The Bullet Train - Twilight Time (Blu-ray)
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1975
Director: Junya Sato
Writers: Junya Sato, Ryunosuke Ono
Cast: Shin’ichi ‘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
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Japanese
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
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.
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.
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.
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