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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Outlaw Gangster VIP: The Complete Collection [Blu-ray]

 

(Toshio Masuda, 1968 / Keiichi Ozawa, 1968 / Mio Ezaki, 1968)

 

(Keiichi Ozawa, 1968 / Keiichi Ozawa, 1968 / Keiichi Ozawa, 1969)

 

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Nikkatsu

Video: Arrow Video

 

Disc:

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

Runtimes:

Gangster VIP - 1:33:26.142 / Gangster VIP 2 - 1:37:17.248 / Heartless - 1:31:44.999

Goro the Assassin - 1:27:11.351 / Black Dagger - 1:26:17.922  / Kill! - 1:25:57.944

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: April 18th-19th, 2016

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35-2.39:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Subtitles:

English, none

 

Extras:

Limited Edition Box Set (3000 copies) containing all six films in the Outlaw series, available with English subtitles for the first time on any home video format
High Definition digital transfers of all six films, from original film elements by Nikkatsu Corporation
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original uncompressed mono audio
Audio commentary on Outlaw: Gangster VIP by Jasper Sharp
Visual essay covering the entire series by Kevin Gilvear (An Outlaw Odyssey 23:57)
Original trailers for all six films (3:09, 2:35, 2:36, 2:57, 2:59, 3;15)
Extensive promotional image galleries for all six films
Exclusive gatefold packaging featuring brand new artwork by Tonci Zonjic
Booklet featuring an interview with director Toshio Masuda by Mark Schilling, plus new writing by Schilling, Chris D and Kevin Gilvear

3 DVDs - same content as Blu-rays

 

Bitrates:

Gangster VIP

 

  Gangster VIP aka 'Burai yori daikanbu' (1968)
  Arrow Films

Disc Size:

49,519,908,107 bytes

Feature Size:

22,433,080,704 bytes

Video Bitrate:

27.99 Mbps - 2.35:1

Chapters:

12

Audio:

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

Commentary:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps

 

Gangster VIP 2

 

  Gangster VIP 2 aka 'Daikanbu - burai' (1968)
  Arrow Films

Disc Size:

49,519,908,107 bytes

Feature Size:

23,129,220,672 bytes

Video Bitrate:

27.92 Mbps - 2.35:1

Chapters:

12

Audio:

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

 

Heartless

 

  Heartless (1968)
  Arrow Films

Disc Size:

46,854,486,743 bytes

Feature Size:

23,289,112,128 bytes

Video Bitrate:

29.98 Mbps - 2.35:1

Chapters:

12

Audio:

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

Goro the Assassin

  Goro the Assassin (1968)
  Arrow Films

Disc Size:

46,854,486,743 bytes

Feature Size:

22,137,474,624 bytes

Video Bitrate:

29.99 Mbps - 2.35:1

Chapters:

12

Audio:

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

 

Outlaw - Black Dagger

 

  Outlaw - Black Dagger (1968)
  Arrow Films

Disc Size:

45,140,491,883 bytes

Feature Size:

21,837,915,264 bytes

Video Bitrate:

29.87 Mbps - 2.35:1

Chapters:

12

Audio:

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

 

Outlaw - Kill

 

  Outlaw - Kill (1969)
  Arrow Films

Disc Size:

45,140,491,883 bytes

Feature Size:

21,756,154,176 bytes

Video Bitrate:

29.88 Mbps - 2.35:1

Chapters:

12

Audio:

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

 

Description: In 1968, acclaimed director Toshio Masuda (Rusty Knife, Tora! Tora! Tora!) and rising star Tetsuya Watari (Tokyo Drifter) teamed up for Outlaw: Gangster VIP, a gritty yakuza yarn based on the writings of real life ex-gangster Goro Fujita.

The series offers up a depiction of the Japanese underworld that was unprecedented in its realism and its sympathetic portrayal of its protagonist as a man haunted by his past, unable to escape a life of crime. The success of the initial installment spawned five sequels, continuing the story of the lone wolf Slasher Goro and his quest for redemption.

