Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Shogun's Samurai The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy – Discotek Media (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1978
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Writers: Kinji Fukasaku, Hiro Matsuda,Tatsuo Nogami
Cast: Sonny Chiba, Toshirô Mifune, Kinnosuke Nakamura, Etsuko Shihomi, Tetsuro Tamba

Release Date: September 27th, 2022
Approximate Running Time: 129 Minutes 56 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Japanese
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $24.95

"An epic film of greed and power, starring some of the biggest names in classic Japanese cinema! Following the death of the Shogunate, it became evident that his death was no accident. He was poisoned because he wanted his eldest son to be heir to his throne. A war between the eldest and his younger brother erupts. Warriors take to each side swearing devotion to the prospective lords. The plot to pit brother against brother is secretly being controlled by the Yagyu clan, a group of warriors who have trained the Shogunate’s family in the art of swordsmanship. A group of imperial nobles are also secretly pulling the strings of this plot, hoping to weaken the power of the Shogunate and restore power to the emperor." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 3.5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "brand new remastered version is available in 1080p high definition for the first time on Blu-ray!".

Shogun's Samurai The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 21.8 GB

Feature: 20.4 GB

Though the source looks clean, this transfer exhibits many of the same traits that plagued other Toei films released on Blu-ray in North America. Though Colors fare well, there are a few moments where they don’t look as strong as they should. Also, the image generally looks crisp, black levels are best described as adequate, and there appears to be some digital noise reduction.

Audio: 3.75/5

This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in Japanese, and included with this release are removable English subtitles. The audio sounds clean, clear, and balanced. Range-wise, action set pieces are well-represented.

Extras:

Extras for this release include theatrical teaser 1 (2 minutes 4 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Japanese with removable English subtitles), theatrical teaser 2 (3 minutes 3 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Japanese with removable English subtitles), a theatrical trailer (5 minutes 23 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Japanese with removable English subtitles), a text based extra titled Historical Notes written by Zack Davisson, and a slipcover.

Summary:

Kinji Fukasaku was the reigning king of Yakuza films when he proposed to Toei studio a Battle without Honor and Humanity style story set in the Edo Period. Kinji Fukasaku’s only other foray into the Edo period at that point was as the host of the television series Hissatsu!, which he helped create. Toei was also ready for a change after the disaster of The Bullet Train at the box office, and with the success of Shogun's Samurai: The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy, Toei had successfully reinvented itself as a studio. Sonny Chiba and Toshirô Mifune, besides working together on Shogun's Samurai: The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy, also co-starred in 1978’s The Fall of Ako Castle (also directed by Kinji Fukasaku) and, three years later, The Bushido Blade. Shogun's Samurai: The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy's box office success would help launch, a year after its release, the television series Yagyuu Conspiracy.

Kinji Fukasaku is a master craftsman who creates a world that is so authentic through his visual style that the viewer becomes totally absorbed in the experience. Cinematographer Toru Nakajima, who frequently worked with Kinji Fukasaku, gives Shogun's Samurai: The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy an elegance and style that helps give this epic tale depth through his compositions. Composer Toshiaki Tsushima, who had previously written scores for The Street Fighter and Battles without Honor and Humanity, composes a score for Shogun’s Samurai that sets the mood while adding to the film's intensity.

Shogun's Samurai: The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy is a character-driven film that has an amazing cast, including Sonny Chiba, Toshirô Mifune, Tetsuro Tamba, Kinnosuke Yorozuya, Etsuko Shihomi, and Hiroyuki Sanada. Performance wise, the entire cast is excellent. And though Sonny Chiba’s screen time is limited, he delivers a scene-stealing performance that stands out as the most memorable.

Myths and facts have been used to their best advantage in this expertly crafted tale that is loaded with enough twists and turns to keep the viewer guessing what will happen next. My favorite moment is when Jubei is met in the woods by one of the Emperor's noblemen. Then Jubei takes his hat off, which has shiny blades inside of it, and throws it at the nobleman, who deflects it into a tree, and the blades in the hat reflect sunlight into the nobleman’s eyes as Jubei finishes him off. Ultimately, Shogun's Samurai: The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy is an extraordinary piece of filmmaking from one of Japan's greatest filmmakers.

Shogun's Samurai: The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy makes its way to Blu-ray via a release that comes with no substantial extras and a serviceable audio/video presentation.









 Written by Michael Den Boer

Ace High – Kino Lorber (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1968
Director: Giuseppe Colizzi
Writer: Giuseppe Colizzi
Cast: Eli Wallach, Terence Hill, Brock Peters, Kevin McCarthy, Bud Spencer

Release Date: September 20th, 2022
Approximate Running Time: 122 Minutes 35 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.95

"This top-notch spaghetti western co-stars screen great Eli Wallach (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) as Cacopoulos, who takes $300,000 from two hombres of questionable moral fiber, then proceeds to spread the cash around generously. His victims follow his trail, but when the men finally do meet, they must join forces to defend themselves against a murderous desperado. Before that battle is over, Cacopoulos has once again absconded with the cash, and the chase is on, ultimately leading them to a crooked Mississippi gaming house, a blazing gun battle and lots of money for everyone." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "HD Master by Paramount Pictures – From a 4K Scan of the 35mm Original Camera Negative."

Ace High comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 39.9 GB

Feature: 37.1 GB

The source used for this transfer looks excellent. Color saturation, image clarity, black levels, and compression are solid, and the image retains an organic look. That said, this is one of the best transfers given to a spaghetti western that I have seen to date.

Audio: 4.5/5

This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English, and included with this release are removable English subtitles. The audio sounds great; dialog always comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced, and fight sequences sound robust. That said, there are a few minor instances where the score sounds distorted.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a theatrical trailer (3 minutes 26 seconds, DTS-HD mono English, no subtitles), an audio commentary with filmmaker Alex Cox, and a slipcover (limited to the first pressing).

Other extras include trailers for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Man of the East, A Fistful Of Dynamite (Duck, You Sucker!), Kill Them All and Come Back Alone, and The Hills Run Red.

Summary:

Ace High is the second in a trilogy of films that involves the adventures of Cat Stevens and Hutch Bessy. The other two films are God Forgives... I Don’t! and Boot Hill. Giuseppe Colizzi only directed a handful of films, most of which starred Terence Hill and Bud Spencer. They would go on to star in the hugely successful Trinity series. By the late 1960's, spaghetti westerns had started to lose their appeal and some directors like Giuseppe Colizzi started to inject more humor into this genre, giving it a second life through the early 1970’s.

One of the staples of the spaghetti western genre has been that they are also buddy pictures. Terence Hill and Bud Spencer make the most unlikely pair of them all. Terence Hill is a lean, laid-back, suave character, while Bud Spencer’s imposing size often lands him in the role of a brute or the brunt of the joke. They are polar opposites that balance each other perfectly, and they never really achieve on their own the success they find together.

Eli Wallach is the real star of the show, and his character, Cacopoulos, is similar in many ways to Tuco, which he played in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Though he never really achieved leading man status in his career, there is an undeniable presence that he possesses as he steals every scene he is in.

The most memorable moment is a scene with Cacopoulos, who is taking care of babies in baskets that are hanging from the roof. Hutch wants his money back, and he wakes the babies with a loud voice. Cacopoulos proceeds to tell him how he can get his money back as they swing the baskets back and forth calmly, not only calming the babies down, but he manages to calm down Hutch in the process.

Carlo Rustichelli (Blood and Black Lace) composed Ace High’s score, which was conducted by Bruno Nicolai (99 Women), a frequent collaborator of Ennio Morricone. Though the score never achieves the quality of Ennio Morricone’s work with Sergio Leone, Carlo Rustichelli’s score still has some beautifully composed moments that add gravitas to Ace High.

When discussing spaghetti westerns, you can always be sure that they're going to end with a spectacular action set piece. Sergio Leone set the stage with the Dollar Trilogy and Once Upon a Time in the West films, outdoing himself each time by coming up with new and clever ways to stage Mexican standoffs. In Ace High, Giuseppe Colizzi comes up with one of the most inspired standoffs that I have seen to date. It takes place in a gambling house where they use the roulette table as their single to draw, and as it goes round and round, classical music plays in the background, adding to the scene's grandeur.

Giuseppe Colizzi’s direction is solid; he fully exploits the technoscope frame, composing shots that are inventive and stylish. Ace High does not take itself as seriously as other spaghetti western films that were being made in 1968. That said, the result is a fun film that lets its characters take center stage.

Ace High gets an excellent release from Kino Lorber that comes with a solid audio/video presentation and an informative audio commentary, highly recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Monday, October 3, 2022

Disturbing Behavior: Special Edition – MVD Rewind Collection (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1998
Director: David Nutter
Writer: Scott Rosenberg
Cast: James Marsden, Katie Holmes, Tobias Mehler, Nick Stahl, Steve Railsback, Bruce Greenwood, Katharine Isabelle, William Sadler

Release Date: October 11th, 2022
Approximate running time: 83 Minutes 40 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Interlaced / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: R
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 English, LPCM Stereo English, Dolby Digital Stereo French
Subtitles: English, French
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.95

"Achieve, be excellent...and be afraid. For when the esteemed Blue Ribbon club of Cradle Bay High take their slogans too far, things in the small coastal town begin to go wrong. Dead wrong. And when a "dark sinister force" begins turning the school's curricularly challenged into the soulless, academic elite, three "outsiders" join in a desperate race to avoid becoming insiders and losing their individuality forever!" - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 3.75/5

Disturbing Behavior comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 21.6 GB

Feature: 20 GB

Though no information is provided about the source of this release's transfers, it appears to use the same source as Shout Factory used for their 2016 Blu-ray. That said, the source is in great shape. Colors and flesh tones look correct, image clarity is generally very good, black levels fare well, and this transfer looks filmic. Though this transfer leaves some room for improvement, it holds up well enough until a new transfer comes along.

Audio: 4/5 (DTS-HD 5.1 English, LPCM Stereo English)

This release comes with three audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English; a LPCM stereo mix in English; and a Dolby Digital stereo mix in French. Both of the English language tracks are in great shape. Dialog always comes through clearly, and everything sounds balanced and robust when it should. The differences between the two English language tracks are minimal. Included with this release are removable English subtitles and removable French subtitles.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a theatrical trailer (2 minutes 21 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), reversible cover art, a collectible mini-poster, a limited edition slipcover (first pressing only), an audio commentary with director David Nutter, and eleven deleted scenes: Caldicott Talks to His Daughter (1 minute 21 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), Newberry Tells Steve the Truth (3 minutes 10 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), Officer Cox Gives Steve a Ride Home (2 minutes 38 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), Steve’s Nightmare (21 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), Steve Confronts Dad (2 minutes 3 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), Caldicott Explains His Plan (44 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), Steve Walks Lindsay Home (50 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), Steve Talks About His Brother (3 minutes 17 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), Mom Finds a Gun (28 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), Rachel Vents to Steve/Love Scene (4 minutes 23 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), and The Original Ending (4 minutes 13 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles). The deleted scenes also come with optional audio commentary by David Nutter, and these scenes can be played separately or all together.

Summary:

Though Disturbing Behavior was part of the late 1990’s horror boom that included Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Urban Legend. The result is a film that stands apart from these other films because it is more of a sci-fi/horror hybrid than a straight-up horror film.

Disturbing Behavior was directed by David Nutter, a filmmaker who primarily worked in television. Besides Disturbing Behavior, he only directed three other films: Cease Fire, Trancers 4: Jack of Swords, and Trancers 5: Sudden Deth. He is most remembered for his contributions to The X-Files, where he directed fifteen episodes. His connection to The X-Files ties in with Disturbing Behavior since its premise is something that would fit in perfectly with a show like The X-Files.

While watching Disturbing Behavior, there are elements that will give you Deja Vu. It is easy to see how films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Stepford Wives, and Dead & Buried have elements that served as inspiration. The premise revolves around a community that is overseen by a Frankenstein-like doctor who transforms all of the bad kids into brainwashed teens who look like something from the 1950’s. Unfortunately, there are consequences when one plays God, and the teens who have been transformed into the perfect teenager are prone to side effects that make them violent.

Disturbing Behavior has a strong cast that is a good mix of young up and coming actors and established character actors. All around, the performances are very good, especially (William Sadler) in the role of Dorian Newberry, an eccentric janitor obsessed with exterminating the rodent problem. Another performance of note is James Marsden (The Box) in the role of Steve Clark, the new kid in town, for whom a large portion of the narrative is told from his perspective.

From a production standpoint, there are not many areas where Disturbing Behavior comes up short. The premise is superbly realized, the narrative never lags, and there is an ending that leaves the door open for another film. David Nutter’s direction is solid; the visuals and the soundtrack do a great job of reinforcing the mood. That said, when it comes to Disturbing Behavior’s shortcomings, most of them are connected to the removal of scenes because of poor test screening. Fortunately, these moments are included as an extra for this release, and watching them gives you an idea of what might have been if these scenes were not excised. Ultimately, even in its current form, Disturbing Behavior is a highly entertaining film that fans of 1990’s horror are sure to enjoy.

