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H D - S E N S E I

A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Death By Hanging aka "KŰshikei" [Blu-ray]


(Nagisa ‘shima, 1968)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Sozosha

Video: Criterion Collection Spine #798



Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:58:12.085

Disc Size: 47,196,868,568 bytes

Feature Size: 34,864,048,128 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.19 Mbps

Chapters: 23

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: February 16th, 2016



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

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



• New interview with critic Tony Rayns (30:17)
New high-definition digital transfer of director Nagisa Oshima’s 1965 experimental short documentary Diary of Yunbogi (24:33)
Trailer (4:09)
PLUS: An essay by critic Howard Hampton and a 1968 director’s statement by Oshima






Description: Genius provocateur Nagisa Oshima, an influential figure in the Japanese New Wave of the 1960s, made one of his most startling political statements with the compelling pitch-black satire Death by Hanging. In this macabre farce, a Korean man is sentenced to death in Japan but survives his execution, sending the authorities into a panic about what to do next. At once disturbing and oddly amusing, Oshima’s constantly surprising film is a subversive and surreal indictment of both capital punishment and the treatment of Korean immigrants in his country.



The Film:

All of Oshima's films deal in a challenging and committed way with specifically Japanese questions and problems. Death by Hanging is an 'absurd' comedy about the situation of Korean immigrants in Japan, centering on a state execution that goes wrong, mounted as a sort of witty Brechtian argument.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

It begins as if it were going to be a solemn documentary about the horrors of capital punishment. We see the prison buildings in a long shot from the air. The narrator describes the death house as looking like any other ordinary house, situated on a small hill, and we cut to the interior of the execution building.

The narrator tells us that the walls are salmon pink (the film is in black and white) and notes that it has toilet facilities only for men. He invites us to watch a typical execution, which is when things go awry. Quite wildly. The heart of the victim, a young Korean convicted of two rape-murders, refuses to stop beating after the hanging. The execution team panics.

Excerpt from Vincent Canby located HERE


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

Death by Hanging looks authentically heavy on dual-layered Blu-ray (max'ed out bitrate) from Criterion.  The image is flat with contrast marginally improving as the film runs on.  It is never crisp or glossy. It is in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio but the film's unusual framing always seems suspect with odd, occasional head-chopping, compositions. There is only sporadic depth and a few frame-specific scratches (see sample below.) This Blu-ray image is no demo for your system but seems a pleasing representation getting the most out of the source utilized.






















Light Scratch



Audio :

Passive but accurate audio in the form of a linear PCM mono track (24-bit) in Japanese. No notable effects but the score by composer Hikaru Hayashi (Voice Without a Shadow, Onibaba, Kuroneko, The Naked Island) is well supported by the uncompressed transfer. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' disc.


Extras :

Criterion add some supplements; a new 1/2 hour interview with critic Tony Rayns who discusses Death By Hanging and its continued social relevance. There is also a new, 25-minute, high-definition digital transfer of director Nagisa Oshima’s 1965 experimental short documentary Diary of Yunbogi where he investigates Japanese-Korean relations with a heartrending portrait of an impoverished South Korean boy. There is also a trailer and the package has a line notes booklet with an essay by critic Howard Hampton and a 1968 director’s statement by Oshima.



Nagisa ‘shima films are challenging. Death by Hanging is no exception. It seems to skirt across genres - infusing bold social and political statements. This is another of the director's unique films and a wonderful choice for Criterion to release on Blu-ray. The package offers a solid 1080P presentation with relevant extras. Definitely a film to revisit. Strongly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

January 18th, 2016


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.

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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