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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Gate of Hell aka Jigokumon [Blu-ray]

 

(Teinosuke Kinugasa, 1953)

 

Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray LEFT vs. Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

   

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Daiei Studios

Video: Eureka - Masters of Cinema - Spine #40 / Criterion Collection - Spine # 653

 

Disc:

Region: 'B'-locked Region 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:29:05.381 / 1:29:27.403

Disc Size: 25,764,867,670 bytes / 21,989,079,848 bytes

Feature Size: 25,696,260,096 bytes / 21,731,137,536 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps / 28.58 Mbps

Chapters: 13 / 16

Case: Standard Blu-ray case / Transparent Blu-ray Case

Release date: December 3rd, 2012 / April 9th, 2013

 

Video: (both)

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio Japanese 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

LPCM Audio Japanese 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles: (both)

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

24-PAGE BOOKLET containing a new essay by critic Philip Kemp; vintage writing about the film by Carl Theodor Dreyer; and rare archival imagery

Liner Notes with an Essay by film historian Stephen Prince

 

Bitrate:

Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Description: One of the key works of the early 1950s wave of Japanese films to first reach foreign markets, director Kinugasa’s sumptuous period drama astonished audiences with its dramatic force and spectacular colour cinematography.

During feudal unrest in the 12th century, samurai warrior Morit˘ (Kazuo Hasegawa) manages to thwart a palace rebellion and save the life of the empress, using loyal subject Lady Kesa (Machiko Ky˘) as a decoy. When Morit˘ is offered anything he should desire as reward, he requests Kesa’s hand in marriage. Informed that she is already married to a fellow samurai (Isao Yamagata), he refuses to withdraw his request, setting in motion a tragic chain of events.

Three decades after the director’s iconic A Page of Madness, Kinugasa’s striking tale of feudal intrigue, political machinations, and erotic obsession won the Grand Prix at Cannes, two Academy Awards for Best Foreign-Language Film and Costume Design, and has since been named by Martin Scorsese as one of the ten greatest colour achievements in world cinema. Gate of Hell’s blazing palette is proudly presented afresh by The Masters of Cinema Series in a magnificent new restoration, available for the very first time for home viewing in the UK.

 

 

The Film:

Originally released as Jigokumen, Gate of Hell was one of the most popular Japanese imports of the 1954-55 American film season. Set in 12th-century feudal Japan, the film stars Kazuo Hasegawa as Moritoh, a samurai whose courage in defending his ruler is to be rewarded with anything he desires. He desires the beautiful, aristocratic Lady Kesa Machiko Kyo who happens to be already married to another samurai, Wataru (Isao Yamagata). Moritoh attempts to persuade Kesa to leave her husband but her devotion is unshakeable. The winner of two Academy Awards and a Cannes grand prize, Gate of Hell is perhaps the most dazzling example of Japanese color photography of the 1950s. The film was based on a well-known play by Kan Kikuchi.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

Teinosuke Kinugasa's exquisitely shaded tale of 12th-century Japan and a warrior's desire for a married noblewoman, winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes and a special Academy Award in 1954. The film's delicately choreographed battles, its use of texture and color, and its grace of movement and composition mark it as one of those rare Japanese films that survive despite overinterpretation. With Machiko Kyo and Kazuo Hasegawa.

Excerpt from Don Drucker at The Chicago Reader located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

It's rare to see such dazzling colors - not just on a Japanese film of the 50's - but anywhere in the Blu-ray universe. This is from a recent restoration and seems wonderfully true to the source in 1080P from The Masters of Cinema arm of Eureka Cinema in the UK.  The image quality shows a fine layer of grain and colors are bright and vibrant - hypnotic and very painterly. It is neither glossy nor pristinely sharp but shows some depth and I would guess the 1.33:1 aspect ratio 1080P transfer is a rich replication of the theatrical appearance some 60-years hence. This Blu-ray has a huge appeal for the lush visuals - refreshing for its eye-candy qualities. Highly impressive.

This is obviously from the same restoration and while the Masters of Cinema transfer has as a technical edge - my eyes were straining to see it. I think it is probably there if the image is projected to a large screen, but other wise the, slightly darker, Criterion looks as beautiful as its UK counterpart.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

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Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Audio :

A basic, but authentic, linear PCM 2.0 channel in original Japanese at 1536 kbps. Masters of Cinema provide this uncompressed track with modest depth but the film is notable for the subtleties than the aggressive action. There is some violence but even a perfect audio would have trouble competing from the attention of impressive colors. It sounds pretty clean and crisp to me. Yasushi Akutagawa's score is in keeping with the historical era - never becoming noticeably complex or overpowering the narrative. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.

My ears were not able to detect the differences - the Criterion is linear PCM 1.0 channel (mono). The subtitle translation is slightly different but this didn't alter the presentation in any way I could discern. The Criterion is Region 'A'-locked.

 

Extras :

Nothing digital but the package contains one of MoC's wonderful liner notes booklets, 24-pages, containing a new essay by critic Philip Kemp, vintage writing about the film by Carl Theodor Dreyer and rare archival imagery.

Criterion have some liner notes (which I have not seen yet) with an essay by film historian Stephen Prince.

 

Masters of Cinema - Region 'B' - Blu-ray LEFT vs. Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Gate of Hell is a very special film - even beyond the sumptuous colors and beautiful cinematography. This is an intelligent, historical, period piece (slightly referencing Shakespeare's The Rape of Lucrece) that is certainly deserved of the new format. I think this was an excellent choice for MoC to release on Blu-ray. This is a must-own for Japanese cinema fans and will make a great demo experience in most Home theaters. Gate of Hell is more like a painting than any film I have seen in years. Make it a part of your digital library.

Brilliant, and surprisingly also bare-bones (in terms of digital supplements), release. Region 'A'-locked audiences should be so pleased to be able to own this now. We give it a strong recommendation! 

Gary Tooze

November 27th, 2012

March 20th, 2013

   

 

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 3500 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.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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