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Category:    Home > Reviews > Martial Arts Cycle > Samurai > Toshiro Mifune – The Ultimate Collection (Incident At Blood Pass/Red Lion/Samurai Assassin/Samurai Banners/Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo) (AnimEigo)

Toshiro Mifune – The Ultimate Collection (AnimEigo)


Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: C     Film: B



AnimEigo has been a prime source for some of Toshiro Mifune’s better samurai feature films, usually from the Toho vaults and we have covered some of the titles already in this new Toshiro Mifune – The Ultimate Collection set.  They include:


Samurai Assassin (1965)



Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo (1970)




That leaves three other titles, including one we had not even heard of being released.  They are:


Incident At Blood Pass (1970) – Mifune is reunited with his Zatoichi co-star and lead Katsu Shintaro, playing Yojimbo but without Shintaro as Zatoichi.  Instead, he plays a fallen doctor.  He is initially hired as a bodyguard, but something else is going on and he needs to find out before it too late.  Decent, though having Shintaro in a different role will seem odd to Zatoichi fans.


Red Lion (1969) - Mifune is a peasant who  who lands up with the Imperial Restoration Force, but this leads to complications, like being on the wrong side and all hell breaks loose for him.  It is he who wears the title mask with further unexpected results.  Not bad.


Samurai Banners (1969) – An interesting but overly long semi-epic features Mifune as a samurai who rises to power through shaky means before getting to the top clan head.  Then, he falls in love with a woman and this leads to a love triangle he does not expect, which lead sot very bloody conflict.  This is 166 minutes long and you will either be able to get into it and enjoy it or not, but it is ambitious and fans will like it.


All the films were directed by Kihachi Okamoto, except Incident and Banners, helmed by Hiroshi Inagaki.  From the nearly NC-17 violence to the general action, beautiful set design and ambitious directing and acting all around make these films favorites to be discovered and rediscovered.  This is not a cheap set, so you might want to get a single disc just to see if this is your cup of tea.  If so, then the whole set is more desirable.



Technical performance between the five discs are similar, though the Zatoichi title fares a bit better.  The 2.35 X 1 anamorphically enhanced TohoScope images on all five DVDs are impressive for their age, being new digital High Definition transfers form 35mm elements, but they do not always they fair better than the Lady Snowblood DVDs that also lacked detail and clarity in parts.  These original film elements here are in fine shape for their age, though still softer than they should be as we go into the HD era.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 is boosted to simple stereo at best if that, but the age of the recordings and the distortion and even warping are problems that need addressed down the line, if possible.  Samurai Assassin has moments of harshness that are shrill enough to be careful when playing them back.  I blame the Dolby compression and some shortcuts in the transfer process.


Extras on all DVDs include trailers for other AnimEigo Video Samurai Cinema titles and both print and DVD text sections explaining the history and coined terms in the films.  I again commend the translators for using extended subtitles to explain everything, even using multiple colors so the viewer can learn all about the world these characters inhabit.  This is a solid set for fans and those interested in this kind of genre, but the sound is an issue in the long term and needs to be reconsidered when HD versions roll around.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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