DVD Title
International Title
DVD Length
Original Length
102 Minutes
102 Minutes
Year of Manufacture
Aspect Ratio
Black and White
- Menus (English)
Chapters (21)
- Trailers: Onibaba
Interview with director Kaneto Shindo (21 minutes)
- Behind the scenes footage (38 minutes + 16 screens of notes and photos)
- Photo Gallery (26 + descriptions)
- Three pages of background information on the film by Chuck Stephens, found in the booklet
- Two page statements from director Kaneto Shindo, found in the booklet
- English translation of the original Buddhist fable that inspired Onibaba, found in the booklet

Criterion's trend for high quality releases continues in 2004 with their excellent DVD of the 1964 film Onibaba. Like Criterion's Ikiru DVD, the Onibaba disc features an excellent video transfer, a very well restored audio track, and numerous extras that really show Criterion's commitment to their releases.

The first thing to be noted from Criterion's Onibaba release is the excellent print used in the transfer. Beyond a couple of scratches appearing during the introduction of the movie, the print is relatively devoid of blemishes. Artifacting is handled extraordinarily well on this disc, as the movie appears very sharp with no signs of digital compression. The DVD also maintains the film's original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, or "Toho Scope." The film's brightness is kept at just the right level here, which is vital in this moody, often darkly lit, film.

The audio track here, which is the film's original Japanese mono audio track, is in great condition. There are a few instances where crackles can be heard, but overall the audio on this disc is about as perfect as one could hope for, given the source. The film, like all the other Toho Criterion releases, is complimented by removable English subtitles.

The extras found on Criterion's Onibaba DVD rank it up there as one of the most packed Region 1 Toho DVDs on the market. This disc contains the film's original theatrical trailer, although, as the DVD mentions, the optical footage (scenes where text would overlap the footage) for the trailer has been lost, but overall it's still in excellent condition. Easily the disc's best extra is an interview, complimented through out with stills and behind the scenes footage, that Criterion conducted with the director of Onibaba (1964), Kaneto Shindo, in 2003. The interview is very insightful, was done in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and times in at an impressive 21 minutes in length. Also included on the disc is 38 minutes of footage, filmed by Onibaba (1964) actor Kei Sato, that captures events leading up to filming, along with the daily occurrences of the staff once production started. Sadly, this lengthy segment isn't accompanied by sound, and contains countless scratches, not to mention that the print is faded as well. The behind the scenes segment was filmed in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, or full screen, and is mostly in black and white, excluding a few color portions which look to be in about the same condition as Classic Media's release of Rodan. This footage is accompanied by, 16 screens worth, of notes and images related to the film. The last extra to be found on the disc is a, very well done, gallery for the film which shows everything from storyboards, to posters, to Toho's international promotion material for the film. Each gallery photo, excluding Toho's promotion material, is lead by text which explains that particular gallery piece. On a final note related to the disc, the menus found on Criterion's Onibaba disc are inspiring as each features a well done hand drawn image related to the film; the animation leading into the main menu is a nice touch as well.

It should be noted, like with other Criterion releases, that the extras don't stop on the disc, as the booklet, contained in the DVD case, is choke full of extras as well. Included is a three page, in-depth, look at the film, and its context both in current film and in relation to the feudal time it portrays. Also included is a two page, translated, statement from director Kaneto Shindo related to his work. Of final note is a a translation of the Buddhist fable A Mask with Flesh Scared a Wife, which inspired director Kaneto Shindo in making the film.

Bottom line, while not Criterion's best Toho release to date (Ikiru still holds that honor), this is a magnificent DVD and easily one of the best Toho ones on the market, which seems to be a more heralded title as the quality of these releases continues to grow. There isn't a single aspect of the DVD that will, in the end, leave the viewer unsatisfied, unless they have a quarrel with the actual film. This release will also make some hopeful that Criterion will continue to look to release other Toho films on region 1 DVD, along with their numerous Akira Kurosawa releases.

-Anthony Romero