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“Yojimbo and Sanjuro” - {Blu-ray}
Reviewer:
Taylor Carlson
Studio: Criterion
Genre:
Action
Release Date:
3/23/10
Special Features:

Commentary, It Is Wonderful To Create documentary, stills galleries, trailers/teasers, booklets for both films

Review:

Yojimbo (1961) and Sanjuro (1962) are directed by Akira Kurosawa. The films star Toshiro Mifune and co-star Takashi Shimura, Tatsuya Nakadai, Isuzu Yamada, and Yuzo Kayama. Masaru Sato composed the musical scores. ***

Yojimbo and Sanjuro comprise a 2-film series by Akira Kurosawa, following the travels and battles of Sanjuro, a wandering ronin (samurai who does not serve a master.) ***

Yojimbo, the first film, features Sanjuro wandering into a desolate town where two warring factions have reduced the town to a wasteland, where no one can live in peace. Seeing evil men committing evil deeds, the young ronin hatches a plot to play both sides of the battle, effectively getting them to kill one another in the long run. ***

Sanjuro, the sequel, sees Sanjuro joining up with young, inexperienced warriors who fear corruption in their clan. When they make a huge blunder, it is up to Sanjuro to help them deal with the true villains and prevent things from becoming any worse. ***

Both of these films rank amongst Kurosawa's most memorable work. Sanjuro is, quite possibly, the most memorable character in the entire Kurosawa film library, and Toshiro Mifune brings him to life as no other actor could have. With his cocky attitude, dry wit, and refusal to play by the rules, Sanjuro set the standard for a new breed of hero. One of the greatest ironies is that Kurosawa admits to Yojimbo being inspired by American Western films, only to have it end up being an inspiration to later Westerns, namely Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name Trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars is an unofficial scene-by-scene remake of Yojimbo.) ***

Of the films, Yojimbo is my personal favorite, as Mifune plays a character that witnesses evil men - and plays by his own rules to make those very men suffer. Sanjuro (the film) tends to have a more straightforward plotline and humor, but it is no less entertaining. ***

Also worth mentioning is the way Kurosawa uses every inch of the widescreen frame on the screen. This was in the era when widescreen filmmaking had just come about, and already Kurosawa was using this to his advantage. Watch the scenes in Yojimbo on the town streets - every bit of the screen is used. Put bluntly, in both films, you don't want to avert your eyes from the screen. ***

It is a difficult task to pick a favorite Kurosawa film, but Yojimbo might just hold that title for this reviewer. Its sequel is no slouch either. These are amazing films, and regardless of your taste in movies, well worth checking out. ---

Image And Sound:

Criterion knows how to give classic films the royal treatment, and these classic Kurosawa films are no exception to the rule. Throughout, the image is clean and free of any major dirt or print damage - their restoration efforts show from start to finish. Yojimbo looks slightly more impressive than Sanjuro; some minor noise reduction seems to have been applied to the latter, though you probably won't even notice this unless you watch with a keen eye and on a huge monitor. The sharpness and detail of the image is AMAZING for films this vintage, and they blow the old DVD transfers out of the water. As far as a retro black-and-white demo title for my Blu-Ray system goes, I think I have found my new champion. ***

Audio has not been neglected either. Both films sound as solid as they look. Given the age of the soundtracks Criterion had to work with, they have once again done a superb job. I doubt there will be any complaints with the audio on this releases.

Special Features:

Both discs feature a commentary track, a Kurosawa documentary, and several trailers/teasers and galleries. Any fan of the movies will want to check these out - the Kurosawa documentary, in particular, is a very enlightening look at Japan's greatest filmmaker. If you owned the DVDs, you're not going to be in for any surprises, though.

Final Words:

Two of the greatest films ever made. Quality high-definition transfers courtesy of Criterion. A nice assortment of bonus features. Seriously, do I have to say anything else? This is a MUST-OWN.

 

 
 
 
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