One of the first Toho DVDs ever, and Criterion's
15th disc over all. Unfortunately, there isn't
much to say other than that it's a heavily flawed
attempt from the company. The video presentation
here is pretty poor, while the audio and extras
have nothing to praise about them either.
An early video transfer to the DVD format
for Criterion, which sadly still doesn't excuse
the shape of the movie here. In fact, there is
hardly anything done well about this release in
regards to the video presentation, unless one
is simply happy that the film's original aspect
ratio was maintained, but that was 1.33:1 (full
screen) to begin with, so it's rather hard to
The colors on this disc are the first, in a long
line, of complaints to be had with this release.
To but it bluntly: the colors are noticeably off,
often with a yellowish tint to them. On the rare
occasion there will be a blue tint to a scene
or two, while rarely the color will flicker between
the two in a rather distracting matter. A clear
example of this can be seen here,
compared with the scene a few seconds later here.
Strangely, the last few minutes of the movie are,
more or less, correctly colored. If this was an
early effort by Criterion to see if they could
repair the print they had, or if they simply found
a better source for this segment, is unknown,
but it's a shame the rest of the film couldn't
have been consistent with it.
The faults don't stop there, either, as the brightness
level is set far too low on this release. So much
so that a great deal of the climax is fairly hard
to make out (as seen here)
on account of it. In regards to digital inconsistencies,
this disc boasts a gambit of them. Artifacting
from compression is slightly noticeable, while
the shimmering, a rainbow-like band of colors
on fine details, is rampant on this release. The
movie doesn't look nearly as sharp as it could
have been either. As for the quality of the print
used for the transfer, not much to compliment
here. There are noticeable scratches through out,
and a thick layer of grain that seems to cover
the movie for its duration.
To say that the audio presentation was the
disc's most notable feature wouldn't be an exaggeration
of the truth; however, considering the other aspects
of the DVD, it's hardly much praise to say the
least. Samurai II is presented in a 1.0
Japanese mono track, which is the film's original
audio format so one can't really fault the disc
there. The quality isn't the greatest, though.
It doesn't sound nearly as crisp as it could,
while the movie sounds rather flat, even for a
mono track, as if the upper levels of the audio
track had been leveled down a little.
The audio track is accompanied by, removable,
Not much to discuss here. The film's original
trailer is present, oddly enough looking better
than the film itself (as seen here),
but that's about it. Of course I suppose the,
rather humorous now, Help
Menu shouldn't go unnoted, or the fact that
anyone who can figure out how to access it pretty
much has a grasp on most of what it has to tell.
It's a clear sign, though, of how different times
were for the format back in 1998. In reference
to material outside of the disc, Bruce Eder (narrator
for some of Criterion's laserdiscs) has written
a three page "report" on the film in
the booklet. It's rather short, but an interesting
diversion none the same.
- Anthony Romero
Bottom line, it's an early effort from Criterion...
and that's really all that can be said. Unfortunately,
this is the best way to experience Samurai
II, in any region, as Toho has yet to release
a region 2 disc for the title. One can only hope
that perhaps Criterion will consider a re-release
of this entry with a better presentation, but,
given the rather recent release of the box set,
it seems unlikely to occur.
This disc is also featured in the DVD box set: