DVD Title
Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple
International Title
Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple
DVD Length Original Length
103 Minutes 103 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 (35)
. Trailers: Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple
. Three page analysis of the film by Bruce Eder (found in booklet)
Captures
Review

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.


 Video:

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 mess up.

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.


 Audio: Star Rating

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, English subtitles.


 Extras:

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.


 Overview: Star Rating

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: The Samurai Trilogy.

- Anthony Romero  
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