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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Anatahan AKA "Ana-Ta-Han" aka "The Saga of Anatahan" [Blu-ray]


(Joseph von Sternberg, 1953)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Daiwa

Video: Kino Lorber / Masters of Cinema - Spine # 168



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

Runtime: 1:31:09.172 / 1953 Theatrical: 1:31:42.497 / 1:31:09.172  / Theatrical: 1:31:42.497  

Disc Size: 47,542,687,557 bytes / 49,235,108,581 bytes

Feature Size: 20,245,100,544 bytes / 21,222,546,816 bytes

1953 Theatrical Size: 17,171,324,928 bytes / 21,333,648,768 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.48 Mbps / 22.06 Mbps / 27.88 Mbps (both)

Chapters: 9 / 9

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

Release date: April 25th, 2017 / August 14th, 2017


Video (both versions, both packages):

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video


Audio (both):

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


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


Subtitles (both):

English, None



• New 2K restoration of the uncensored 1958 version (Sternberg's preferred cut of the film) - The Saga of Anatahan, with restored audio

The Making of - Interview with Nicholas von Sternberg (15:36)
The complete 1953 version of Anatahan (
Visual essay by Tag Gallagher (16:16)

Outtake Footage (2:54)
U.S. Navy footage of the actual survivors of Anatahan, immediately after their surrender (8:04)

Comparison 1953 + 1958 version (8:16)
Original theatrical trailer (1953 Theatrical version - 2:31) Reissue Trailer (2017 1:56)


The complete 1953 version of the film (Blu-ray only)
A new interview with Asian film expert Tony Rayns (45:25)
Whose Saga? - A visual essay by critic Tag Gallagher (16:14)
Saga: The Making of Anatahan - an interview with Nicolas von Sternberg (15:34)

Comparison between the 1953 + 1958 versions (8:14)
U.S. Navy footage of the actual survivors of Anatahan, immediately after their surrender (8:03)
Unused footage originally filmed specially for the 1958 version of the film (2:52)
Original theatrical trailer (2:29)
PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by Philip Kemp, alongside rare archival imagery





1) Kino - Region 'A'  - Blu-ray TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B'  - Blu-ray BOTTOM



1953 Theatrical Cut


1) Kino - Region 'A'  - Blu-ray TOP

2) Masters of Cinema - Region 'B'  - Blu-ray BOTTOM



Description: Josef von Sternberg once said that his films should be projected upside down, to allow the audience to better appreciate the pure play of light and shadow. He was joking, of course—his films do have a profound abstract beauty, but they also have much more than that—but in his final film (1954) he comes close to making this joke a reality, and the result could be his masterpiece. A more extreme degree of stylization is impossible to imagine: the Pacific island setting was re-created entirely in a Japanese studio out of cellophane and paper (Sternberg complained that he was forced to use real water), and the actors who perform this tale of shipwrecked sailors are Kabuki-trained Japanese. Distance is built into every aspect of the production, from the shadowed, filtered images to Sternberg's own voice-over narration, yet the feelings that emerge are incredibly pure and immediate: Sternberg seems to be photographing the absolute essence of human emotion. In English and purposely untranslated Japanese.

Excerpt from Dave Kehr at the Chicago Redaerlocated HERE



The Film:

Inspired by actual events, ANATAHAN explores the conflicting personalities of a dozen Japanese sailors stranded on a remote island in the Pacific during the waning days of World War II. For a time, they maintain their military discipline, but when they discover a young woman (Akemi Negishi) living on the island, the paradisal island becomes a nest of jealousy, violence, and desire. Filmed in Japan on elaborately constructed sets, with non-English-speaking actors, ANATAHAN was a deeply personal project for director Josef von Sternberg (The Blue Angel, Morocco, The Scarlet Empress), and provided a thoroughly unique capstone to his extraordinary career.


Anatahan (aka Ana-Ta-Han) represented the apotheosis of filmmaker Josef von Sternberg's lifelong fascination with the Orient. Over a year in the making, the film was the most expensive ever made in Japan up to 1953. Based on fact, the story concerns a group of Japanese marines who refused to believe that their country had been defeated in 1945, and thus spent the next seven years stubbornly manning their posts on a remote Pacific Island. The central character is a woman known as the "Queen Bee," who is marooned on the island along with the marines. As the only female in the vicinity, our heroine is aggressively pursued by every male in sight (von Sternberg capriciously refers to her most ardent suitors as her "drones"). Former Nichiegki Theatre chorus performer Akemi Negishi plays the Queen Bee.

Excerpt from B+N located HERE

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

Firstly this is both a new 2K restoration of the uncensored 1958 version (Sternberg's preferred cut) of Anatahan, as well as the complete 1953 version of the film presented with the cooperation of the Library of Congress, Cinemathque Francaise and Lobster Films. They are two separate transfer from Kino Lorber Blu-ray in 1080P and look magnificent. I've compared two captures because there are some min or differences in the framing with the 53's version showing more. information on all 4 edges. The restoration is extremely impressive with the image looking exceedingly crisp, a bit of gloss, and dynamically rich, visuals - exporting depth. This Blu-ray had only some minor frame-specific damage (see sample below) but it wasn't even discernable in normal viewing. Of course there is also some stock footage used (see sample below) that, predictably looks worse. Overall, this HD image was outstanding!


Looks like the exact same 2K restoration (see running times.) The Masters of Cinema is slightly more, technically, robust but we can't see much, if any, major differences in the 1080P video produced. It remains a highly appealing HD image!          




Kino - Region 'A'  - Blu-ray TOP

Masters of Cinema - Region 'B'  - Blu-ray BOTTOM


1) Subtitle Sample - English narration - TOP

2) Subtitle Sample English narration - MIDDLE

2) Subtitle Sample Japanese Dialogue - BOTTOM



1) 1958 - Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray  - TOP

2) 1953 Theatrical Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



1) 1958 - Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray  - TOP

2) 1953 Theatrical Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM







The film utilized stock footage










1) Frame Specific Damage - Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



Audio :

Kino Lorber use a linear PCM 2.0 channel tracks (16-bit) for both versions. The film has narration in English and very limited Japanese in the film. There are optional English subtitles for the narration but the Japanese-language is intentionally left untranslated - as per the original film. There are no demonstrative effects in Anatahan - but there is rain, crashing waves of the ocean, and jungle-like sounds to name a few. They come through clean and flat. There is a score credited to Akira Ifukube. Included in his massive resume are varied films like The Mysterians and the original Godzilla (and other Godzilla features), and the bulk of Zatoichi series, Kurosawa's The Quiet Duel and many others. Everything sounds adept - clear and unencumbered. My Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.


Audio appears the same to my ears - similar linear PCM (16-bit) transfer for bother versions. There are optional English subtitles with the brief Japanese still, intentionally left untranslated. The Masters of Cinema Blu-ray is Region 'B'-locked.    


Extras :

As well as the complete 1953 version of Anatahan (1:31:42), with this caveat:



We also get a new 1/4 hour interview with, the director's son, Nicholas von Sternberg and what he recalls about being in Japan at the time of the making of the film. The best supplement is a new 16-minute visual essay by Tag Gallagher that helps bring much of the director and this production into perspective. There is some nudity in 3-minutes of outtake footage (samples above) and about 8-minutes of U.S. Navy footage of the actual survivors of Anatahan, immediately after their surrender. Included are a comparison 1953 + 1958 versions as well as an original theatrical trailer (1953 Theatrical version) and a 2017 Reissue Trailer.


The Masters of Cinema duplicate including the complete 1953 version of the film, the excellent visual essay by critic Tag Gallagher, the 1/4 hour interview with Nicolas von Sternberg, the comparison between the 1953 + 1958 versions, the U.S. Navy footage and the 3-minutes of unused footage. But they add a valuable new, 45-minute, interview with Asian film expert Tony Rayns. He brings some highly interesting information on von Sternberg and Anatahan, as well as other related topics - always a pleasure to listen to. As well as a DVD, the Masters of Cinema package includes a booklet featuring a new essay by Philip Kemp, alongside rare archival imagery.


Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray



Masters of Cinema - Region 'B'  - Blu-ray



I had never seen Anatahan and was ecstatic at my viewing. I was very impressed and can't wait to repeat the experience. The Kino Lorber
Blu-ray should be in consideration for our Year End Poll of the best releases. Only thing absent was a commentary. We still give this our very highest recommendation!


Anatahan is brilliant - possibly my favorite, new, viewing of the year. The Masters of Cinema go the extra mile adding the Rayns interview, included booklet and DVD. Some may even consider double-dipping to upgrade to this, the definitive release. Regardless, own one of these!  

Gary Tooze

April 26th, 2017

August 6th, 2017



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.

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Gary W. Tooze





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