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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "Onibaba" or "The Demon, "Devil Woman" or " The Hole" or "The Ogress" or "The Witch" )

directed by Kaneto Shindō
Japan 1964

Deep within the wind-swept marshes of war-torn medieval Japan, an impoverished mother and her daughter-in-law eke out a lonely, desperate existence. Forced to murder lost samurai and sell their belongings for grain, they dump the corpses down a deep, dark hole and live off of their meager spoils. When a bedraggled neighbor returns from the skirmishes, lust, jealousy, and rage threaten to destroy the trio’s tenuous existence, before an ominous, ill-gotten demon mask seals the trio’s horrifying fate. Driven by primal emotions, dark eroticism, a frenzied score by Hikaru Hayashi, and stunning images both lyrical and macabre, Kaneto Shindo’s chilling folktale Onibaba is a singular cinematic experience.

****

Kaneto Shindo, one of Japan's most prolific directors, received his biggest international success with the release of Onibaba in 1964. Its depiction of violence and graphic sexuality was unprecedented at the time of release. Shindo managed — through his own production company Kindai Eiga Kyokai — to bypass the strict, self-regulated Japanese film industry and pave the way for such films as Yasuzo Masumura's Mojuu (1969) and Nagisa Oshima's Ai no corrida (1976).

Onibaba is set during a brutal period in history, a Japan ravaged by civil war between rivaling shogunates. Weary from combat, samurai are drawn towards the seven-foot high susuki grass fields to hide and rest themselves, whereupon they are ambushed and murdered by a ruthless mother (Nobuko Otowa) and daughter-in-law (Jitsuko Yoshimura) team. The women throw the samurai bodies into a pit, and barter their armour and weapons for food. When Hachi (Kei Sato), a neighbour returning from the wars, brings bad news, he threatens the women's partnership.

Erotically charged and steeped in the symbolism and superstition of its Buddhist and Shinto roots, Kaneto Shindo's Onibaba is in part a modern parable on consumerism, a study of the destructiveness of sexual desire and — filmed within a claustrophobic sea of grass — one of the most striking and unique films of the last century, winning Kiyomi Kuroda the Blue Ribbon Award for Cinematography in 1965. The memorably frenetic drumming soundtrack was scored by long-time Shindo collaborator Hikaru Hayashi.

Posters

Theatrical Release: February 4th, 1964

Reviews                            More Reviews                             DVD Reviews

Comparison:

Eureka - Region 2 - PAL vs. Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Asmik - Region 2 - NTSC vs. Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

Big thanks to Mark Wilson of NicheFlix for Asmik Screen Captures!

1) Eureka - MOC - Region 2 - PAL LEFT

2) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Asmik Ace - Region 2 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Masters of Cinema - Spine #55 Region 'B' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

Box Covers

 

 

    

 

Distribution

Eureka Masters of Cinema

Region 2 - PAL

Criterion Collection - Spine # 226-  

Region 0 - NTSC

Pioneer  / Asmik Ace

Region 2 - NTSC

Masters of Cinema - Spine #55

Region 'B' - Blu-ray

Runtime 1:38:42 (4% PAL Speed-up) 1:42:36 1:42:18  1:42:29.143
Video

2.35:1  Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 7.65 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

2.35:1  Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.2 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s 

2.35:1.00  Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.37 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 37,119,544,355 bytes

Feature: 30,997,276,032 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

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

Bitrate:

Eureka

 

Bitrate:

Criterion

 

Bitrate:

 

Asmik Ace

 

Bitrate: Blu-ray

Audio Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono) Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono) 

Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)

LPCM Audio Japanese 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
Commentary: LPCM Audio Japanese 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
Subtitles English, None English, None English, Japanese and none English, None (and English for commentary)
Features Release Information:
Studio: Eureka Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Special Features

• Full-length director's audio commentary by director Kaneto Shindo and the stars of the film, Kei Sato, and Jitsuko Yoshimura (in Japanese with removable subtitles)
• Video introduction by Alex Cox
• 8mm footage (40-minutes) shot on location by lead actor Kei Sato
• Original trailer
• Production stills and promotional art gallery
• 24-page booklet with a new essay by Doug Cummings, an English translation of the original short Buddhist fable that inspired the film and a statement from writer/director Kaneto Shindo about why he made Onibaba

DVD Release Date: August 22nd, 2005

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters:
12

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Special Features

• New video interview with writer/director Kaneto Shindo
• Rare super-8 black & white and color footage provided by actor Kei Sato, shot on location during the filming of Onibaba
• Original trailer
• Stills gallery featuring production sketches and promotional art
• Rare English translation of the original short Buddhist fable that inspired the film
• Filmmaker’s statement from writer/director Kaneto Shindo

DVD Release Date: March 16th, 2004

Keep Case
Chapters: 21

Release Information:
Studio: Asmik Ace (Japan) / Kindai Eiga Kyokai Ltd

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen letterbox - 2.35:1



Edition Details:

  • Audio commentary
  • Documentary (40:00)
  • Trailer
  • Picture gallery

NOTE: Extras do not have English subtitles.

