DVD Title
 High and Low
International Title
 High and Low
Movie Length: 143 minutes Original Length: 143 minutes
Company: Criterion Release: 2008
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic: Yes
Region: 1 Discs: 2
  
Language/Sound: Order
Japanese (4.0 Surround)
Subtitles:
English
Extras
· Menus (English)
· Chapters (28)
· Trailers: High and Low (Teaser, Theatrical, US)
· Audio Commentary by Stephen Prince
· Toho Masterworks: High and Low (37 minutes)
· Interview with Toshiro Mifune (31 minutes)
· Interview with Tsutomu Yamazaki (19 minutes)
· 35 page booklet on the film found in the case
Captures
Review
Anthony Romero

Marking the fifth Toho title to be re-released on DVD by Criterion comes Akira Kurosawa's High and Low, a contemporary masterpiece on class society from the famed director. The original release by the firm was distributed back in 1998, and was an early title from the company on a format still in its infancy. DVDs have come a long way since, and this disc reflects that in being vastly superior in every sense from its decade old counterpart. The company has managed to produce a fantastic video and audio presentation for the 45 year old production that blows away what was previously available on region 1 for this title. Furthermore, the release has been fleshed out to two disc offering, and is generously packed with tons of additional content for fans of the movie to busy themselves with.


 Video:

Criterion has done a stellar job with the video track included on this disc. The footage looks crisp, with a high level of detail present, while the brightness and black levels are set perfectly. There are some signs of the movie's age, such as a layer of grain through out and a few scratches, but this is fairly minor for a movie this old. Comparing this to the old release, the company's new video transfer is vastly superior, and even highlights that the older release was cropping the frame on the left as seen in this comparison:

1998 release - 2008 release

High and Low is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and is Anamorphic for widescreen TVs.


 Audio:

After missing the train on their original release, Criterion makes amends by including the original four channel sound presentation that the movie debuted with. The track included here is in excellent condition too, devoid of inconsistencies such as pops or crackles while the dialogue is all very clear. The added channel depth while not amazing, which is expected given the technology available when the four channel track was created, is a solid improvement over the more common mono presentation of the movie and is a very welcome addition.

The audio can be accompanied with, removable, English subtitles.


 Extras:

Seeing as this is a re-release, one would expect the firm to fairly compensate the original owners wishing to upgrade with enough extras to make the endeavor worthwhile, and Criterion does not disappoint. The two disc set for High and Low is packed with supplemental content, 90 minutes worth of content in fact. Furthermore, it's all complete with removable English subtitles to aid the viewer.

The first on the extra "chopping block" is another episode in the Toho Masterworks series for director Kurosawa, "Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful To Create". This one dives deep into the High and Low production, covering various aspects of the movie that are complimented with interviews with the cast and crew, including such figures as Tatsuya Nakadai and earlier ones conducted with Kurosawa. The 37 minute feature also does a good job of covering the movie's ending, and the manner in which it changed several times leading up to the final edit. This feature is broken up into nine, selectable, chapters for easier viewing.

After this comes a half hour interview with actor Toshiro Mifune that was conducted in 1981 for the talk show Tetsuko's Room. Mifune rarely ever made himself available for interviews, so the one included here is a fairly rare treat for fans. As one might expect from the prestigious actor, he's a very elegant speaker and truly knows nearly every angle of the productions he's involved with, while at the same time conveying a modest tone. Host Tetsuko Kuroyanagi and Mifune talk about a variety of topics, including his beginnings as an actor at Toho and how he originally had planned to be involved with photography before taking on a job in front of the camera. The actor also discusses his history as well, being born in China before coming to Japan and his stint in the military. Sadly, in regards to the film work discussed, Mifune doesn't talk about this production in particular, and tends to speak more about the international involvement. Some of Kurosawa's other projects and Mifune's roles in them are discussed, though, such as Seven Samurai (1954). That said, it's enduring to hear Mifune pause before saying terms in English, such as "50 million dollars" which he says perfectly, and other aspects that make it a joy for fans of the actor to experience. This feature is broken up into six, selectable, chapters.

Following this is another interview, this time with actor Tsutomu Yamazaki who plays the kidnapper in the movie. This interview was conducted the same year of the DVD's release, 2008, by Criterion themselves. During the chat, Yamazaki details his experiences working on High and Low while making particular note of his interactions with Kurosawa and various aspects of the production. It's a very detailed look at the movie, and covers ground not already established in the Toho Masterworks video already included, making it yet another worthwhile extra for the set.

After this is a series of trailers, including both the theatrical and a teaser. As a bonus, a trailer for the US release of the movie is also included, which is deliciously over the top in its presentation and is interesting to watch for that aspect alone.

As another bonus, the movie also comes with an audio commentary by Kurosawa expert Stephen Prince. Prince has done a number of these commentaries already, and appears pretty skilled at it by this point. His delivery, while not the most exciting, is consistent and he more than knows his stuff on the subject matter. He does at times get bogged down a bit in his discussions, leading away from what's happening on screen for sometime, but takes these opportunities to divulge a wealth of information so one can hardly complain.

Finally, the last extra from this set comes from outside the discs and is found in the fairly large 35 page booklet included. The book contains two essays on the production, with one by critic Geoffrey O'Brien and the other by Japanese film scholar Donald Richie.


 Overview:

Bottom line, Criterion has done it again. There is a premium asking price for their releases, but this fantastic two disc set from the firm demonstrates that they go the extra mile to warrant it. Due to the vast array of content present, it's a marked improvement over its predecessor, and one that's worth upgrading to even for those who purchased the earlier edition.