Disturbing Behavior gets a first-rate release from The MVD Rewind Collection that comes with a strong audio/video presentation and an insightful audio commentary, recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Doberman Cop – Arrow Video (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1977
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Writer: Kôji Takada
Adapted From: manga series Doberman Deka written by Buronson
Cast: Sonny Chiba, Hiroki Matsukata, Janet Yata, Eiko Matsuda, Seizo Fukumoto

Release Date: June 26th, 2017 (UK), June 7th, 2017 (USA)
Approximate Running Time: 90 Minutes 2 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 15 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Mono Japanese
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region A,B (Blu-ray), Region 1,2 NTSC (DVD)
Retail Price: £24.99 (UK), $39.95 (USA)

"Doberman Cop follows the fish-out-of-water adventures of Joji Kano (Chiba), a tough-as-nails police officer from Okinawa who arrives in Tokyo’s Kabuki-cho nightlife district to investigate the savage murder and mutilation of an island girl who had been working as a prostitute. Initially dismissed as a country bumpkin (complete with straw hat and live pig in tow!), Kano soon proves himself a more savvy detective than the local cops, and a tougher customer than anyone expected. As he probes deeper into the sleazy world of flesh-peddling, talent agency corruption and mob influence, Kano uncovers the shocking truth about the girl, her connection to a yakuza-turned-music manager (Hiroki Matsukata), and a savage serial killer who is burning women alive." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 3.75

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "The film was remastered in high definition and supplied for this release by Toei Company, Ltd."

Doberman Cop comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 32 GB

Feature: 20.9 GB

The HD transfer used for this release was created from original preservation elements that were supplied by Toei. Though the source is clean, it looks dated. Colors fare well, the image generally looks crisp, black levels are adequate, and any compression issues are minor.

Audio: 4/5

This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in Japanese and removable English subtitles have been included with this release. The audio sounds are clean, clear, and balanced throughout. Range-wise, the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented, and when it comes to the film’s score, it sounds appropriately robust.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a theatrical trailer (3 minutes 15 seconds, LPCM mono Japanese with English removable subtitles), an interview with Fukasaku biographer Sadao Yamane titled Beyond the Film: Doberman Cop (8 minutes 54 seconds, LPCM stereo Japanese with English removable subtitles), an interview with screenwriter Koji Takada titled Koji Takada: Cops, Pigs and Karate (17 minutes 55 seconds, LPCM stereo Japanese with English removable subtitles) and an interview with actor Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba titled Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Part 2 (17 minutes 53 seconds, LPCM stereo Japanese with English removable subtitles), reversible cover art and a thirty-two-page booklet (limited to the first pressing) with cast & crew information, an essay titled Doberman Days: Kinji Fukasaku, Sonny Chiba, and the Twilight of Toei Exploitation written by Patrick Macias , an essay titled Video Killed the Manga Star: Resurrecting the Doberman Cop written by Tom Mes and information about the transfer.

Included with this release is a DVD that has the same content as the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo.

Summary:

Doberman Cop is yet another classic collaboration between Sonny Chiba and director Kinji Fukasaku. Sonny Chiba’s character, Jiro, is like a fish out of water as his rural upbringing clashes with the way big city folks do things. When Jiro transports a pig in a sack, it is clear that this is not your typical Yakuza film. The pig seems to pop up throughout Doberman at the most opportune times, like when Jiro goes to a strip and when the pig won’t stop squealing, the stripper dancing on the stage asks Jiro to let the pig loose on the stage. What follows is even more bizarre as the crowd helps rip off his clothes as the stripper mounts Jiro as she performs a live sex act for her audience.

The action is more in the style of a bar brawler than that of an expert martial artist. It is the rawness of the fighting choreography that helps sell the ruff and simple character of Jiro, who is given in one scene a 44 Magnum, which is a gun that is a trademark of another renegade cop who doesn’t play by the rules named Dirty Harry. Like many of Kenji Fukasaku's films from this period, Doberman Cop deals with abuse of power, this time in the form of police brutality.

To make the action feel more authentic during action sequences, Doberman often employs the use of a hand-held camera, giving Doberman a documentary look and feel. Another major theme that runs through it is the loss of innocence. As Miki has gone so far, she can never return to the past she left behind and how the big city has forever changed Jiro’s view of the world. Ultimately, Doberman Cop is one of Sonny Chiba and Kinji Fukasaku’s most unusual collaborations.

