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Eclipse 23: The First Films Of Akira Kurosawa

 

Sanshiro Sugata (1943)      The Most Beautiful (1944)

  

Sanshiro Sugata Part Two (1945)        The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail (1945)

 

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

 

Years before Akira Kurosawa changed the face of cinema with such iconic works as Rashomon, Seven Samurai, and Yojimbo, he made his start in the Japanese film industry with four popular and exceptional works, created as World War II raged. All gripping dramas, those rare first films—Sanshiro Sugata; The Most Beautiful; Sanshiro Sugata, Part Two; and The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail—are collected here and include a two-part martial arts saga, a portrait of female volunteers helping the war effort, and a kabuki-derived tale of deception. These captivating films are a glorious introduction to a peerless career.

Titles

 

 


 

Sanshiro Sugata - Kurosawa’s effortless debut is a thrilling martial arts action tale, but it’s also a moving story of moral education that’s quintessential Kurosawa.

The Most Beautiful - This portrait of female volunteer workers at an optics plant during World War II, shot on location at the Nippon Kogaku factory, was created with a patriotic agenda. Yet it anticipates the aesthetics of Japanese cinema’s postwar social realism.

Sanshiro Sugata, Part Two - Kurosawa’s first film was such a success that the studio leaned on the director to make a sequel. The result is a hugely entertaining adventure, reuniting most of the major players from the original.

The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail - The fourth film from Akira Kurosawa is based on a legendary twelfth-century incident in which the lord Yoshitsune and a group of samurai retainers dressed as monks in order to pass through a dangerous enemy checkpoint.. 

DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Eclipse 23: The First Films of Akira Kurosawa from the Criterion Collection (4-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC

 

 

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution Eclipse / Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC
Audio Japanese (original mono)
Subtitles English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Eclipse / Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
All Original Aspect Ratios - 1.33:1

Edition Details:

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


DVD Release Date:
August 3rd, 2010
4 Slim Transparent Keep Cases inside a Slipcase cardboard box

 

Comments:

NOTE: The 4 main features of this boxset are housed in individual slim transparent keep cases (see image above) they are not sold separately, by Criterion, at this time. These particular NTSC editions can only be obtained in Criterion's Eclipse Series 23 package or their AK 100: 25 Films of Akira Kurosawa boxset reviewed HERE.

All 4 DVD are single-layered and are are progressive in their original 1.33 aspect ratios.

The sound is original mono - in fact the transfers are the exact same (duplicate bitrates) as found in the AK 100: 25 Films of Akira Kurosawa boxset - so the brief comments posted below for that package's discs are still valid. We've compared a frame Sanshiro Sugata.

Aside from one page liner notes for each film (visible on the inner case sleeve through the transparent case cover) there are no supplements.

This is probably more for hardcore Kurosawa fans. Depending on what you already have of the director on DVD - I'd probably recommend the AK 100 Boxset HERE as you also get the magnificent book that is included but it is nice to have these in individual, click-closeable, cases.

Gary W. Tooze

 

DVD menus

 


 

Sanshiro Sugata (1943) aka 'Judo Saga'

 

Directed by Akira Kurosawa
 
Akira Kurosawa’s dazzling debut as a director is about the rivalry between judo and jujitsu, and it concerns the moral education and enlightenment of Sanshiro, played by Susumu Fujita.

 

Title and Poster

 

Runtime 1:18:44 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.14 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.

Bitrate:

Comments: Single-layered. Progressive. Region 1. NTSC. 1.33 aspect ratio. Monaural. 11 Chapters with color bars.

Plenty of scratches and is hazy but has serviceable, if imperfect, audio.  Still - quite watchable and probably the best it has looked on DVD. The transfer is superior to the Madman which is interlaced and from an unconverted NTSC transfer on a PAL encoded disc.

 

Screen capture Samples
 
(Madman - Region 4 - PAL reviewed HERE TOP vs. AK 100  - Region 1 - NTSC BOTTOM)
 

 

 

 


 

The Most Beautiful  (1944) aka Ichiban utsukushiku

 

Directed by Akira Kurosawa
 
Akira Kurosawa’s patriotic World War II morale booster focuses on a volunteer corps of women working at an optics factory to produce lenses for binoculars and targeting scopes, and was shot on location at the Nippon Kogaku factory in Hiratsuka.

 

Title and Poster

 

Runtime 1:25:09 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.58 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.

Bitrate:

Comments: Single-layered. Progressive. Region 1. NTSC. 1.33 aspect ratio. Monaural. 16 Chapters with color bars.

A bit tighter than Sansuro Sugato 1 but light damage still exists.  Contrast is not stellar but is okay - all things considered. Very watchable - probably the best it will look without an extensive restoration.

Amusingly starts with these:

 

Screen capture Samples
 

 

 

 


 

 Sanshiro Sugata Part Two (1945) aka 'Zoku Sugata Sanshiro'

 

 

Directed by Akira Kurosawa
 
This sequel to Akira Kurosawa’s first film, which Kurosawa was compelled to make under studio pressure, reunites most of the principal cast members from the original.

 

Title and Poster

 

Runtime 1:21:48 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.92 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.

Bitrate:

Comments: Single-layered. Progressive. Region 1. NTSC. 1.33 aspect ratio. monaural. 12 Chapters with color bars.

Worst looking transfer of the boxset. Lots of flickering contrast. Missing some frames (jumps) in beginning. Very damaged (see last cap).  At times barely watchable - requires extensive restoration. Some parts are okay - others severely limited. Great to see the film though and probably the best looking DVD of this one available.

 

Screen capture Samples
 

 

 

 


 

The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail (1945) aka Tora no o wo fumu otokotachi

 

Directed by Akira Kurosawa
 
The story of Kurosawa’s The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail derives from Noh and Kabuki plays depicting a famous twelfth-century incident in which the lord Yoshitsune and a small group of samurai cross enemy territory disguised as monks and must persuade border guards to let them through.

 

Title and Poster

 

Runtime 0:59:06 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 8.8 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.

Bitrate:

Comments: Single-layered. Progressive. Region 1. NTSC. 1.33 aspect ratio. Monaural. 10 chapters with color bars.

Artifacts but far superior to any of the other earlier films. Grain is apparent and contrast is quite strong - surprising detail is close-ups. This looks quite impressive considering the age and it's a hell of a film.

 

Screen capture Samples
 

 

 


DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

 

 

Distribution Eclipse / Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC

 

AK 100 - Criterion Collection (25-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC

 

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

Distribution Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC
Audio Japanese (original)
Subtitles English, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
All Original Aspect Ratios

Edition Details:

  •  Illustrated book featuring an introduction and notes on each of the films by Stephen Prince (The Warrior’s Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa) and a remembrance by Donald Richie (The Films of Akira Kurosawa).


DVD Release Date: December 8th, 2009

Bookstyle flap cardboard case


 




 

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Gary Tooze

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