DVD Title
Ran - The Masterworks Edition
International Title
Ran
DVD Length Original Length
160 Minutes 160 Minutes
Company Year of Manufacture
Wellspring 2003
Language Subtitles
Japanese English
Region Number of Discs
1 1
Aspect Ratio Sound
1.85:1 (Anamorphic, Altered) 2.0 Mono, 5.1 Surround
Extras
. Menus (English)
. Chapters (40)
. Trailers: Ran (European, US Home Video)
. Akira Kurosawa Filmography 
. Restoration Demo (4 minutes) 
. Production Notes 
. Additional Ran Information (Easter Eggs, 9 in total) 
. Audio Commentary with Stephen Prince (English)
. Audio Commentary with Peter Grilli (English)
Captures
Review

The second region 1 release of Akira Kurosawa's Ran by Wellspring, who changed their name from Fox Lorber by the time this DVD was released. This disc was originally packaged in an Amazon exclusive gift set released in 2002, but was sold separately the following year. This DVD was sold as more of a "special edition" release of the film, but the video and audio presentation leave some to be desired while the extras won't do much to withhold one's interest.


 Video: Star Rating

The video presentation found on Ran - The Masterworks is a mixed bag. The biggest problem, although it won't be noticeable to those unfamiliar with the film, is that the aspect ratio isn't what it's being reported as and some of the image is cropped. This becomes painfully noticeable with a side-by-side comparison, taking a look at one scene on this release versus that same scene on Criterion's two disc set. On the plus side, at least its Anamorphic for widescreen TVs.

In terms of the print used for the transfer, it looks to be fairly devoid of blemishes with only moderate scratches present and very little grain. However, the film looks blurred and lacks a sharp detail to it. The frame, most notably during the introduction, isn't always stable and sometimes jumps up and down. The DVD also sports some digital inconsistencies, most notably in the form of shimmering on finer details, such as Hidetora's emblem.


 Audio:

Audio presentation in Ran - The Masterworks is notably better than the video quality, but still contains its own problems. The 2.0 mono track is more or less flawless, as hisses and pops are never heard. However, the remastered "surround" presentation of the film unnecessarily tampers with the audio track, as the levels present sound like they were "balanced", which causes some of the dialogue to lose the power presented by the actors. All in all its an odd presentation, and why a 2.0 stereo track, the film's original presentation, wasn't included is questionable.

The audio tracks are complemented with removable English subtitles, but they present a problem of their own. To put it bluntly, it would appear that very little care was placed into them as they contain numerous typos or are not present at all when some dialogue is being spoken.


 Extras: Star Rating

The extras found on this disc, while many, aren't very interesting. The Filmography, Production Notes and Weblinks (which will likely date the DVD when some of the more obscure fan ones go off-line) are pretty standard fare that seem more appropriate for an actual website than a DVD. The trailers here are intriguing with both a European version and a US home video one that uses stock music, but it fails to include any of the Japanese trailers. The DVD does contain a four minute video on the restoration of the film, complete with a small blurb before the feature starts. Unfortunately, this video is handled very poorly with a huge amount of compression to the point where both the "before" and "after" shots look very lackluster. In this feature's defense, though, it does do a nice job of showcasing exactly how horrible their previous DVD effort was. The most interesting special feature on the DVD would have to be the two commentary tracks, one provided by Stephen Prince, whose work can be found on Red Beard among others, and one by Peter Grilli, the director of a Kurosawa documentary. Unfortunately, even the commentaries leave some to be desired. Prince, who is usually a fountain of information, appears unprepared here and resorts often to pointing out the obvious or on occasion giving out wrong information, like stating the 1957 film Throne of Blood was from 1967. Grilli is even worse, as he rarely talks during his commentary track or drifts off into speeches about his own experiences. In general, a single commentary track done by both Grilli and Prince probably would have been better than what was presented here, especially considering that Grilli's commentary is never directed at any particular scene and his parts could have been stuck anywhere.

Something which should be noted, as it's so rare to find on a Toho DVD, are the Easter Eggs that contain general information on the film. There are nine in total and, like most Easter Eggs, the greatest joy one can derive from them is finding them as opposed to actually looking over this content.


 Overview: Star Rating

Bottom line, it would be unfair to call this a horrible DVD as it's more than watchable, but it's disheartening to see what might have been a good DVD ruined by Wellspring's own laziness. Thankfully, Criterion has stepped up to the plate to release a two disc set for the film, which makes this DVD obsolete even as a budget title.

This disc is also featured in the DVD box set: Kurosawa DVD Collection.

- Anthony Romero  
Buy this DVD