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Three Outlaw Samurai(1964)
Shiba, a wandering ronin, encounters a band of peasants who have kidnapped the daughter of their dictatorial magistrate, in hopes of coercing from him a reduction in taxes. Shiba takes up their fight, joined by two renegades from the magistrate's guard, Sakura and Kikyo. The three outlaws find themselves in a battle to the death.
For more about Three Outlaw Samurai and the Three Outlaw Samurai Blu-ray release, see Three Outlaw Samurai Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on January 12, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Tetsur˘ Tanba, Isamu Nagato, Mikijiro Hira, Miyuki Kuwano, Yoshiko Kayama, Kyoko Aoi
Director: Hideo Gosha
» See full cast & crew
Three Outlaw Samurai Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, January 12, 2012
Japanese director Hideo Gosha's "Sanbiki no samurai" a.k.a "Three Outlaw Samurai" (1964) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The only supplemental feature on the disc is the film's original theatrical trailer. The disc also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by film critic Bilge Ebiri. In Japanese, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
While wandering around the countryside, Shiba (Tetsuro Tanba, Harakiri, Blackmail is My Life), a fearless samurai, encounters three peasants who have kidnapped the daughter (Miyuki Kuwano, Late Autumn) of a cruel magistrate. They reveal to him that they are hoping to negotiate a reduction of their taxes because they can no longer feed their families and he agrees to help them.
Meanwhile, the magistrate summons two other masterless samurai, Sakura (Isamu Nagato, Lone Wolf Isazo) and Kikyo (Mikijiro Hira, 13 Assassins), to kill the peasants who have barricaded themselves in an old mill and bring back his daughter. Sakura, who is the first one to arrive there, immediately realizes how desperate the peasants are and switches sides. Shortly after, Kikyo appears, with the daughter (Yoshiko Kayama, Lost Spring) of one of the kidnappers. After she is tortured, the magistrate's daughter is released. In exchange for the peasants' freedom, Shiba agrees to go to the magistrate's fortress where he is beaten by his guards.
The magistrate's daughter is so moved by Shiba's bravery that she decides to help him escape. Her father goes berserk and immediately sends his men to kill Shiba, Sakura, and the peasants. This forces Kikyo, who has been quietly observing the drama from afar, to join forces with Shiba and Sakura. When the magistrate's men arrive at the mill, all hell breaks loose.
Inspired by the Japanese television series phenomenon of the same name, acclaimed director Hideo Gosha's directorial debut Three Outlaw Samurai plays out like a classic Western, balancing well drama and action and boasting a strong period atmosphere. The film is also complimented by an appropriately moody soundtrack courtesy of Toshiaki Tsushima, who scored many of Kinji Fukasaku's gangster films (Street Mobster, Graveyard of Honor, The Yakuza Papers).
The majority of the film is surprisingly cynical. It takes a long time for the samurai, for instance, to earn the viewer's respect because all three are seriously compromised ľ they have weaknesses, make naive mistakes and do not rush to confront evil. Predictably, the good in them prevails, but the film does not shy away from pointing out that all three are seriously vulnerable.
Unlike other similarly themed films, most notably Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai and Yojimbo, Three Outlaw Samurai completely avoids humor. There aren't any sarcastic jabs at traditionalism either, though when appropriate the obvious flaws of the Japanese feudal system are quickly highlighted.
The cast is excellent. Throughout the entire film Tanba looks authoritative but never arrogant. Nagato's character, the weakest of the three samurai, is also convincing. Hira delivers a credible performance as well. Though her time in front of the camera is limited, Kuwano also impresses as the profoundly moved young woman who openly confronts her unjust and cruel father.
Cinematographer Tadashi Sakai's lensing is sharp and surprisingly effective. Some of the panoramic vistas also look unusually elegant. The action scenes are also filmed with a terrific sense of rhythm and control.
Note: Other films of interest by director Gosha that have been released in North America include his Sword of the Beast (1965), The Secret of the Urn (1966), Goyokin (1969), and Onimasa (1982).
Three Outlaw Samurai Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Hideo Gosha's Three Outlaw Samurai arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The high-definition transfer is solid. The majority of the outdoor sequences for instance convey wonderful depth and fluidity, with plenty of evenly distributed and mostly well resolved grain (see screencaptures #15 and 16). Occasionally some softness is present and extremely light noise tries to creep in (see screencaptuer #4), but these are limitations inherited from the master, not problematic byproducts of post production corrections. Additionally, contrast levels appear to have been slightly elevated and black levels carefully adjusted. As a result, there are no color and brightness inconsistencies. There are no traces of overzealous sharpening. The high-definition transfer is also free of serious banding and aliasing patterns. Finally, there are no large damage marks, cuts, marks, or warps to report in this review. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Three Outlaw Samurai Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: Japanese LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
The loseless track has a limited dynamic amplitude, but this should not be surprising. During the opening credits, for instance, the music has some depth, but the high frequencies lack the density that newer films would have. The action sequences also sound crisp but lack dynamic intensity. Obviously, however, these are inherited limitations, not transfer related anomalies. This being said, the dialog is consistently clean, stable, and very easy to follow. There is no problematic background hiss either.
Three Outlaw Samurai Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Three Outlaw Samurai Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Three Outlaw Samurai is a surprisingly strong and confident debut that easily rivals many of the best samurai films that have reached America during the years. I particularly liked how dark and uncompromising the film is as well as the fact that it does not glamorize its characters. Tadashi Sakai's lensing is also very effective. It would have been great to have some informative supplemental features, but I prefer to have these lesser seen films transition to Blu-ray without extras rather than have them appear on DVD via Criterion's Eclipse Series. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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The Criterion Collection has posted their full roster of Blu-ray releases for February 2012. Titles include Chris Marker's La JetÚe & Sans Soleil, Hideo Gosha's Three Outlaw Samurai, Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's World on a Wire, Otto ...
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