The 40-minute documentary is priceless! a mixture of color and b&w 8-mm footage from the making of the movie - it's silent, so, no subs needed. Incredible footage!!

DVD Release Date:10 / 08 / 2001
Keep Case
Chapters: 18

Release Information:
Studio: Eureka Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 2.35:1

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 37,119,544,355 bytes

Feature: 30,997,276,032 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Special Features
• Full-length director's audio commentary by director Kaneto Shindo and the stars of the film, Kei Sato, and Jitsuko Yoshimura (in Japanese with removable subtitles)
• Video introduction by Alex Cox (6:19)
• 8mm footage (40-minutes) shot on location by lead actor Kei Sato (38:02)
• Original trailer (2:20)
• 24-page booklet with essay by Doug Cummings, an English translation of the original short Buddhist fable that inspired the film and a statement from writer/director Kaneto Shindo about why he made Onibaba

Blu-ray Release Date:
February 25th, 2013
Transparent
Blu-ray Case
Chapters:
12

Comments:

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

 

ADDITION: Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray (February 2013): Sweet! What a great film to have in 1080P. Onibaba is so brilliantly shot some of the sequences are ravishng via Masters of Cinema's dual-layered Blu-ray. The scope effect seems maximized and the only negative I could state would be some minor background blocky-looking issues but they are very few and far between. This coincides with a flatness and waxiness that I, in no way, found detrimental. The layered contrast brightens the overall visuals and darkens the black levels. It also brings up detail. I thoroughly enjoyed the HD presentation - it accentuated the atmosphere which is such an integral part of the Onibaba film experience.

 

The linear PCM audio at 1536 kbps benefits the wild Hikaru Hayashi score. The lossless rendering ratchets up the depth a full notch. It sounds quite impressive. There are optional English subtitles on the region 'B'-locked Blu-ray.

 

The supplements are duplicated from the 2005 MoC DVD with the commentary, Alex Cox intro, booklet but we lose the superfluous 'art gallery'.

 

Onibaba is an amazing film to have in 1080P and despite some minor, perceived, digitization issues - I thoroughly enjoyed the Blu-ray experience. It should blow away most film fans with its a/v. Recommended!      

***

ADDITION: Eureka - Region 2 - PAL (August 2005): I will try to be brief as I feel I could talk about these three release enough to fill 3 of these web pages. Bottom line: the Eureka is the one to own, it, like the Asmik, is sharper than the Criterion and has better subtitle translations than the Asmik. It also boasts the best extras with a Full-length director's audio commentary by director Kaneto Shindo and the stars of the film, Kei Sato, and Jitsuko Yoshimura (in Japanese with removable subtitles), 8mm footage (40-minutes) shot on location by lead actor Kei Sato and a 24-page booklet with a new essay by Doug Cummings, an English translation of the original short Buddhist fable that inspired the film and a statement from writer/director Kaneto Shindo about why he made Onibaba.

***

It appears in direct comparison to the Asmik Ace DVD that the Criterion has some cropping on both edges (especially the left) as well as the top. The Asmik image is marginally sharper than the Criterion which is darker, although I think the differences are acceptably negligible in image quality - the cropping keeps the Asmik in the lead. The Criterion wins the Extras only as they have English subtitles. This is a pick'em, but true image purists will want to get the Asmik Ace - fans of the film may want the Criterion for the Extras.

 - Gary W. Tooze


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

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Menus

(Eureka - MOC - Region 2 - PAL)

 



(Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Asmik Ace - Region 2 - NTSC - RIGHT)


 

Masters of Cinema - Spine #55 Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 


 

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

 

Subtitle Samples

 

1) Eureka - MOC - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Asmik Ace - Region 2 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Masters of Cinema - Spine #55 Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM


 

Eureka - MOC - Director Commentary subtitles DVD TOP / Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


Screen Captures

1) Eureka - MOC - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Asmik Ace - Region 2 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Masters of Cinema - Spine #55 Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) Eureka - MOC - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Asmik Ace - Region 2 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Masters of Cinema - Spine #55 Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Eureka - MOC - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Asmik Ace - Region 2 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Masters of Cinema - Spine #55 Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) Eureka - MOC - Region 2 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - SECOND

3) Asmik Ace - Region 2 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Masters of Cinema - Spine #55 Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

More Blu-ray Captures


Hit Counter


Report Card:

 

Image:

Blu-ray

Sound:

Blu-ray

Extras:

Blu-ray (for commentary)

 

Box Covers

 

 

    

 

Distribution

Eureka Masters of Cinema

Region 2 - PAL

Criterion Collection - Spine # 226-  

Region 0 - NTSC

Pioneer  / Asmik Ace

Region 2 - NTSC

Masters of Cinema - Spine #55

Region 'B' - Blu-ray




 

 

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Many Thanks...

o Shindō Criterion