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Gate of Hell(1953)
During feudal unrest in the 12th century, samurai warrior Moritoh manages to thwart a palace rebellion and save the life of the empress by using Lady Kesa as a decoy. When Moritoh is offered anything he should desire as reward, he requests Kesa's hand in marriage. Informed that she is already married to a fellow samurai, he refuses to withdraw his request, setting in motion a tragic chain of events.
For more about Gate of Hell and the Gate of Hell Blu-ray release, see Gate of Hell Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on December 12, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Kazuo Hasegawa, Machiko Kyô, Isao Yamagata, Yataro Kurokawa, Kôtarô Bandô, Jun Tazaki
Director: Teinosuke Kinugasa
» See full cast & crew
Gate of Hell Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 12, 2012
Winner of the prestigious Grand Prix Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, Japanese director Teinosuke Kinugasa's "Jigokumon" a.k.a "Gate of Hell" (1953) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Eureka Entertainment. There are no supplemental features included on this release. Included is a 24-page illustrated booklet featuring film critic and historian Philip Kemp's essay "Jigokumon" and Carl Theodor Dreyer's "On Gate of Hell". In Japanese, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
The Heiji Era, 1160. Nearby Sanjo Castle rebels and loyal to the Emperor samurai clash. Moments before the rebels storm the last stronghold, the Emperor's father and sister are urged to leave. Hoping to distract the rebels, the leader of the samurai asks for a volunteer to be used as a decoy. The stunningly beautiful Lady Kesa (Machiko Kyo, Rashomon, Floating Weeds) agrees to be the 'sister', while the brave warrior Morito (Kazuo Hasegawa, The Tale of Genji, The Crucified Lovers) is chosen to be her protector.
Soon after, Lady Kesa's carriage is attacked by the rebels, but Morito manages to escape with her. The two take shelter in his family home. Another warrior then arrives looking for Moritada (Kunitaro Sawamura), Morito's brother, who has apparently sided with the rebels. When Moritada also appears with a few of his men, he urges Morito to join the rebels but he refuses and they begin fighting. During the chaos, Lady Kesa disappears. Meanwhile, the Emperor's father and sister are captured and beheaded at the Gate of Hell.
Morito travels to a nearby island to inform Lord Kiyomori (Koreya Senda) what has happened during his absence. Later on, after the rebels are defeated Lord Kiyomori decides to reward him for his bravery. Morito asks Lord Kiyomori to arrange his marriage with Lady Kesa, who is a lady-in-waiting at his court. Lord Kiyomori agrees to grant Morito's wish but is told that Lady Kesa is already married to Lord Watanabe Wataru (Isao Yamagata, Samurai Rebellion), the leader of the Imperial Guards. Convinced that they were meant to be together, Morito vows to make Lady Kesa his wife and unleashes a chain of tragic events.
Based on the play by Kan Kikuchi, Teinosuke Kinugasa's Gate of Hell is a film of striking beauty. Lush colors often fill up the screen and select sequences truly look like moving pictures. Even the darker nighttime sequences - such as the one where Lord Watanabe Wataru and Lady Kesa are seen together in the garden - look notably elegant.
Unlike other similarly themed samurai films, Gate of Hell is virtually devoid of action. Honor and bravery are still important components in it, but the machoism that is often attached to them is missing. Especially during the second half there are plenty of romantic overtones that bring Gate of Hell a lot closer to being a period romantic film.
The dialog is simple but effective, effectively keeping the drama from sliding into melodrama. When Morito goes after the woman he is convinced he ought to spend the rest of his life with, he utters strong but believable words. His final encounter with Lord Watanabe Wataru is also filmed with a great sense of balance.
The emphasis on detail is excellent. Sanzo Wada's costume designs, in particular, are often striking. The production designs are by veteran specialist Kisaku Ito, known for his contributions to Kenji Mizoguchi's Ugetsu Monogatari (1953) and Sansho the Bailiff (1954), Keisuke Kinoshita's The Ballad of Narayama (1958) and The River Fuefuki (1960), and Hiroshi Inagaki's Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto(1954), Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple (1955), and Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island (1956). The film was lensed by cinematographer Kohei Sugiyama (Kenji Mizoguchi's The 47 Ronin).
Note: Winner of Oscar Awards for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Costume Designs, Gate of Hell has been named by director Martin Scorsese as one of the ten most beautiful color films ever made.
Gate of Hell Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Teinosuke Kinugasa's Gate of Hell arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Eureka Entertainment.
Digitally restored in 2011 by The National Film Center of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo and Kadokawa Shoten Co., LTD. in cooperation with NHK, Gate of Hell looks simply beautiful on Blu-ray. Throughout the entire film close-ups boast fantastic depth (see screencaptures #1 and #13), while clarity is consistently pleasing. Contrast levels are also stable. Colors are rich and well saturated, looking healthy and stable. Furthermore, there are no traces of excessive degraining corrections. There are absolutely no traces of post-production sharpening either. Unsurprisingly, the film boasts a wonderful organic look. Finally, there are no serious stability issues. Also, there are no large damage marks, cuts, stains, or warps to report in this review. To sum it all up, this is indeed a very impressive restoration, arguably one of the very best done for an Asian film in Eureka Entertainment's catalog. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Gate of Hell Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: Japanese LPCM 2.0. For the record, Eureka Entertainment have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The dialog is stable and easy to follow. Occasionally there is some light background hiss that sneaks in, primarily where the music is prominent, but it is never distracting. Rather predictably for a film from the early '50s, dynamic movement is quite limited (even during the horse race). There are no serious distortions or audio dropouts.
Gate of Hell Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Gate of Hell Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Japanese director Teinosuke Kinugasa's Gate of Hell is a simple but very effective film about a great warrior obsessed with a married woman. Described by director Martin Scorsese as one of the ten most beautiful color films ever made, Gate of Hell looks spectacular on Blu-ray. In fact, I would argue that this is the best looking period Asian film Eureka Entertainment have released to date. Don't miss it, folks. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Gate of Hell Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Gate of Hell Officially Announced - October 11, 2012
Eureka Entertainment have detailed their upcoming Dual Format edition of Japanese director Teinosuke Kinugasa's Jigokumon a.k.a Gate of Hell (1953), starring Kazuo Hasegawa, Machiko Kyô, Isao Yamagata. The release will be available for purchase on December 3rd ...
Gate of Hell Blu-ray Screenshots
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