DVD Title
 High and Low
International Title
 High and Low
Movie Length: 143 minutes Original Length: 143 minutes
Company: Criterion Release: 1998
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic: No
Region: 1Discs: 1
Language/Sound: Order
Japanese (1.0 Mono)
· Menus (English)
· Chapters (23)
Anthony Romero

Criterion's release of Akira Kurosawa's contemporary detective masterpieceHigh and Low. This disc was first manufactured in 1998, back when the DVD format was still struggling for market-wide acceptance. As one of Criterion's earliest Toho discs, it certainly shows its age compared to what the company has released in the coming years. High and Low's video presentation could hardly be called perfect, and the same can be said of the audio track, while the DVD has literally no worthwhile extras to speak of, making this the most barebones release of any of Criterion's Toho DVDs.

 Video: Star Rating

The disc's video presentation is an early attempt at the DVD format by Criterion, and their efforts are admirable when one compares this disc to other releases done that same year; however, the video quality here is still lacking and very aged by many later efforts on the DVD format. On the plus side, artifacting, and other digital inconsistencies, are fairly unnoticeable on this release, a step up from their first Seven Samurai disc. The movie does contain numerous scratches, though, but never enough to become distracting. Flickering, an inconsistent changing of light levels, is also present on this DVD during some scenes. The brightness levels are off here as well, with some scenes appearing overly dark and making details hard to see. The image isn't stable through out either, as the frame jumps on occasion with the most noticeable blemish in this regard being "The End" sequence which makes a noticeable shift toward the left.

The disc does preserve the film's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, although it isn't anamorphic for widescreen TVs. Furthermore, it's slightly cropped on both the left and right side, more notable on the left. This fact is visible when comparing this release with the one Criterion distributed ten years later:

1998 release - 2008 release


The audio presentation on this DVD is decent. Included is the, at the time, far more common mono presentation of the movie's audio, rather than the multi-channel surround that the movie originally utilized along with other Kurosawa productions of its day such as Sanjuro (1962). Thankfully, there are no hisses or pops in the audio track. The only real discrepancy being when the film's score, another of Masaru Sato's contemporary pieces, reaches a high level, most often from a cue with trumpets blaring, at which point it does sound slightly more shrill than it should.

Unfortunately, the English subtitles which compliment the Japanese audio track aren't flawless either, as a small portions of the spoken dialogue isn't accompanied by subtitles.


The low mark of the DVD, without question. Criterion, who would become known for their dedication toward stockpiling later releases with extras (their re-release of Seven Samurai is a greatest testament to this), disappoints with their first High and Low release. The disc has literally no extras to speak of, save a "Color Bars" screen that can be used to adjust monitors to their proper levels. There is a fair bit of irony in the Color Bars inclusion as well, given that High and Low is a black and white film (minus a single scene which does contain a small amount of color for cinematic effect).

 Overview: Star Rating

Bottom line, this was a decent barebones release of High and Low back in its day, despite the disc's flaws, and is adequate to enjoy another solid entry from Kurosawa. That said, with the release of the much superior two disc set from Criterion in 2008, there is very little reason to seek this particular DVD out today though.