Doberman Cop gets a first-rate release from Arrow Video that comes with a strong audio/video presentation and a trio of informative interviews, recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Wolf Guy – Arrow Video (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1975
Director: Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Writer: Fumio Kônami
Adapted From: manga series Urufu gai written by Kazumasa Hirai
Cast: Sonny Chiba, Kôji Fujiyama, Haruki Jo, Kenji Kawai, Hiroshi Kondô, Teruo Shimizu, Saburo Date

Release Date: May 22nd, 2017 (UK), May 23rd, 2017 (USA)
Approximate Running Time: 85 Minutes 57 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Mono Japanese
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region A,B (Blu-ray), Region 1,2 NTSC (DVD)
Retail Price: £24.99 (UK), $39.95 (USA)

"Chiba stars as Akira Inugami, the only survivor of a clan of ancient werewolves who relies on his supernatural powers to solve mysterious crimes. After a series of bloody killings perpetrated by an unseen force, Inugami uncovers a conspiracy involving a murdered cabaret singer, corrupt politicians, and a plot by the J-CIA to harvest his blood in order to steal his lycanthropic powers! At the same time, Inugami also discovers the truth behind his family heritage, and that he may not be the last of his kind." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 3.5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "The film was remastered in high definition and supplied for this release by Toei Company, Ltd."

Wolf Guy comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 26.5 GB

Feature: 19.9 GB

The HD transfer used for this release was created from original preservation elements that were supplied by Toei. Though the source is clean, it looks dated. Colors fare well, the image generally looks crisp, black levels are adequate, and any compression issues are minor.

Audio: 4/5

This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in Japanese and removable English subtitles have been included with this release. There are no issues with background noise or distortion, and the dialog always comes through clearly, and everything sounds balanced. Range-wise, the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented, and when it comes to the film’s score, it sounds appropriately robust.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a theatrical trailer  (2 minutes 55 seconds, LPCM mono Japanese with removable English subtitles), an interview with director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi titled Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Movies with Guts (10 minutes 31 seconds, LPCM stereo Japanese with removable English subtitles), an interview with producer Toru Yoshida titled Toru Yoshida: B Movie Master (17 minutes 30 seconds, LPCM stereo Japanese with removable English subtitles), an interview with actor Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba titled Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Part 1 (14 minutes 31 seconds, LPCM stereo Japanese with removable English subtitles), reversible cover art and a thirty-six-page booklet (limited to the first pressing) with cast & crew information, an essay titled Full Moon Chiba: The Resurrection of Wolf Guy written by Patrick Macias, an essay titled Monster Mashups, Japanese Style written by Jasper Sharp and information about the transfer.

Included with this release is a DVD that has the same content as the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo.

Summary:

Sonny Chiba is primarily known for portraying badasses who break bones and sometimes maim or dismember their opponents. The Wolf Guy is an oddity even for Sonny Chiba, who has just come off the success of what is widely regarded as his signature character and series, The Street Fighter films.

Fortunately for Sonny Chiba fans, this is not your run of the mill werewolf movie and, without giving too much away, it is not until the last half that Sonny Chiba’s character's being a werewolf is even acknowledged. That being said, this allows Sonny Chiba for the first half to do what he does best, which is kick a lot of ass and ask for names later. Of course, when it comes to the ladies, Sonny Chiba once again plays a character that women can’t get enough of.

As mentioned before, the first half plays out like a detective story, while the second half takes on a supernatural vibe. Also, when it comes to the characters, they are all well-defined and their motivations are always clear. In other words, there are no characters that occupy the middle ground. Although everyone either falls into the good guy category or the bad guy category, and though the werewolf angle is what is going to drive most viewers to Wolf Guy, unfortunately, this plot device is woefully underused and more attention is being given to the more exploitative elements.

From a performance standpoint, Sonny Chiba once again delivers in the role of the reporter named Akira Inugami. His performance contains a ferocity and brutality that is on par with the Takuma "Terry" Tsurugi that he portrayed in the Street Fighter films. Compared to Sonny Chiba, the rest of the cast are just mere obstacles that get in his way.

