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(aka 'Kaidan" or "Ghost Stories" or "Ghost Story" or "Hoichi the Earless" or "Kwaidan" or "Weird Tales")

directed by Masaki Kobayashi
Japan 1964

Winner of the Special Jury Prize at Cannes, Kwaidan features four nightmarish tales adapted from Lafcadio Hearn's classic Japanese ghost stories. For this lavish, 'scope production, Kobayashi drew extensively on his own training as a student of painting and the fine arts. Indeed, the breadth of the film's poetic expression is unmatched in all of Japanese cinema: breathtakingly photographed on handpainted sets, the film is at once a miniature writ large, and an abstract wash of luminescent colors that seem to hail from another world. On the soundtrack, an electronic score by avant-garde composer Toru Takemitsu plays hauntingly with the natural sounds — crickets, rain, the cracking of wood, the loud silence of snow. This interaction of the film's plastic and aural textures with the simple, aching humanity of Hearn's tales serves to accentuate the power of the storytelling: four episodes about mortals caught up in forces beyond their comprehension — when the supernatural world intervenes in their lives. Perhaps the definitive adaptation of Hearn's work, Kwaidan also presents the author's most emblematic tale — "Hoichi, the Earless", in which a blind young monk journeys every night to an abandoned graveyard, compelled by the ghosts of a famous battle to retell their story, over and over again...

Starring Tatsuya Nakadai (Yojimbo, The Face of Another, Harakiri), this new Masters of Cinema complete print of Kwaidan — incorporating 21 minutes of footage never before released to Western audiences — also includes the uncut version of "The Snow Maiden", in which a woodcutter marries a woman whose true calling is to wander enveloped in swirling snowflakes, bringing death to mortals. The episode marks the apotheosis of the film's eerie atmosphere — anticipating, and arguably surpassing, Japanese cinema's recent excursions in the realm of "J-horror". Over forty years on, Kobayashi's film remains an unparalleled achievement.

 

Posters

Theatrical Release: December 24th, 1964 - Tokyo

Reviews                                                                                More Reviews                                                                         DVD Reviews

 

Comparison:

AV Channel - Region 4 - PAL vs. Criterion - Region 1- NTSC vs. Eureka (Masters of Cinema # 29) - Region 2 - NTSC vs. Criterion Collection  Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

1) AV Channel - Region 4 - PAL LEFT

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC SECOND

3) Eureka (Masters of Cinema # 29) - Region 2 - NTSC THIRD

4) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

Box Covers

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Distribution AV Channel - (Madmen) Region 4 - PAL Criterion Collection - Spine # 90 - Region 1- NTSC Eureka - Masters of Cinema #29 - Region 2 - NTSC Criterion Collection - Spine #90 - Region 'A' Blu-ray
Runtime 2:55:18 (4% PAL speedup) 2:41:15 3:03:22 3:03:15.985
Video 2.48:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.28 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
2.28:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.25 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
2.48:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: ? mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

2.4:1 / 1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 48,093,047,521 bytes

Feature: 39,700,365,312 bytes

Video Bitrate: 25.00 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Bitrate Criterion Blu-ray

Audio Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Dolby) Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Dolby)  Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Dolby) 

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

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

Subtitles English, None English, None English, None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: AV Channel

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 2.48:1

Edition Details:

• Theatrical trailer (3:56)
• Production Gallery

• Madman Trailers

DVD Release Date: March 13th, 2006

Keep Case
Chapters: 7 + 7 + 10 + 4 = 28

 

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 2.28:1

Edition Details:

• Theatrical trailer (3:56)
• 6 page liner notes with photos 

DVD Release Date: October 10th, 2000

Keep Case
Chapters: 28

Release Information:
Studio: Eureka Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 2.48:1

Edition Details:

• Promotional material gallery

• 72-page illustrated book with reprints of Lafcadio Hearn's original ghost stories; a survey of the life and career of Masaki Kobayashi by Linda Hoaglund; and a wide-ranging interview with the filmmaker — the last he ever gave

DVD Release Date: May 22nd, 2006

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 28

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1

1080P / 23.976 fps Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 47,424,327,502 bytes

Feature: 22,658,537,472 bytes

Video Bitrate: 27.49 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Edition Details:

• New audio commentary by film historian Stephen Prince
• Interview with Kobayashi from 1993, conducted by filmmaker Masahiro Shinoda (15:15 in japanese with Eng subs)
• New interview with assistant director Kiyoshi Ogasawara (21:41)
• New piece about author Lafcadio Hearn, on whose versions of Japanese folktales Kwaidan is based (17:16)
• B+W Trailer (1:07), 2 Color trailers (1:25 + 3:58)
• PLUS: An essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien

Blu-ray Release Date: October 20th, 2015
Transparent Keep case

Chapters: 31

 

 

 

Comments:

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

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray September 15': This is cited as being a 'new 2K digital restoration of director Masaki Kobayashi’s original cut'. It is in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio and looks stunning in-motion. I can appreciate that it maintains the film's natural thickness and colors are all richer and deeper via the 1080P. There are so many color shifts and filters used in the film we must presume that this Blu-ray is the accurate representation. It looks exceptional at times... justice for such a beautiful film!

Criterion use a linear PCM (24-bit) in the original mono. There are effects - the natural elements - but the score by T˘ru Takemitsu (Rikyu, Shohei Imamura's Black Rain, Hiroshi Teshigahara's Antonio GaudÝ, Kurosawa's Dodes'ka-den etc. etc.) is a big part of the presentation. It sounds exquisite - even in the flat mono. Wonderful. There are optional English subtitles on the region 'A'-locked disc.

