive and anamorphic SD image whatsoever. The film itself has a few unfocused  shots at times and the DVD translates that accurately. Removable subtitles are excellent and extras include a valuable liner notes booklet by Doug Cummings. This is a great companion piece with the Onibaba DVD and we strongly recommend both.  

Gary W. Tooze

 


 Menus

 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 2 - PAL - LEFT

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

 

 

 

 

Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 


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

 

Subtitle Sample

 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

Screen Captures

 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 


 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Masters of Cinema - Region 2 - PAL - TOP

2) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 

1) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

Box Cover

   

Distribution Eureka Video - Masters of Cinema # 14 - Region 2 - PAL Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray  Spine # 584

Masters of Cinema - Spine #56

Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 





 

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