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Three Outlaw Samurai aka Sanbiki no samurai [Blu-ray]
(Hideo Gosha, 1964)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Samurai Productions
Video:Criterion Collection - Spine # 596
Region: 'A' (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 28,468,761,152 bytes
Feature Size: 27,534,047,232 bytes
Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: February 14th, 2012
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
LPCM Audio Japanese 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
English (SDH), none
• Trailer (3:28 in 1080P)
• Liner notes booklet featuring an essay by film critic Bilge Ebir
Description: This first feature by the legendary Hideo Gosha is among the most beloved chanbara (sword-fighting) films. An origin-story offshoot of a Japanese television phenomenon of the same name, Three Outlaw Samurai is a classic in its own right. A wandering, seen-it-all ronin (Tetsuro Tamba) becomes entangled in the dangerous business of two other samurai (Isamu Nagato and Mikijiro Hira), hired to execute a band of peasants who have kidnapped the daughter of a corrupt magistrate. With remarkable storytelling economy and thrilling action scenes, this is an expertly mounted tale of revenge and loyalty.
Although there are extended battles, "Three Outlaw Samurai" doesn't really seem to be an "action movie." There are complicated relationships (more even than in "Yojimbo" or "Seven Samurai") and in the eternal division of plot-driven vs. character-driven, this has to go in the latter category. The mixture of pragmatism, idealism, and swordsmanship of Shiba puts him in the company of the heroes of other "rebel samurai" protagonists from the mid-to-late-1960s, which for me was the golden age of samurai films with complex characters, in many ways paralleling American "adult westerns" of the 1950s and 1960s.Excerpt from Stephen O. Murray at eOpinions located HERE
Reluctant heroes are a storytelling staple. It gives the writer a reason to build the tension, develop the villain slowly, set up a variety of ways that the tale could go, even if you know in your heart of hearts that the direction is pre-ordained. It gives the audience a certain amount of identification with the protagonist, because most of us know that our first reaction to a dangerous situation would probably be "don't get involved". And, when they finally do get involved, the audience knows that the bad guys are in for one heck of an ass-kicking. As the name suggests, this film gives us three reluctant heroes.
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
A lot of times classic Japanese Samurai film sources are compromised by inferior storage methods. However, Criterion's Three Outlaw Samurai from 1964 looks outstanding on Blu-ray. Layered contrasts support fine detail and some impressive depth. While I couldn't identify digital manipulation - I feel Criterion have probably boosted black levels in segments augmenting the print utilized. This produces rich visuals. Regardless, whether they have or have not, this Blu-ray is beautiful. It handles the frequent dark scenes without producing unsightly noise. The overall image is exceptionally clean and I found no flaws at all in my viewing presentation. It might be one of the best looking of the vintage genre that I can recall. I was very pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the video transfer. All good.... no, great.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Criterion remain faithful to the original with a linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps in the Japanese language. There is not an abundance of action in Three Outlaw Samurai but when the aggression does come - there are hints at depth in the uncompressed track. Parts of Toshiaki Tsushima's score may sound a shade tinny but generally handles the high-end adeptly. There are optional English subtitles and like all Criterion Blu-rays to date - my Momitsu has identified it as being region 'A'-locked.
Surprisingly we get very little from Criterion on this title. Just a 3 1/2 minute trailer in 1080P and the package contains a liner notes booklet featuring an essay by film critic Bilge Ebir.
January 14th, 2011
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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