There is a new audio commentary by film historian Stephen Prince - I have only sampled it trying to get the review out while the Criterion sale is still offered. He is one of the more professional commentators and he seems to fill the 3 hours with plenty of knowledge for what I skimmed through. We get a 15-minute interview with Kobayashi from 1993, conducted by filmmaker Masahiro Shinoda (in Japanese with Eng. subs) shot for the Director's Guild of Japan. They discuss the making of the film. There are new interviews - a 21-minute one with assistant director Kiyoshi Ogasawara where he reflects on working with director Masaki Kobayashi and the original 183-minute version of the film. There is a new 17-minute piece about author Lafcadio Hearn, on whose versions of Japanese folktales Kwaidan is based. he played a crucial role in popularizing Japanese folklore for Western audiences. Four of his tories provide the basis for Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan. In this piece made by Criterion in 2015 English literature scholar Christopher Benfey, editor of Lafcadio Hearn: American writings profiles Hearn. There are trailer (a black and white one and two in color) and the package contains a liner notes booklet with an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien.

Kwaidan is an unforgettable film experience. A must-own in 1080P. As with Mulholland Dr. my advice would be PRE-ORDER (you have 1 day left) and accrue the 44% savings from Amazon. 

 

***

ADDITION: AV Channel - Region 4 - PAL - May 2006: The Australian release looks very good - the colors are very much on par with the Eureka confirming our suspicions of how far the Criterion has been manipulated. Good news is that it is also the long version, but bad news are the (awful) yellow subtitles and it has PAL speedup for those who are sensitive to it. The AV Channel is slightly less vibrant - marginally paler and it may be minutely sharper than the Eureka but it is negligible and I would still go for the Masters of Cinema edition for the superior subtitles and extras (72-page liner notes).  

 

***

 

ADDITION: Eureka - MoC (April 06'): As well as being two different films with the addition of the missing 20 odd minutes from the Criterion - the new Eureka DVD's colors are dramatically different at times. Pictures will speak louder than words here and the Criterion has had manipulations marring the original colors to a totally unique state. On top of that the Criterion is severely cropped on all edges... and, as already stated, is the shorter version. Masters of Cinema have proven themselves again and there really is no contest here. This is a film I ALWAYS wanted in a sterling transfer, and the complete edition - and now thanks to Eureka I can have it.

***

This is not Criterions best disc by a long shot. The anamorphic image has a thick border (not maximizing the available horizontal resolution), there are many instances of scratches running down the screen, I found the subtitles uncharacteristically bloated and if I am not mistaken there was mention to me of another Kwaidan version (Japanese?) that looked quite stunning in comparison. This film, unfortunately, relies heavily upon its glorious and often haunting and dark imagery - and you want as detailed a picture with superb black levels as possible. Now by any other DVD production companies standards this is not that bad, and lets take into account the DVD was made way back in 2000. The extras are only a trailer and some interesting liner notes about the film's history. All-in-all I would have expected better from Criterion.  out of    

Gary W. Tooze

 


Menus

 

AV Channel - Region 4 - PAL

 



(Criterion - Region 1- NTSC LEFT vs. Eureka (Masters of Cinema # 29) - Region 2 - NTSC RIGHT)

Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

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

 

Scene absent from the Criterion DVD edition

 

1) AV Channel - Region 4 - PAL TOP

2) Eureka (Masters of Cinema # 29) - Region 2 - NTSC MIDDLE

3) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


Subtitle Sample

 

1) AV Channel - Region 4 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC SECOND

3) Eureka (Masters of Cinema # 29) - Region 2 - NTSC THIRD

4) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

Screen Captures

 

1) AV Channel - Region 4 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC SECOND

3) Eureka (Masters of Cinema # 29) - Region 2 - NTSC THIRD

4) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) AV Channel - Region 4 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC SECOND

3) Eureka (Masters of Cinema # 29) - Region 2 - NTSC THIRD

4) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) AV Channel - Region 4 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC SECOND

3) Eureka (Masters of Cinema # 29) - Region 2 - NTSC THIRD

4) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) AV Channel - Region 4 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC SECOND

3) Eureka (Masters of Cinema # 29) - Region 2 - NTSC THIRD

4) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


1) AV Channel - Region 4 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC SECOND

3) Eureka (Masters of Cinema # 29) - Region 2 - NTSC THIRD

4) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

1) AV Channel - Region 4 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC SECOND

3) Eureka (Masters of Cinema # 29) - Region 2 - NTSC THIRD

4) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

1) AV Channel - Region 4 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC SECOND

3) Eureka (Masters of Cinema # 29) - Region 2 - NTSC THIRD

4) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

1) AV Channel - Region 4 - PAL TOP

2) Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC SECOND

3) Eureka (Masters of Cinema # 29) - Region 2 - NTSC THIRD

4) Criterion Collection - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 


Suggested Reading  (CLICK COVERS or TITLES for more information)

Check out more in "The Library"


Report Card

 

Image:

Blu-ray

Sound:

Blu-ray

Extras: Blu-ray

 

 

Box Covers

Thinking of buying from YesAsia? CLICK HERE and use THIS UPDATED BEAVER PAGE to source their very best...

 

  

Distribution AV Channel - (Madmen) Region 4 - PAL Criterion Collection - Spine # 90 - Region 1- NTSC Eureka - Masters of Cinema #29 - Region 2 - NTSC Criterion Collection - Spine #90 - Region 'A' Blu-ray

 



 

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Gary Tooze