Sonny Chiba’s main nemesis is a secret government organization that discovers that he is a werewolf. They capture him and try to use him to make others into werewolves. Of course, these are the same people who infected the other characters with syphilis. Needless to say, those in charge of these experiments are cut from the same cloth as so many other diabolical masterminds who always end up being their own worst enemies.

But there are things that can be improved with Wolf Guy. The end result is still a highly entertaining film that embodies the essence of 1970’s Japanese exploitation cinema.

Wolf Guy gets a first-rate release from Arrow Video that comes with a strong audio/video presentation and a trio of informative interviews, recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Friday, September 30, 2022

The Bullet Train - Twilight Time (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1975
Director: Junya Sato
Writers: Junya Sato, Ryunosuke Ono
Cast: Sonny Chiba, Ken Takakura, Etsuko Shihomi, Eiji Go

Release Date: December 13th, 2016
Approximate running time: 152 Minutes 11 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Interlaced / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Japanese
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: OOP

"The basis for the 1994 American hit, Speed, The Bullet Train (Shinkansen Daibakuha, 1975) stars the wonderful Ken Takakura (The Yakuza) as a mad bomber who plants a device on a high-speed Japanese train, programmed to detonate if the train’s speed drops below 80 kilometers per hour. His design: to collect a multi-million-dollar ransom." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.25/5

The Bullet Train comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 42.7 GB

Feature: 37.9 GB

Though no information is provided about the source of this release's transfers, the source used for this transfer is in great shape, and when compared to previous home video releases, this transfer is superior in every way. with the biggest areas of improvement being color saturation and image clarity.

Audio: 4/5

This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in Japanese, and included with this release are removable English subtitles. The audio is in great shape. Dialog is clear, balanced, and robust when it needs to be.

Extras:

The extras for this release include an option to view the Twilight Time catalog, an eight-page booklet with an essay about The Bullet Train written by Julie Kirgo, an interview with director Junya Sato titled Big Movie, Big Panic (24 minutes 40 seconds, DTS-HD stereo Japanese with removable English subtitles), and an option to listen to the Isolated Music & Effects track.

Summary:

Genre filmmaking was at its peak in the 1970s, and this was due in large part to the fact that directors had more control than they had ever had before or since. The big budget disaster films, The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, were drawing big crowds around the world, so it would only be natural for the Japanese to want to make their own home-grown disaster films. Bullet Train was directed by Junya Sato, who also directed the excellent True Account of Ginza Tortures and the first Golgo 13 film.

Junya Sato’s directing throughout The Bullet Train is nearly flawless as he lets the performances tell the story instead of showing off with fancy camera angles. The only flaw is the special effects, which, for the most part, look acceptable despite a few shots that appear cheap. Junya Sato also co-wrote The Bullet Train screenplay with Ryunosuke Ono.

The intricate narrative is well written as each new obstacle is revealed to its fullest effect. The Bullet Train was cut by nearly forty minutes when released outside of Japan upon its original release, and for this release, we are blessed with the full-length version of the Bullet Train. The bulk of the missing scenes take place during three flashback sequences, which are important to the overall feel of The Bullet Train as they add more character depth and give the viewer more insight into why Okita puts his plan of terror into action.

The cast is filled with colorful characters, most of whom are sympathetic and likable. Ken Takakura's performance as Tetsuo Okita is mesmerizing as his character is on the verge of breaking down and losing everything. Sue Shihomi has a brief cameo as a telephone operator.

Sonny Chiba may not be the lead in The Bullet Train, but he plays one of the most important characters as the bullet train's lead conductor, Aoki. Virtually every moment that involves a scene with Sonny Chiba in The Bullet Train sees him sitting nervously behind the wheel of the train, and even though his character lacks mobility, Sonny Chiba is able to convey so much just in his facial expressions.

The police are by far and away the least sympathetic characters in The Bullet Train, as they go back on their promises time and again. They are often overzealous as they try to capture criminals, and in most instances, they kill the criminals before they can get any information from them. This type of inept police work also helps keep the narrative going, as now they have to find another way to find and disable the bomb.

Surprisingly, Okita and his two sidekicks are the three characters that are the easiest to identify and care about. Ultimately, The Bullet Train is a tense drama that will have you on the edge of your seat right up to its tragic conclusion.

The Bullet Train received a now OOP Blu-ray from Twilight Time that came with a strong audio/video presentation and an insightful interview, recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Shogun's Samurai The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy – Discotek Media (Blu-ray) Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1978 Director: Kinji Fukasaku Writ...