Toshiro Mifune – The Ultimate Collection (AnimEigo)
Picture: C Sound: C Extras: C Film: B
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
Samurai Assassin (1965)
Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo (1970)
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.
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
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