DVD Title
Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto
International Title
Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto
DVD Length Original Length
93 Minutes 93 Minutes
Company Year of Manufacture
Criterion 1998
Language Subtitles
Japanese English
Region Number of Discs
1 1
Aspect Ratio Sound
1.33:1 1.0 Mono
Extras
. Menus (English)
. Chapters (34)
. Trailers: Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto
. Three page analysis of the film by Bruce Eder (found in booklet)
Captures
Review

Criterion's release of Hiroshi Inagaki's Academy Award winning Samurai 1: Musashi Miyamoto is sadly very dated by today's standards on the format. In fact, this early DVD from the company is very poor across the board, as video and audio are both lacking while it's also nearly devoid of extras.


 Video:

An extremely lackluster video presentation from Criterion, as the company is still getting the hang of the format with this being only their 14th release. However, the biggest concern here is unrelated to the transfer process, but is in fact a problem with the print used. To put it bluntly, there is an incredibly thick layer of grain through out the movie, making the picture look muddled while scratches are also apparent. Very rarely, the film will also flicker to black in the middle of a scene, pointing most likely to a missing frame. The colors also leave some to be desired on this release, as the entire color scheme has been faded to overly yellow and green hues despite the fact that the opening Toho logo looks rather nice in this respect.

In terms of digital inconsistencies, the disc fares much better although it's difficult to gauge on account of the shape of the print. There does appear to be some pixilation brought on by compressing the movie too much, but most of this is overtaken by the sheer amount of grain present. This also makes it difficult to tell if edge enhancement is being utilized, although at the same time the movie doesn't look overly blurred either. Shimmering, a rainbow band of colors on finer details, is apparent here on occasion as well.

Musashi Miyamoto is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1.


 Audio: Star Rating

It's unfortunate that even the audio presentation on this disc is severely lacking, to the degree where it's almost intolerable at a few points in fact. Distortions on this one channel audio track are what really hold it down, as segments of the movie sound scratchy and rough, particularly Ikuma Dan's remarkable main title theme. At the same time it's not unwatchable, but it's hard to ignore when distortions start kicking in here as well.

The audio track is accompanied by, removable, English subtitles.


 Extras:

From a heavily flawed video and audio presentation, the disc tops it off with a sparse and nearly unnoticeable collection of extras. A trailer for the film is present, with removable English subtitles, and actually looks better than the film itself despite the fact that the frame isn't always stable on account of text imposition. Other than, there is also linear notes from Bruce Eder (narrator for some of Criterion's laserdiscs) found in the booklet, which are a nice diversion even if they are short but it does little to give the overall supplemental content here much worth.


 Overview:

Bottom line, this is unfortunately a pretty poor release of one of Toho's most famous films. Seeing as how this is one of my favorite movies too, it pains me to suggest against this release; unfortunately, those interested in Musashi Miyamoto don't have much of an alternative, as the region 0 and PAL discs are even worse. One can only hope that Criterion decides to revisit this classic for a more fitting release in the future. On a side note, Toho has recently released the entire Samurai trilogy on region 2; however, not having the set, I can't comment on them directly, but I would assume them to be far better than Criterion's efforts.

This disc is also featured in the DVD box set: The Samurai Trilogy.

- Anthony Romero  
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