DVD Title
Kagemusha
International Title
Kagemusha
DVD Length Original Length
180 Minutes 179 Minutes
Company Year of Manufacture
Criterion 2005
Language Subtitles
Japanese English
Region Number of Discs
1 2
Aspect Ratio Sound
1.85:1 (Anamorphic) 2.0 Stereo
Extras
. Menus (English)
. Chapters (32)
. Trailers: Kagemusha (#1, #2, US Trailer)
. Commentary with Stephen Prince (English)
. George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola Interviews (19 minutes)
. Documentary on Kagemusha, from Toho's Masterworks, with interviews from the staff (41 minutes)
. Reconstruction of Kagemusha using the storyboard art (43 minutes)
. Storyboard gallery with side-by-side finished scene comparisons
. 5 Suntory Whiskey commercials done on the set of Kagemusha
. 45 pages of background information on the film by Donald Richie, a 1981 interview with Akira Kurosawa, an essay by Peter Grilli and shots of the film's story boards found in the booklet
Captures
Review

Criterion does it again. They have raised the bar in terms of what can be expected from extras found on a Toho DVD tremendously with this release. One really couldn't ask for more. This two disc DVD set is brimming with supplementary content, although the presentation of the movie itself can't be overlooked. Criterion's Kagemusha release is a shinning example of how a company's effort pays off in the long run, as this release contains a solid video and audio presentation while sporting the best extras of any Toho film on a region 1 DVD to date.


 Video: Star Rating

Another solid video presentation by Criterion. Overall, the video quality is good on Kagemusha, although not flawless. The colors, thankfully, are handled well here. Those familiar with Kagemusha know that this is a film which utilizes a lush presentation of color through out, so it's nice to see Criterion supply the disc with a very vibrant array. There is no discoloring present either, everything looks spot on. The brightness level is perfect as well, as every detail is easily recognizable, even during the darkest scenes. Digital inconsistencies is another area where the disc excels. Artifacting is entirely unnoticeable on this release, while edge enhancement is handled very well, with the film looking very sharp.

The print used in the transfer is the uncut Japanese version of the film, which restores a minute of footage not present in the Japanese theatrical release and 20 minutes of footage removed from the international version. As for the quality of the print, it could have been better. Granted, there isn't a scratch in sight for the entire course of the film, but there is noticeable grain, the amount of which varies drastically from scene to scene. Here is an example of one of the more noticeable scenes with heavy grain in it. Kagemusha is presented here in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and is Anamorphic for widescreen TVs.


 Audio: Star Rating

No punches are pulled here. The disc contains the original, 2.0 stereo, Japanese audio track of the film and nothing more. It would have been nice to see a 5.1 surround mix, but the stereo track gets the job done, and was the way the film was intended to be experienced. The music never sounds harsh, as it does on some older mono tracks, and the quality is generally well preserved. There are no pops, or any other inconsistencies, to be heard during the course of the film, while some speaker distinction is noticeable thanks to the stereo format. The disc accompanies the audio track with, removable, English subtitles. Like other recent Criterion releases, the subtitles here are brand new, freshly commissioned for this release, and are spot on, in regards to accuracy, in just about every regard.


 Extras:

Simply put, Criterion's Kagemusha release has the best extras of any Kurosawa, any Toho, region 1 DVD to date. Enough praise can not be sung in this regard. Almost two hours of extras are present, not counting the booklet, the gallery, or the audio commentary. There is enough extra material here, that I would even considering purchasing the second disc alone, had they not be sold as a set. None of these extras feel tacked on, and every single one is recommended viewing.

The challenge here, is picking which of the extras stands out amongst the others. The very well done 19 minute interviews with the film's international producers, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola, is the likely candidate to lead the pack, though. The interviews, done in 2004 specifically for this release, are great sources of information on how this film came to production, George Lucas going to 20th Century Fox so that they would collaborate with Toho to see the film finished, and both of the director's feelings on Kurosawa's work and its influences. The interviews also contain some very rare shots of the three directors together while Kagemusha was still in the filming process.

The other extra that stands out here is the, always wonderful, Toho Masterworks episode. Conducted in Japanese, with removable English subtitles, the 41 minute extra gives a detailed analysis of the film, and also conducts interviews with numerous individuals involved. Of particular interest is the interviews with Tatsuya Nakadai, and how he replaced Zatoichi star Shintaro Katsu in the lead role and the eventual confrontation between Nakadai and Katsu's brother Tomisaburo Wakayama, star of Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (1972), regarding comments made after the transition. As always, the Masterworks episode is incredibly informative and anyone who has a interest in Kurosawa, or Toho cinema in general, should check it out.

The audio commentary found on the disc, provided by Criterion regular Stephen Prince, is a great source of information as well. It also pinpoints the 20 minutes of footage that was cut from the US version and where it appears in this uncut print. Like his other commentaries, his presentation is a little dry, but the information he has to give tends to be so detailed one can hardly complain.

Another interesting extra, if one wants to look over a wealth of concept art and storyboards, is the reconstruction of Kagemusha with audio clips and art. The feature runs 43 minutes long, and was compiled by actor Masayuki, Yui Ieyasu in Kagemusha, and approved by Kurosawa. The feature comes complete with 20 chapter breaks as well, for easier viewing.

There are still quite a few extras to explorer in this setas well, including three trailers (two Japanese, one US), a storyboard gallery set side-by-side with the finished scene for comparison (as seen here), and five commercials of Francis Ford Coppola and Kurosawa drinking it up with a bottle of Suntory Whiskey in Kagemusha themed commercials.

To round out the extras, Criterion included a very in depth booklet on the subject. This isn't like the one sheet inserts in AnimEigo's releases, the booklet found in the Kagemusha release is almost a book on its own. At 45 pages long, and packed with great shots of the full color storyboards, information, and a great interview with Kurosawa, the book by itself would be worth buying separate of the disc if they were sold as thus.


 Overview:
Bottom line, this stands as a good contender for the greatest Toho, region 1, disc to date. The video and audio are done well, while the sheer vast array of extras make this title a must for anyone who is interested in the many films of Akira Kurosawa.
-Anthony Romero  
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