Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years. Vol. 2. Border Crossings: The Crime and Action Movies: Limited Edition – Arrow Video (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Theatrical Release Dates: Japan, 1957 (Eight Hours of Terror), Japan, 1960 (The Sleeping Beast Within, Smashing the 0-Line), Japan, 1961 (Tokyo Knights, The Man with a Shotgun)
Director: Seijun Suzuki (All Films)
Cast: Keiko Shima, Nobuo Kaneko, Hiroyuki Nagato, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Yuji Kodaka, Sanae Nakahara, Kôji Wada, Mayumi Shimizu, Yôko Minamida, Hideaki Nitani, Izumi Ashikawa
Release Date: April 16, 2018 (UK), April 17, 2018 (USA)
Approximate running times: 76 Minutes 55 Seconds (Eight Hours of Terror), 81 Minutes 5 Seconds (Tokyo Knights), 83 Minutes 38 Seconds (The Man with a Shotgun), 86 Minutes 12 Seconds (The Sleeping Beast Within), 83 Minutes (Smashing the 0-Line)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Eight Hours of Terror), 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (The Sleeping Beast Within, Smashing the 0-Line, Tokyo Knights, The Man with a Shotgun)
Rating: 15 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Mono Japanese (All Films)
Subtitles: English (All Films)
Region Coding: Region A,B (Blu-ray), Region 1,2 NTSC (DVD)
Retail Price: OOP
"The Sleeping Beast Within (1960) is a gripping crime thriller that sees a newspaper reporter s search for his girlfriend s missing father lead him into heart of the criminal underworld of Yokohama s Chinatown. Its companion piece, Smashing the 0-Line (1960), follows two reporters descent into a scabrous demimonde of drug and human trafficking. In Eight Hours of Terror (1957), a bus making its precarious way across a winding mountain road picks up some unwelcome passengers. In Tokyo Knights (1961), a college student takes over the family business in the field of organised crime, while The Man with A Shotgun (1961) marks Suzuki s first entry into the territory of the borderless Japanese Western." - synopsis provided by the distributor
Video: 4/5 (The Sleeping Beast Within, