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— DG PICK OF THE WEEK–
Who’s Musashi Miyamoto? He’s essentially the Japanese Pat Boone; a master swordsman and warrior who is a legend in Japanese history. Musashi wrote The Book of the Five Rings which detailed fighting tactics and philosophy; you know, the kind of book that corporate douchebags like to read as they plan hostile take-overs from the 40th floor. Anyway, the guy is a hero in the east and stories about the famed Ronin have been on-screen since the silent era but they have never been this good, this accomplished.
Directed by Toho’s Hiroshi Inagaki, well known for his epic scope, this trilogy is remarkable. Each film has a very distinct style and tone courtesy of some very astute direction and a series of remarkable performances by Toshiro Mifune who shows why he would shortly become one of the best actors the country has ever produced. In the first film, MUSASHI MIYAMOTO (1954), Mifune is like Errol Flynn in THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD in this flick. He’s highly athletic; climbing trees, beating the baddies, and showing off some incredible sword play.
The second film, DUEL AT ICHIJOJI TEMPLE, is the EMPIRE STRIKES BACK of the trilogy. Fairly dark, kind of brooding in parts, and really kind of gritty for a film that looks as lush as this does. The third film, DUEL ON GANRYU ISLAND, is a proper finale to the trilogy. It’s very contemplative and has a really wise air about it. The final duel, while not technically unmatched, is jaw-dropping and flawlessly executed.
Criterion has done an amazing job as always with this transfer, but the supplements are a little light. A series a films like this deserves a little bit more and they certainly call for commentaries but as the famed Ronin was fond of saying “shit in one hand, wish in the other.” Actually, he may not have said that. Anyway, here are the goods for the set:
New high-definition digital restorations of all three films
New interviews with translator and historian William Scott Wilson
New English subtitle translations
PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by film historian Stephen Prince and Wilson
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK…
The final film from the famed director Kenji Misumi (who directed the best films of the LONE WOLF AND CUB series, several ZATOICHI films, and other solid samurai films) is the perfect end to a near flawless career. This is a swan song, a contemplative film that feels like the samurai equivalent to Eastwood’s UNFORGIVEN; both films are saying goodbye to a genre and style of character they would never again touch. Fuck you, Tom Cruise.
This flick is more than a little hokey and works the clock for over 50 minutes before you get to some solid monster action but once you do, it works. I just wish you didn’t have to wander through lame and often boring characters to get to the good stuff. Not a bad looking monster, either.
I haven’t seen THAT KIND OF GIRL, but PERMISSIVE is a better film than being stacked on a double bill like this. It is actually fairly inventive and gives a heartbeat to the characters. BFI did a nice region-free release on Blu-ray, I would hunt that down before buying this. You’ve been warned.
Fuck Jack Palance, you didn’t come here for that dude. You came here for the original Satanico Pandemoniom, Ms. Laura Gemser who works a snake topless within a few minutes into the flick and ditches the clothes altogether soon after. The film itself is about…. uh…. I forgot. I actually think this flick is better than any of her EMMANUELLE roles. Jack Palance ain’t bad in this… if your into that sort of thing.
Donald Pleasance unlocks the corridors of the macabre… and titles that make ZERO sense. This is a horror anthology that is a bit of a mixed bag (but most are, lets be honest), but Pleasance as the host works pretty well. This Amicus feeling Paramount film has some odd casting which actually works. Cool little flick for a dark Saturday night.
Haven’t had a chance to check this out, but our friends over at Couchcutter.com dug it so we’re in. Have to say though, some pretty rad cover-art. Really dig the faux stickers they tossed on the corners. Nice work fellas, should be catching this shortly.
I am a William Castle nut, I just dig the hell outta the showmanship the cat put into rolling out his productions. Here at DG HQ I have one of the plastic amulets given to patrons from ZOTZ! and some other Castle stuff that sit proudly on my desk. This flick is almost an intentional parody of some of his other, more notorious scream machines.
I don’t know how long I have had this fucker on VHS, nice to finally see this western with a rampaging bear hitting Blu. Angry neighbors and vindictive outlaws don’t have shit on that bear.
Hey, you know that early Blu-ray release of DELIVERANCE? Yeah? Well good news, you don’t need to double-dip for this new one. If you don’t own DELIVERANCE, you are forgiven for your sins, now buy this good shit right now!
Fucking brutal. Those are the two best words to describe this flick. It’s a tough watch, but it’s well worth the ride.
That’s it for this week, Bastards.
We’re back next week with: DJANGO KILL… IF YOU LIVE, SHOOT! (Blu), BLADE 2 (Blu), GOD BLESS AMERICA, BARBARELLA (Blu), THE ENTITY (Blu), CHEST MORGAN’S BOSOM BUDDIES, ELVIRA’S MOVIE MACABRE, and more.
HERE’S TO GOOD WATCHING THIS WEEK, SALUTE!
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