The films presented a new kind of realism and violence that would prefigure Kinji Fukasaku's Battles Without Honor and Humanity series, with their winning combination of brutal violence, gang warfare and sweeping romance, these films make for a unique and unforgettable viewing experience.

The set includes six films in the Outlaw series released for the first time in the west: Gangster VIP, Gangster VIP 2, Heartless, Goro the Assassin, Black Dagger, and Kill!

 

Titles

 

The Films:

Gangster VIP
The film stars Tetsuya Watari who plays Goro, a gangster who was sent to prison for three years for stabbing a hitman (Machida Kyosuke) who belonged to the rival gang called the Aokis. On his release from prison, Goro finds out his gang is in decline and learns that the hitman he stabbed is still alive.

***

Crime doesn't pay as can be seen in this Japanese crime drama. A streetwalker's son grows up in a Japanese ghetto and becomes a prominent member of the yakuza, but eventually he tires of corruption and violence. He decides to reform and return to his family, but by the story's end discovers that good intentions are no substitute for final justice.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

 

Gangster VIP 2
Wherever he goes, trouble follows Goro like a shadow. Continuing in the storyline of its predecessor, the film begins with Tetsuya Watari heading north to Aomori to make amends for his past wrongdoings. Co-director of the first film, Keiichi Ozawa marks a stunning directorial debut with "Gangster VIP 2”.

Goro (Tetsuya Watari) wants to put his dark past behind. He heads to Hirosaki City to offer his condolences to Yumeko and to reunite with Yukiko (Chieko Matsubara), but finds that Yumeko is fatally ill. Although Yukiko was taking care of her, she is pressed for money. Goro wants to help and knows that there is only one way to come up with fast money.

Excerpt from Nikatsu.com located HERE

Heartless
Known as one of the pioneers to establish the Nikkatsu "mood action" genre, Mio Ezaki incorporates road movie scenes with a new theme song sung by Tetsuya Watari, bringing a new flare to the third installment of the "Outlaw" series. This film is based on the confessions of ex-gangster Goro Fujita, who also composed the lyrics for the theme song.

Goro Fujikawa (Tetsuya Watari) was indebted to Mitsugimoto. Sawada, a low rank yakuza with a gambling problem, owed Mitsugimoto three million yen. This equation can only lead to one answer. Mitsugimoto needs to pay and Goro's coming to collect.

Excerpt from Nikatsu.com located HERE

Goro the Assassin
To fulfill a prison mate's dying wish, and to right what is wrong, Goro will kill again. Tetsuya Watari meets his archenemy Shuusuke Shirayama, a rival gangster who also wants to part with the yakuza ways. Keiichi Ozawa returns to direct the fourth part of the "Outlaw" series.

On a cold winter day, Goro Fujikawa (Tetsuya Watari) and Masahiko murder the mob boss of Meishin-Kai. The deed costs them time in prison, but Goro had no shred of regret. When Goro is released 2 years later, Masahiko is dying in prison hospital and entrusts his last wish; "find my sister and take care of her." Goro leaves as a free man with a mission, but soon finds that he might have been better off in jail.

Excerpt from Nikatsu.com located HERE

 

Black Dagger
"Black Dagger" is the fifth successful installment of the "Outlaw" series. This movie premiered in theaters on December 28th 1968, only one month after the release of "Goro the Assassin". With stop motion visual effects and calm narratives of Tetsuya Watari decorating the fight scenes, this yakuza classic remains as a favorite amongst many Nikkatsu noir fans.

A street war breaks loose between two rival gangs in the Kansai region of Japan. Goro (Tetsuya Watari) is in the middle of action. Through a knife fight against Sueo, a high profile gangster from Busou-kai, Goro notices a familiar face approaching him from amidst the chaos - his girlfriend, Yuri (Chieko Matsubara). Goro had sent her to safety, but she had returned, aching to see him. Caught between Goro and his enemy knife, she reunites with her love - the price was her life.

