Friday, January 7, 2022

Red Angel – Arrow Video (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1966
Director: Yasuzo Masumura
Writers: Yoriyoshi Arima, Ryôzô Kasahara
Cast: Ayako Wakao, Shinsuke Ashida, Yusuke Kawazu, Ranko Akagi, Jotaro Senba, Daihachi Kita, Jun Osanai, Daigo Inoue, Takashi Nakamura, Kenichi Tani, Kisao Tobita, Naomasa Kawashima, Ayako Ikegami, Kyousuke Shiho, Shin Minatsu, Ken Nakahara, Shinji Sahara

Release Date: January 17th, 2022 (UK), January 18th, 2022 (USA)
Approximate Running Time: 94 Minutes 49 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
Retail Price: £24.99 (UK) / $39.95 (USA)

"When Sakura Nishi is dispatched in 1939 to a ramshackle field hospital in Tientsin, the frontline of Japan’s war with China, she and her colleagues find themselves fighting a losing battle tending to the war-wounded and emotionally shellshocked soldiers while assisting head surgeon Dr Okabe conduct an unending series of amputations. As the Chinese troops close in, she finds herself increasingly drawn to Okabe who, impotent to stall the mounting piles of cadavers, has retreated into his own private hell of morphine addiction." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "The High Definition master was produced and supplied by Kadokawa, with additional grading by Arrow Films at R3Store Studios, London."

Red Angel comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 33.2 GB

Feature: 27.3 GB

Any source-related debris is minimal. Image clarity, contrast, and black levels look strong throughout. Though the grain is intact, it looks thicker in some scenes.

Audio: 4/5

This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in Japanese and included with this release are removable English subtitles. Dialog comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced and ambient sounds are well-represented.


Extras for this release include an image gallery (8 images-stills/posters), theatrical trailer #1 (1 minute 18 seconds, LPCM mono Japanese with removable English subtitles), theatrical trailer #2 (2 minutes 19 seconds, LPCM mono Japanese with removable English subtitles), a  visual essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum titled Not All Angels Have Wings (13 minutes 51 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles), an introduction by Japanese cinema expert Tony Rayns (11 minutes 59 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles), an audio commentary by Japanese cinema scholar David Desser, reversible cover art and twenty-eight page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay titled In a Mad World, Only the Mad Are Sane written by Irene González-López, Yasuzô Masumura filmography and information about the transfer.


Red Angel is a very bleak story about a woman named Sakura whose guilt and sexual desires break her soul. The narrative starts off with Sakura being raped by a soldier she is taking care of at a hospital. She reports the man who raped her, and he is sent off to fight on the front lines of Japan's war against China. Sometime later, they crossed over again. The solider, now gravely wounded, is in need of a blood transfusion. Not wanting the solider to feel she was allowing him to die for what he had done to her, She begs a doctor to help save the man, and when the soldier dies, it sets forth an inner turmoil that consumes her. This is just the first of a series of events that culminate over the course of the film, leading up to a mesmerizing finale.

Visually, Red Angel is a brutal and unflinching look at the atrocities that are committed during war. This film would have so much of its visual power if it was in color. To director Yasuzo Masumura’s credit, the film's striking black and white photography heightens the performances and mood of the film. Some of the film's more memorable moments include Sakura allowing an armless patient to rub his big toe in her crotch, and during one of the operating scenes, there is a shot where the camera shows a bucket full of amputated body parts. Some of these operating scenes get very gruesome, with body parts being sawed off with little if any care, and the patients are often not given anesthesia. Yasuzo Masumura once again tackles controversial subject matter head-on.

In the lead role of a nurse named Sakura Nishi, is an actress named Ayako Wakao, who frequently worked with Yasuzo Masumura. Performance is both heartbreaking and poetic in this setting. Shinsuke Ashida is cast in the role of Sakura’s lover, Dr. Okabe. His performance does an admirable job of complimenting Ayako Wakao’s performance. The acting is very good all around, with no performances missing the mark or lacking potency. Ultimately, Red Angel is Yasuzo Masumura's most haunting and powerful film.

Arrow Video gives Red Angel a solid audio/video presentation and a wealth of insightful extras, highly recommended.

Written by Michael Den Boer

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