|Criterion's release of Akira
Kurosawa's most famous film. This disc dates
way back to 1998, when the DVD format was still
struggling for market-wide acceptance, and was
actually the first Toho DVD to hit any of the
regions, beating out Simitar's Godzilla films
by a month. With that being said, the disc certainly
shows its age and it pales in terms of the quality
one has come to expect from Criterion. The video
and audio quality are both flawed here, while
the extras showcase what one could expect from
DVDs released at this time; however, it's still
the best way to experience Seven Samurai
in the US, and this disc marks the first time
in video history that the entire film would
be present on one source, instead of two like
the VHS releases.
It would be unfair for one to judge Criterion's
dedication to quality on their Seven Samurai
DVD, as the video presentation presents numerous
problems but was only their second attempt on
the format at the time. The biggest issue, though,
is simply the condition of the print and the amount
of compression used, as the film appears blurred
and lacks any kind of sharp definition. The movie
contains noticeable film damage as well such as
numerous scratches and flickering, an inconsistent
changing of light levels.
The audio presentation on this DVD is a mono
track, which is the film's original format.
The audio track is noticeable improved over
the video presentation, although the dialogue
still sounds scratchy, or rough, in spots.
Thankfully, there are no hisses or pops in
the audio track though, something which is
stable on all of Criterion's releases. Unlike
some other early releases, the English subtitles
which compliment the film here are removable.
Unfortunately the subtitles aren't up to the
standards set by other Criterion releases,
for which the company usually commissions
completely new translations to be done, as
a small portion of the dialogue isn't accompanied
The extras on this disc are adequate, although
far from noteworthy. At least the film has one
of its original Japanese trailer present.
The main draw here, though, is the audio commentary
done by Michael Jeck, a Japanese film expert.
Jeck's commentary is a little arrogant at times,
but still offers some good insight into the film,
its influence, and background information on its
actors. On a select few releases of this DVD,
a restoration demo was included as an extra; however,
discs containing this extra are incredibly rare,
and go for a asking price of over $100.
- Anthony Romeros
Bottom line is that this is an adequate transfer,
considering when the DVD was released, of Japan's
best known film, although the $30-40 price tag
is arguably too far high. However, it's a good
deal when packaged with the $90-100 dollar box
set. Given the overall video presentation, though,
especially in contrast to the much better Toho
region 2 Seven
Samurai set, one can only hope that Criterion
picks to "double dip" on this film and
release a vastly superior edition in the future.
This disc is also featured in the DVD box
Kurosawa Four Samurai Classics.