DVD Title
 Throne of Blood
International Title
 Throne of Blood
Movie Length: 109 minutes Original Length: 109 minutes
Company: Criterion Release: 2003
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Anamorphic: No
Region: 1Discs: 1
  
Language/Sound: Order
Japanese (1.0 Mono)
Subtitles:
English
Extras
· Menus (English)
· Chapters (24)
· Trailers: Throne of Blood
· Audio Commentary by Michael Jeck
· Includes a 21 page booklet with a essay Stephen Prince and notes by Linda Hoaglund and Donald Richie
Captures
Review
Anthony Romero

After a year break, Criterion releases another Akira Kurosawa production on DVD that, while stunning for its day, has been long surpassed by other efforts on the format. The star attraction here is the excellent video track, although the disc doesn't suffer in any particular field having okay audio and extra presentations as well.


 Video:

For a relatively early release from Criterion, the video quality here is fairly spectacular for a film this age. The transfer process used is nothing short of extraordinary. The black and white feature looks incredibly rich in detail through out, looking very sharp while at the same time avoiding signs of edge enhancement to artificially achieve this. The downfall of the video track, though, is simply the print used for the transfer. It has noticeable damage, especially early on in the film, and contains a thick layer of grain that due to the sharpness of the transfer process is all easy to pick up while watching the feature.

Throne of Blood is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, or full screen.


 Audio:

Throne of Blood has one audio track, which is a 1.0 mono presentation. To Criterion's credit, they have done a good job cleaning up the source, as it's devoid of pops or crackles. On the downside, though, the audio sounds harsh in places and not as clear or vivid as it could, with dialogue or other aspects sounding muffled, especially toward the start of the movie.

The audio can be accompanied with, removable, English subtitles. As an extra feature, the disc contains two different subtitle tracks. The first is by Linda Hoaglund, a renowned translator of Japanese, while the second is by Donald Richie, a Kurosawa enthusiast. While both subtitle tracks are nice, I personally found Linda's to be the more interesting of the two to read, which happens to be the default subtitle track. There are aspects of both to appreciate, though, such as Richie's preference for avoiding a more modern way of speaking and keeping with the period, which Hoaglund does not follow. To be frank, it's a fairly unique aspect to include two different subtitle tracks for the same audio in the same language. It's not exactly a great feature, but due to its uncommonness it stands out well and does, in its own way, demonstrate how much of an unsung art form translating between languages is.


 Extras:

Although nothing special today, back in its day this release showed Criterion's new commitment to creating extras for these films beyond simply including a trailer. The DVD contains an audio commentary by Michael Jeck, a Japanese film expert. While Micheal Jeck's commentary is not quite as informative as the one he did for previous Criterion releases, he still manages to not tread over anything he stated before allowing for the commentary to still be more than worth your while for fans of the great director.

A trailer for the movie is also included, as previously mentioned. Sadly, the quality here is very lacking. The trailer has a lot of print damage, while the audio is very diluted sounding, lacking the level of contrast in levels and clear tones one would hope to hear.

As another added bonus, Criterion has also included a 21 page booklet with a essay by Stephen Prince on Kurosawa and Shakespeare, from which Throne of Blood is inspired by Macbeth. The booklet also contains notes from Linda Hoaglund and Donald Richie on their individual subtitling methods.

As a last note, this DVD also marked a change in direction for Criterion in terms of menus. The menus here are noticeably more diverse than earlier releases by them and the first is animated with sound, a very nice improvement, and all are done in a stylistic cell shaded fashion like the cover.


 Overview:

Bottom line, Criterion has done a lot better since this release, but this clearly marks a clear turning point from their early transfers to when the firm would become incresingly renowned for their attention to detail. Still, those wishing to view Throne of Blood would be well merited to check this release out, although it's very unfortunate that it has yet to waver from its hefty $40 price tag.