(Norifumi Suzuki - 1975, 1980)
S E A R C H D V D B e a v e r
H D - S E N S E I
A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze
(Norifumi Suzuki - 1975, 1980)
Production: Toei Tokyo
Digital: Bci / Eclipse
Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)
Runtime: 1:26:52.457 / 1:57:01.514
Disc Size: 22,100,364,150 bytes
Feature Size: 9,344,028,672 bytes / 12,132,716,544 bytes
Video Bitrate: 13.19 Mbps / 12.69 Mbps
Chapters: 15 / 15
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: January 8th, 2008
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-2 AVC Video
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Japanese 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Killing Machine (Shorinji Kempo) Sonny Chiba stars as Doshin So, a martial arts master who returns from the second World War after serving as an undercover spy. Upon his return, he finds that his family's land has been stolen. Doshin must take back the town from a group of black marketers and rebuild his life. 1975 - NR - 85 min. - Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1) - In Japanese with English subtitles and English dubbed Audio track.
Shogun's Ninja (Ninja Bugeicho Momochi Sandayu) Hideyoshi, a power hungry warlord, sends his war commander to the Momochi fort to destroy its clan and to obtain its hidden gold. Two daggers tell where the hidden gold is located. One is in the possession of the head of the Momochi family, but who has the other. Wild fight choreography and action ensue. 1981 - NR - 117 min. - Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1) - In Japanese with English Subtitles and English Audio track Starring Hiroyuki Sanada, Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba, Asao Koike, Etsuko Shihomi and Tetsuro Tamba. Directed by Norifumi Suzuki
Image: NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
Like Sister Street Fighter I + II BCI/Eclipse have put two martial arts films on one side of a single-layered Blu-ray. This is entitled a "Sonny Chiba Double Feature".
Henrik and I actually compared two SD-DVD versions of (The) Killing Machine HERE and yes, the Blu-ray transfers improves upon that, with its 1080P resolution, however it is still an MPEG-2 video encode. My image quality complaints are similar to Sister Street Fighter I + II - there is some digital noise and the print used has, mostly unnoticeable, marks and light scratches. Fans may appreciate the occasional cue-blip. As a positive the image quality does improve quite a lot as the film runs along and grain is evident. The Killing Machine never really exhibits a great deal of sharpness but that is more in the way it was originally shot. Colors are not significantly bright and contrast wavers a bit. Taking away the magnifying glass of criticism... it is quite watchable and the improved image does give it more of a 'theatrical' feel. I kinda like having this on Blu-ray as I get a kick out of watching the film every once in a while. It is fairly quintessential of the genre.
Shogun's Ninja definitely looks the superior of the two in this double feature. I don't have an SD of it to compare but it improves upon The Killing Machine in most areas - colors are brighter, the print is cleaner, digital noise is decreased and, (probably not due to the transfer) detail is sharper. Most enjoyable about this particular martial arts film is the use of the widescreen frame to isolate characters for a greater dramatic effect. Daylight sequences are bright while contrast has raised itself to an acceptable level - it is also fairly clean with only some single-frame blemishes. The biggest visual flaw is the noise but after that only rears its ugly head in darker scenes with extensive monochromatic areas. Despite the single-layering and MPEG-2 encode this has a tendency to look fairly impressive - more akin to a very strong DVD transfer.
Audio and Subtitles:
No lossless audio here. Both films offer the same options; 2.0 channel (original?) Japanese tracks and English DUBs (also 2.0 channel). I don't usually test the DUBs for reviews (excepting to note they exist - I always prefer the original audio if possible) but I did on both these and it raises the films nostalgia in a sort of What's Up Tiger Lilly kind-of-way. Both audio track on both films where flat and clear - I never need to touch the volume control as levels were quite consistent. Both films are supported by the same, poor visual quality optional English subtitles. The font (thick white with black border - see sample included above for Shogun's Ninja). My Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.
I should note that Pop-up Menus are available on the fly as they are with most modern Blu-rays.
BOTTOM LINE: BCI/Eclipse have gone the way of the Dodo bird and this disc is out-of-print everywhere - although available from some 3rd parties on Amazon. Fans ofKilling Machine might consider this upgrade - or for those invested in Blu-ray that are keen on Chiba or the genre. Shogun's Ninja looks quite good. Purchasers should be prepared though that although these look quite strong vs. SD they are obviously behind modern film Blu-ray transfers. The films themselves are probably a notch above typical examples of the genre although they maintain all the enjoyable stylistic features and genre aura. These are compatible features as they both star Chiba (one as the hero and the other a villain) as well as Etsuko Shihomi (Sister Street Fighter fame) and are both directed by Noribumi Suzuki. If you are in the mood it's a good double bill.
Revisited November 2010