(aka 'Shussho Iwai' or 'Prison Release Celebration' or 'The Wolves')

Directed by Hideo Gosha
Japan 1971


Product Description: At the dawn of the Showa Era, the new Emperor has granted amnesty to almost 400 prisoners. One of those men, Seiji (Nakadai), formally a henchmen for one of Japan's toughest gangs, must now cope with the fact that his former boss is dead and the power shift has created new conspiracies.


Hideo Gosha is virtually unknown in the West, and The Wolves doesn't show up in any film guide I'm aware of, but it's a yakuza movie in a class of its own, a stunningly realised thriller about a gangster (Nakadai, the singularly intense actor from Kagemusha and Ran) whose early release from jail precipitates further bloodshed even as he endeavours to prove his absolute loyalty by fending off a gang war. Set in late 1920s Japan, in the wake of a general pardon of prisoners, The Wolves is reminiscent of Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest, a novel which has also been linked to Kurosawa's Yojimbo, Leone's A Fistful of Dollars and the Coens' Miller's Crossing. This melancholic, hard-boiled, and utterly gripping movie belongs in that company. Gosha's muscular, Expressionist colour imagery blazes through the screen.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE


Theatrical Release: October 30th, 1979

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DVD Review: Animeigo - Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution Animeigo - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 2:10:44 
Video 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.51 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

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


Audio Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0) - choice or restored or original 
Subtitles English, (all, dialogue only or captions only), None

Release Information:
Studio: Animeigo

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Edition Details:

• Notes (Cast + Crew, Yakuza, The Railway, Program Notes)
• Image Galleries (Black + White, Color, Movie Poster)
• Interactive Map
• Credits

• Trailers (original theatrical and another Gosha film - The Geisha)

DVD Release Date: September 2nd, 200
Keep Case
Chapters: 18



Interesting film - and the Animeigo dual-layered transfer seems competent. There is some background noise and artifacts but I can live with both as they are not impinging-ly focal in standard viewing although dark scenes can show it like a wavering sea of fine-grain that is not particularly flattering to the appearance... in my opinion. Colors can look strong at times and dull in others. Detail shows acceptable sharpness in close-ups but is not a highlight of the transfer. It's anamorphic in the impressive 2.35 scope ratio and the standard DVD is rendered progressively. It is coded for region 1 in the NTSC standard.  I believe the image has some restoration (as the audio has!) and is fairly clean without notable scratches or damage. Overall, I'd say the appearance is not stellar but considering the clandestine history of the film and Japan's often poor record of film storage, plus its age (35+ years) and fans might well be content with what they see - just don't expect anything stunning or brilliant.

The audio option gives a statement that sounds like what was supplied to Animeigo was not premium (or perhaps is the only one is existence). You are given an option to hear the original (with some prevalent analog hiss throughout) or a 'restored track' where digital processing has damped it to some degree. Both are 2.0 channel and it defaults to the restored. I sampled the 'original' and definitely the 'restored' is superior but imperfect still even though it can sound buoyant at times for an expectantly flat sound. Subtitles also give an option that I don't recall seeing before. You can listen to it with captions, or just the dialogue - OR just the captions (?!?!). I don't know who'd like the latter but it's there if you ever require it.    

As far as supplements go - it's a bit like a blowfish trying to puff up and represent more than truly exists. In actuality it is quite limited with some static screen notes (cast + crew, Yakuza, the railway, program notes) - there is some good info here but, personally, I'd have preferred it all in some liner notes. Out of ratio images are available in some mini-galleries (black + white, color, and a movie poster). The interactive map is simply one static page - see below- (that I could determine) with a link back to the menu. There are credits two trailers; an original theatrical and one for another Gosha film - The Geisha (1983) with optional English subs (in lime green!)

Animeigo have put some effort in here and it is appreciated - just not as much as may appear on the surface. I'm actually keen to watch this film again in a few weeks as it had some emotional depth that I wasn't really prepared for. The DVD is probably about as good as it is going to get and a spin can be rewarding - despite the occasional weakness of the digital noise. The price seems a bit high but I do believe the film is worth it anyway.

NOTE Gosha's Goyokin is also available on DVD HERE   

Gary W. Tooze


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Distribution Animeigo - Region 1 - NTSC


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