DVD Title
Seven Samurai
International Title
Seven Samurai
DVD Length Original Length
207 Minutes 207 Minutes
Company Year of Manufacture
Toho 2002
Language Subtitles
Japanese Japanese
Region Number of Discs
2 2
Aspect Ratio Sound
1.33:1 1.0 Mono, 2.0/5.1 Surround
Extras
. Menus (Japanese)
. Chapters (12/21)
. Trailers: Seven Samurai (5 Theatrical)
. Toho Masterworks: Seven Samurai (49 minutes)
. 84 page book on Seven Samurai
Captures
Review

It's not surprising in the least to see that Toho has rolled out the red carpet for the company's most renowned production, creating a wonderfully packed box set to accompany the film. In total, the set includes two discs and a rather large book on the movie. The quality all around is fairly high as well, with a good video presentation, when taking into account the age of the film, along with some nice audio options and some very well produced supplemental content to keep Akira Kurosawa enthusiasts pleased.


 Video:

The video quality found on this disc is kind of a mixed bag. The presentation has its share of faults, even for a film hitting 50, with an unstable frame for the first five minutes or so (especially bad during the title sequence), some light flicker on the sides of the screen and a noticeable level of scratches during a lot of points. On the plus side, and what allows this release to trump Criterion's Seven Samurai disc without even contest, is the fact that the movie looks so damn sharp here and full of detail. Where as the region 1 appears murky and blurred, this one looks very lush and quite stunning when the frame is paused. For some direct comparisons, take this shot off the region 1 vs. the same shot on Toho's release. There simply is no comparing them. On the downside, though, this release is for some reason split across two discs. The first runs to the the intermission of the film at the 111 minute mark, and then the second disc has the other half of the movie. Of course this has been the standard presentation of the film on many formats, like VHS, but given the capabilities of the DVD medium, it seems like an odd and cumbersome choice here.

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


 Audio:
The audio selection is probably about as good as you are going to get for the feature, given the source and if one is ok with the lack of English options. In total there are three audio tracks present, all of which are in Japanese, with the first being the movie's original mono format. For many, this will likely be the way to experience the film, as it presents the most natural type presentation and with the dialogue being all very clear. Next up are two surround tracks, one is Dolby Surround, looking to be a 2.0 channel, and the other is a 5.1 channel remix. Both have their faults, like the audio at times sounds like its clipping at the higher levels while also sounding a little harsh, but they also do a pretty good job of bringing forth a more speaker distinct format to the movie, and some effects like the rain actually benefit from this quite a bit.

Seven Samurai is accompanied by, removable, Japanese subtitles.


 Extras:

Toho has done a pretty remarkable job with the supplemental content here, and they better have given the retail price of this set. The star attraction here is easily the inclusion of another chapter in the Toho Masterworks series, this time on Seven Samurai. Found on the second disc, this near 50 minute feature covers the film in depth while also conducting interviews with the surviving cast and crew. Archive footage of Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune, as seen here, is also included.

Next up is a nice selection of five different trailers on the film, found on disc 1. The first is an incredibly rare early promo trailer for the movie, complete with the actors prancing about in front of a white screen as seen here. The advert is a little on the goofy side, while the audio is also sadly missing, but there is a lot of footage here present that one won't see anywhere else along with some good behind the scenes production footage tossed in. The other trailers are more standard, while a well done trailer for one of the film's numerous re-releases rounds out the collection.

The last extra here is one not found on either discs, but is actually a 84 page (75 pages not counting the index) book dedicated to the movie. This publication is surprisngly good, starting off with full color photos of all of the different posters found on the film, including re-release and an international one, before going into a text and production still heavy portion of the book that carries it to the end. As expected, all of the text is in Japanese.


 Overview:

Bottom line, Toho has done a good job with the overall presentation of their most famous film. The audio and extras certainly show their dedication, but the video is a little lacking and one can only hope that they someday attempt to restore the more problematic sequences to a more suitable level. In terms of this set in general, it's pretty much reserved for "hardcores" only: those who can understand Japanese, living without English aid, while also fitting the incredibly hefty $70-75 tab for this box set.

- Anthony Romero  
Buy this DVD