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Nikkatsu Noir

 

I Am Waiting (1957)           Rusty Knife (1958)

Take Aim at the Police Van (1960)

Cruel Gun Story (1964)             A Colt Is My Passport (1967)

 

From the late 1950s through the sixties, wild, idiosyncratic crime movies were the brutal and boisterous business of Nikkatsu, the oldest film studio in Japan. In an effort to attract youthful audiences growing increasingly accustomed to American and French big-screen imports, Nikkatsu began producing action potboilers (mukokuseki akushun, or “borderless action”) that incorporated elements of the western, comedy, gangster, and teen-rebel genres. This bruised and bloody collection represents a standout cross section of what Nikkatsu had to offer, from such prominent, stylistically daring directors as Seijun Suzuki, Toshio Masuda, and Takashi Nomura.

 


Titles

 

 


 

I Am Waiting
Koreyoshi Kurahara, 1957
In Koreyoshi Kurahara’s directorial debut, rebel matinee idol Yujiro Ishihara stars as a restaurant manager and former boxer who saves a beautiful, suicidal club hostess (Mie Kitahara) trying to escape the clutches of her gangster employer.

Rusty Knife
Toshio Masuda, 1958
In Toshio Masuda’s smash Rusty Knife, Yujiro Ishihara and fellow top Nikkatsu star Akira Kobayashi play former hoodlums trying to leave behind a life of crime, but their past comes back to haunt them when the authorities seek them out as murder witnesses.

Take Aim at the Police Van
Seijun Suzuki, 1960
At the beginning of Seijun Suzuki’s taut and twisty whodunit, a prison truck is attacked and a convict inside is murdered. The penitentiary warden on duty, Daijiro (Michitaro Mizushima), is accused of negligence and suspended, only to take it upon himself to track down the killers.

Cruel Gun Story
Takumi Furukawa, 1964
Fresh out of the slammer, Togawa (Branded to Kill’s Joe Shishido) has no chance to go straight because he is immediately coerced by a wealthy mob boss into organizing the heist of an armored car carrying racetrack receipts.

A Colt Is My Passport
Takashi Nomura, 1967
One of Japanese cinema’s supreme emulations of American noir, Takashi Nomura’s A Colt Is My Passport is a down-and-dirty but gorgeously photographed yakuza film starring Joe Shishido as a hard-boiled hit man caught between rival gangs.

Posters

Theatrical Releases: 1957 - 1967

  DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Eclipse Series 17 from the Criterion Collection (5-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC

 

 

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution Eclipse / Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC
Time: Respectively - 1:30:45, 1:30:18, 1:18:57, 1:26:36 and 1:24:33
Bitrate: I Am Waiting
Bitrate: Rusty Knife
Bitrate: Take Aim at the Police Van
Bitrate: Cruel Gun Story
Bitrate: A Colt Is My Passport
Audio Japanese (original mono)
Subtitles English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Eclipse / Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
All Original Aspect Ratios - 1.33 for I am Waiting and 2.35:1 the rest

Edition Details:

  •  one page (for each film) of liner notes in the transparent case


DVD Release Date: August 25th, 2009

5 Slim Transparent Keep Cases inside a Slipcase cardboard box
Chapters: 15, 14, 14, 14, 15

 

Comments:

NOTE: The 5 main features of this boxset are housed in individual slim transparent keep cases (see images above and below) they are not sold separately at this time. These NTSC editions can only be obtained in Criterion's Eclipse Series 17 package at present.

All five DVDs are single-layered and only the 1.33:1 I Am Waiting, and to a lesser degree; A Colt Is My Passport (1967), are pictureboxed transferred (see our full description of 'pictureboxing' in our Kind Hearts and Coronets review). Each are coded for Region 1 in the NTSC standard. The transfers are progressive and, aside from I Am Waiting, in the anamorphically enhanced 2.35 aspect ratio.

NOTE: For the picture-boxed transfers we have left the black borders in our screen captures to see the extent - around the entire frame for I Am Waiting and the side edges for A Colt Is My Passport. You can see for yourself on the latter transfer it is not extensive, but does exist. 

The sound is original Japanese mono but dialogue is clear and quite audible - I noted a couple of instances of minor hiss, but overall it is supporting the films well. There are optional English subtitles (font samples below).

Bitrates are reasonable ranging from from 5.38 MPS to 6.15 MPS.

Aside from one page liner notes for each film (visible on the inner case sleeve through the transparent case cover) or a 4-page leaflet for I Am Waiting, there are no supplements.

I don't believe that any of the 5 of these films have been previously available on DVD. 

On the image -  quality is surprisingly strong for single-layered transfers with only I Am Waiting showing light, digitally repaired, vertical scratches or frame specific speckles. Rusty Knife also looks a bit faded. There is some minor flickering contrast but these are all watchable and they improve in quality the younger the films are with A Colt Is My Passport looking the best (and probably my favorite of the five) - or it could be the film's sexy cinematography. Suzuki's Take Aim at the Police Van can be a bit hazy with some noticeable noise but is certainly watchable. It's the only film that I thought may have benefited strongly from dual-layering - but, as you can see, contrast dramatically improves from the first 2.

I would say the Mission Statement description on the back of the boxset continues to be very accurate in the case of Nikkatsu Noir: "Eclipse is a selection of lost, forgotten, or overshadowed classics in simple, affordable editions. Each series is a brief cinematheque retrospective for the adventurous home viewer." Personally, I had not seen any of these films before. Suzuki junkies should be very happy - even beyond his sole offering.

I was very impressed with the package as a whole and I just LOVED these films. I couldn't wait to get to the next one. The nebulous noir-moniker could easily be used as there are so many instances of recognizable obtuse camera conventions with dockside and small bar locales - crime, fog, prison, molls and late night shadows. God, I love it. In fact it is much more 'noirish' link than I was anticipating. This package is VERY cool and I envy you for being able to partake it in for the first time. For those keen on Japanese cinema or film noir in general - this is an essential purchase. It's fabulous and I give it our highest recommendation. This may be my favorite Eclipse Series boxset to date!     

Gary W. Tooze




DVD Menus



Slim Transparent Keep Case Cover

 

 

 

Screen Captures

 

I Am Waiting (1957) aka Ore wa matteru ze

 

Directed by Koreyoshi Kurahara

 

 

 

 

 

 


Slim Transparent Keep Case Cover

 

 

 

Screen Captures

 

Rusty Knife (1958) aka Sabita naifu

 

Directed by Toshio Masuda

 

 

 

 

 


Slim Transparent Keep Case Cover

 

 

 

Screen Captures

 

Take Aim at the Police Van (1960)  aka Jsang taihi-sen ori: Sono gsh o nerae

 

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/suzuki.htm

 

 

 

 

 


Slim Transparent Keep Case Cover

 

 

 

Screen Captures

 

Cruel Gun Story (1964) aka Kenju zankoku monogatari

 

Directed by Takumi Furukawa

 

 

 

 

 

 


Slim Transparent Keep Case Cover

 

 

 

Screen Captures

 

A Colt Is My Passport (1967) aka Koruto wa ore no pasupoto

 

Directed by Takashi Nomura
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

 

 

Distribution Eclipse / Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC




 

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Gary Tooze

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