DVD Title
International Title
Movie Length: 110 minutes Original Length: 110 minutes
Company: Criterion Release: 2007
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic: Yes
Region: 1Discs: 1
Language/Sound: Order
Japanese (1.0 Mono), Japanese (3.0 Stereo)
· Menus (English)
· Chapters (20)
· Trailers: Yojimbo (Teaser, Theatrical)
· Commentary with Stephen Prince (English)
· Toho Masterworks: Yojimbo (45 minutes)
· Still Gallery
· Booklet with an essay by Alexander Sesonske and notes from Akira Kurosawa
Anthony Romero

Following on the heels of their excellent re-release of Seven Samurai, comes this new version of the classic Yojimbo from Criterion. The firm doesn't disappoint either with this new DVD, as every aspect of the release has been improved upon dramatically, from a stunning video transfer to an excellent audio presentation while also including a robust selection of extras.


For this re-release, Criterion offers up an excellent video presentation for the 1961 production. The most notable improvement over the previous release is simply the level of detail present, as the movie looks incredibly sharp and without overt signs of compression. The black levels here are also much more appropriate, giving the movie a good range of depth within the black and white presentation while also not drowning out any of the darker scenes. The print used for the transfer is also in fairly good shape as it contains few scratches, outside of the main title. Noise levels are also good with a very minor degree of grain being visible. To compare the image quality with that of the previous release, here is one still from the climax off the 1999 release and one from the 2007 disc.

Yojimbo is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and is Anamorphic for widescreen TVs. Like other recent Criterion releases, the image on this DVD is also windowboxed (black border around the video) to ensure that older TV sets don't cut off some of the picture.


Given the source, this is probably the best audio presentation one could hope for on the 1961 production. Included on this release are two audio tracks, both in the film's original Japanese. The first is the traditional one channel mono track, which was previously found on the company's 1999 release of Yojimbo although the quality has been improved upon. The real attraction of this disc, though, is the inclusion of the original three channel stereo presentation, that was created for the movie using Perspecta Stereophonic Sound. The stereo track, while oddly not the default selection here, sounds superb as the added depth to the movie's soundscape does wonders.

The audio can be accompanied with, removable, English subtitles.


Criterion has packed this release with a nice mix of extra content, both on and off the disc. As always, the standout supplement is another volume from the Toho Masterworks series focusing on Yojimbo. The lengthy 45 minute feature covers numerous aspects of the production including very specific details, like the scene of the dog carrying the human hand or the creation of the main title theme by Masaru Sato, while also more broad topics, like Toshiro Mifune's contributions in general or the creation of the mammoth town featured in the film. Overall, the feature is another winner from the documentary series by Toho.

Next up are two trailers for the production, including the main one seen on Criterion's previous release and a new teaser. Both feature segments not used in the movie, while the teaser contains tons of behind the scenes footage of the movie while in production. The quality of both adverts is simply stunning as well, as each has sharp and vivid detail in their video transfers while both are complemented by full English subtitles as well.

Freshly created for this release, the DVD also includes an audio commentary by Stephen Prince. The additional audio track provides a wealth of detail into both the production along with background on the staff and crew. Prince's dialogue is overall very insightful and highly recommended to anyone with even a passing interest in the production.

Rounding out the supplemental content is both a small still gallery on the disc, focusing on behind the scenes stills, and a 15 page booklet included with the disc that provides additional insight on Akira Kurosawa and an essay on the matter by Alexander Sesonske.


Bottom line, Criterion has done it again with another stunning re-release of an older title. One can only hope that this trend continues with some of their other Toho titles, such as their releases for High and Low or the edited Kwaidan, as it would be great to see this level or perfection inherit in more early DVDs from the firm. Suffice to say, this disc comes highly recommended regardless of if one has owned an earlier version of the film or not.

This disc is also featured in the DVD box set: Yojimbo - Sanjuro.