Excerpt from Nikatsu.com located HER

Kill!
New force joins the creators of the "Outlaw" series in this final installment. Hideichi Nagahara, the scenario writer for "A Colt Is My Passport" starring Joe Shishido, co-writes the script with Kanao Ikegami. Although Goro is a known assassin, he has always been against the ways of the yakuza. In "Outlaw Kill!" he deals with the dilemma of living such a lifestyle more than ever: the sacrifices, the time wasted in prison...

Goro (Tetsuya Watari) has always been a lone wolf. When he arrives at an industrial city in Keihin, there is certain restlessness in the air. The Iriezaki family and the Kanto Touyu-kai were in the midst of a territorial dispute. Goro was quick to notice, but had no intent to take sides. At a department store nearby, he sees an elevator lady being harassed by a couple of hoodlums. Goro decides to intervene. Unbeknownst to him, the hoodlums are Touyu-kai members – and the girl has strong ties with the opposing family.

Excerpt from Nikatsu.com located HER

 

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

Outlaw Gangster VIP: The Complete Collection is simultaneously released on Blu-ray in UK and North America by Arrow - and is limited to 3,000 units.  There are 6 films in the Outlaw series on three dual-layered Blu-ray housing two films on each disc each including supplements. Bitrates are high at approaching 30 mbps and the quality is consistent. The 1080P supports the six films in the 2.39:1 frame.

 

I didn't see any damage and only some very minor speckles. Generally, they are quite appealing looking and very similar to others from the studio and era. There is some texture and no bothersome noise. I saw instances exporting depth and colors are bright and true - with a richness that connotes HD. This Blu-ray offers a lot of value with some impressive detail an each film appears to be a good replication of a competent source.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IN FULL 1920 X 1080 RESOLUTION

 

VIP

 

 

 

 

 

VIP 2

 

 

 

 

 

Heartless

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goro the Assassin

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outlaw - Black Dagger

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outlaw - Kill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Arrow use a linear PCM mono tracks (24-bit) for all six films. They are flat with a pinch of depth. There is some plenty of aggression - usually in fighting with and without weapons - but it is fairly modest in terms of being dynamic. The scores are done by the likes of Harumi Ibe and Naozumi Yamamoto (Massacre Gun, Branded to Kill, Gate of Flesh and many of Yoji Yamada's Tora-San series) and there are some occasionally jazzy riffs. All audio sounds reasonably supportive - dialogue clear and consistent enough not to make issue. There are optional English subtitles (see samples) and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE.

 

Extras :

Arrow include an excellent audio commentary on Outlaw: Gangster VIP by Jasper Sharp incorporating valuable information in his discussion of the production, series and studio. I was also quite impressed with the 23-minute visual essay covering the entire series by Kevin Gilvear. It is entitled An Outlaw Odyssey. Spread throughout the three Blu-rays are original trailers for all six films as well as extensive promotional image galleries including posters, stills etc. The package is quite something - an exclusive gatefold packaging featuring brand new artwork by Tonci Zonjic and it contains a booklet featuring an interview with director Toshio Masuda by Mark Schilling, plus new writing by Schilling, Chris D and Kevin Gilvear.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Outlaw Gangster VIP: The Complete Collection
is a fabulous package by Arrow. We get this  infectious genre of films - following right in the mould of Eclipse's Nikkatsu Noir with its late sixties crime-dramas all following a protagonist with similar themes and characters.  And we get six films on Blu-ray! The a/v quality is a bonus and validates the set's value - along with the extras. I was deeply immersed in the first 2 (VIP and VIP 2) and found further charismatic style in Goro the Assassin and Black Dagger. It carries through to the this entire, appealing, genre of Japanese cinema that fans can easily become addicted to. This is definitely a keeper and we give it a very strong recommendation! 

Gary Tooze

April 26th, 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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