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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Nikkatsu Diamond Guys [Blu-ray]

 

(Seijun Suzuki, 1958 / Toshio Masuda, 1958 / Takeichi Saitô, 1959)

 

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Nikkatsu

Video: Arrow Video

 

Disc:

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

Runtimes: 1:31:45.750 / 1:38:50.925 / 1:17:24.806

Disc Size: 49,610,852,107 bytes

Voice Without a Shadow Size: 15,693,991,488 bytes

Red Pier Size: 16,897,551,552 bytes

The Rambling Guitarist Size: 14,456,171,904 bytes

Video Bitrates: 19.98 Mbps - 22.00 Mbps

Chapters: 12 X 3

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: January 25-26th, 2016

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (2.4 for The Rambling Guitarist)

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio Japanese 768 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 16-bit

 

Subtitles:

English, none

 

Extras:

Specially recorded video discussions with Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp on Diamond Guys Hideaki Nitani (10:21) and Yujiro Ishihara (15:24)
Original trailers for all three films and trailer preview for Diamond Guys Vol. 2 (Tokyo Mighty Guy, Danger Paws and Murder Unincorporated) (11:46)
Extensive promotional image galleries for all three films
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
Booklet featuring new essays on all three films and director profiles by Stuart Galbraith, Tom Mes and Mark Schilling

 

Bitrates:

Voice Without a Shadow

 

 

Red Pier

 

 

The Rambling Guitarist

 

 

Description: Nikkatsu, the oldest film studio in Japan, inaugurated a star system in the late 1950s, finding talent and contracting to their Diamond Line for a series of wild genre pictures. This collection celebrates these Diamond Guys with three classic films from directors Seijun Suzuki (Branded to Kill), Toshio Masuda (Rusty Knife) and Buichi Saito (Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril).

An old hand at tough guy action roles, Hideaki Nitani (Tokyo Drifter, Massacre Gun) stars in Suzuki's Voice Without a Shadow. Asako, a former telephone operator once heard the voice of a murder suspect which has continued to haunt her. Years later her husband invites his boss, Hamazaki, over for dinner and she realises his voice is suspiciously like that of the killer. Before she can investigate further, Hamazaki is found dead and her husband becomes the prime suspect...

Next, 50s subculture icon Yujiro Ishihara (Crazed Fruit) stars in Masuda's Red Pier as Jiro the Lefty , a killer with a natural talent. Shortly after arriving in Kobe, he witnesses a man die in a crane accident which turns out to be a cover-up for a murder. Jiro soon finds himself on the run, tailed by a determined cop...

Finally, in Saito's The Rambling Guitarist, mega star Akira Koabyashi (Battles Without Honour and Humanity) stars as wandering street musician Shinji, who falls in with mob boss Akitsu after saving one of his henchmen in a bar fight. Tasked by Akitsu with evicting an offshore fishery, Shinji finds himself in the middle of a very unusual domestic dispute...

 

 

 

 

The Film:

Voice Without a Shadow
Ishikawa, a newspaper journalist, unexpectedly meets Asako, a woman who used to work for his company some time ago as a phone operator. Three years ago, she accidentally heard the voice of a suspect who committed a still-unresolved homicide.

Excerpt from MUBI located HERE

 

Red Pier
On a pier in Kobe, Sugita gets crushed by a falling crane. The death that seemed like an accident is actually related to drug trafficking. Tominaga Jiro AKA Lefty Gun’s Jiro (Yujiro Ishihara) is at the scene. He has just cleaned up five yakuza guys in Tokyo and is now in Kobe. Sugita’s sister Keiko (Mie Kitahara) arrives from Tokyo and instantly falls in love with Jiro, as detective Noro (Shiro Osaka) watches his every move and warns Keiko to be careful and keep her distance. Jiro’s young protégé pulls the trigger to protect Jiro from a hatchet man.

Excerpt from Nikatsu.com located HERE

The Rambling Guitarist
The 1st film of the famous "Wataridori" (The Rambler) series from Nikkatsu. Enter Shinji Taki, the young rambler with his light-colored guitar. He arrives in Hakodate. Of course he solves the problems in the town while encountering the sinister rival, gunman George.

Excerpt from letterboxed.com located HERE

 

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

Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Vol 1 is simultaneously released on Blu-ray in UK and North America by Arrow.  It stacked in dual-layered territory to house the three films and some supplements. Bitrates are modest at around 20 mbps and there is softness that appears inherent. The 1080P supports the three films in the 2.35:1 frame (2.4 for the color film The Rambling Guitarist). All are shot in:

 

 

There is some minor frame-specific damage (see sample below). Generally, they are very watchable and look similar to others from the studio and era. There is some texture and no bothersome noise. This Blu-ray offers a lot of value and it's easy to accept the less-than-stellar video - as each film appears to be a good replication of the source.

 

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

 

Voice Without a Shadow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Pier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frame-specific damage

 

 

The Rambling Guitarist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Arrow use a linear PCM mono tracks (16-bit) for all 3 films. They are flat with a pinch of depth. There is some sharp aggression but it is fairly modest in terms of being dynamic. The score in Voice Without a Shadow is by notable composer Hikaru Hayashi (Onibaba, Kuroneko, The Naked Island, Death By Hanging). The Rambling Guitarist score is by Taichirô Kosugi plus the guitar pieces Guitar o motta wataridori and Jigoku no killer as, both, sung by Akira Kobayashi. All audio sounds reasonably supportive - occasionally rough-around-the-edges but consistent enough not to make issue. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' + 'B'.

 

Extras :

Extras include a specially recorded video discussions with Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp on 'Diamond Guys' Hideaki Nitani (10:21) and Yujiro Ishihara (15:24). It's quite interesting and revealing - some nice background. There are also original trailers for all three films and trailer preview for Diamond Guys Vol. 2 plus extensive promotional image galleries for all three films with posters, day-bills and more. The package has a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys and a liner notes booklet featuring new essays on all three films and director profiles by Stuart Galbraith, Tom Mes and Mark Schilling.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Vol 1 is a fabulous idea by Arrow. These are such infectious films - following right in the mould of Eclipse's Nikkatsu Noir with its late fifties early sixties crime-dramas by the likes of Suzuki - and we get three of them on one Blu-ray! The a/v quality is more modest but that is reflected in the value - and the sources might not deliver stellar quality without some film-level restoration, regardless. I thoroughly enjoyed Suzuki's Voice Without a Shadow as well as Saitô's The Rambling Guitarist (love to see more of The Rambler!.) Red Pier also had the studios charismatic and identifiable style with frequent dockside and small bar locales. Pretty much a must-own for those keen on this wonderful sub-genre of Japanese cinema. I can't wait for Volume 2! (Tokyo Mighty Guy, Danger Paws and Murder Unincorporated) A very strong recommendation! 

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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