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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "Hebi musume to hakuhatsuma" or "The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch")

 

Directed by Noriaki Yuasa
Japan 1968

 

What do you get when Noriaki Yuasa, director of Daiei Studios’ much-beloved Gamera series, makes a monochrome film adaptation of the works of horror manga pioneer Kazuo Umezu (The Drifting Classroom)? The answer is 1968’s The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch, a fantastically phantasmagorical slice of twisted tokusatsu terror ostensibly made for children that will irreparably traumatize any child that sees it!

A young girl named Sayuri is reunited with her estranged family after years in an orphanage – but trouble lurks within the walls of the large family home. Her mother is an amnesiac after a car accident six months earlier, her sullen sister is confined to the attic and a young housemaid dies inexplicably of a heart attack just before Sayuri arrives… is it all connected to her father’s work studying venomous snakes? And is the fanged, serpentine figure that haunts Sayuri’s dreams the same one spying on her through holes in the wall?

Making its worldwide Blu-ray debut and its home video premiere outside Japan, this rarely-screened, nightmarishly disorienting creepshow not only displays a seldom-seen side of kaiju auteur Yuasa, but its skilful blending of Umezu’s comics (published in English-language markets as Reptilia) arguably anticipates many of the trends seen in J-horror decades later.

***

The film is about a young girl named Sayuri who is reunited with her estranged family after years in an orphanage, but discovers that her homelife involves an amnesiac mother, her sister is confined to the attic and begins to wonder if this is related to her father's experiments with poisonous snakes.

Posters

Theatrical Release: December 14th, 1968

Reviews                                                                                                       More Reviews                                                                                       DVD Reviews

 

Review: Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray

Box Cover

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Bonus Captures:

Distribution Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:21:57.329        
Video

2.39:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 32,233,624,556 bytes

Feature: 24,729,770,112 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.86 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

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

Bitrate Blu-ray:

Audio

DTS-HD Master Audio Japanese 1080 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1080 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit)
Commentary:

LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit

Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio:
Arrow

 

2.39:1 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 32,233,624,556 bytes

Feature: 24,729,770,112 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.86 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:

Brand new commentary by film historian David Kalat
This Charming Woman, a newly filmed interview with manga and folklore scholar Zack Davisson (27:40)
Theatrical trailer (2:08)
I
mage gallery (13)
Reversible sleeve featuring new and original artwork by Mike Lee-Graham
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Raffael Coronelli


Blu-ray Release Date:
September 20th, 2021
Transparent Blu-ray Case

Chapters 13

 

 

Comments:

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

ADDITION: Arrow Blu-ray (September 2021): Arrow have transferred Noriaki Yuasa's The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch to Blu-ray. It is on a dual-layered disc with a max'ed out bitrate. It looks quite good with only minor inconsistencies (one brief abnormally soft sequence.) The source appears to have decent density and the contrast is very adeptly exported, there is fine grain texture and depth. It is at Arrow's usual highly pleasing 1080P quality standard. There are a few minor speckles, but no extensive damage marks. The strong HD presentation will be appreciated for this unique and interesting 60's, black and white, Japanese film. 

NOTE: We have added 50 more large resolution Blu-ray captures (in lossless PNG format) for DVDBeaver Patrons HERE

On their Blu-ray, Arrow use a DTS-HD Master 1.0 channel mono track (24-bit) in the original Japanese language. The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch surprisingly has only a few aggressive moments with less-graphic death, a later house fire, but drama, creepiness and suspense are heightened mostly by the score by Shunsuke Kikuchi (Sister Street Fighter, Gamera vs. Guiron, Snake Woman's Curse and many more) with all sound, and dialogue, coming through authentically flat in the lossless transfer. Arrow offer optional English subtitles on their Region FREE Blu-ray.

The Arrow Blu-ray offers a new commentary by film historian David Kalat (author of J-Horror: The Definitive Guide to The Ring, The Grudge and Beyond.) He discusses the three major traditional horror traditions; classic Japanese ghost stories centered on legends of snake-women, mid-century re-focus on monsters and the sub-genre of J-horror films that arose out of these earlier efforts, he talks about director Noriaki Yuasa and his work on the Gamera series, manga pioneer Kazuo Umezu (he was most influential ever), how this is a female and child oriented film, overlaps to Kabuki theatre, moral lessons exported orally to a non-literate audience, ghost as agents of justice and how The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch doesn't fit into the classic model (being modern, female oriented - lesser misogynist tropes, and doesn't use interaction with the spirit world to resolve injustice), the multiple dream sequences, comparisons to the manga that it is based and the 1971 film Lake of Dracula etc. It is excellent looking at the film in a very academic way. There is also a a newly filmed 1/2 hour interview with manga and folklore scholar Zack Davisson entitled This Charming Woman talking about Japan's Snake girl mythos (fertility symbols), India and China's white snake animal transformations, the snake-daughter series etc.. Like the commentary it is very informative as to the classic historical roots and legends of the The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch story, influences from Universal horror etc.. There is a theatrical trailer and image gallery - the package has a reversible sleeve (see below) featuring new and original artwork by Mike Lee-Graham and for the first pressing there is an illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Raffael Coronelli.

Noriaki Yuasa's The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch is not really a children's film at all, although the innocent and good-natured daughter is the brunt of much of the movie's terror. It has modest, but effective special effects and a well-established, if odd, mystery playing upon a child's fears (including adults.) It worked for me and I would NOT judge this as a comedy as IMDb puts as one of the genres although certainly has some bizarre plot turns. The Kalat commentary really helped me appreciate the film - ditto for the Davisson interview. The Arrow Blu-ray of The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch is a fascinating viewing for cinephiles keen on the Japanese culture and 60's horror from that country. Another great package from Arrow with excellent supplements. Absolutely recommended!

Gary Tooze

 


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Bonus Captures:

Distribution Arrow - Region FREE - Blu-ray


 


 

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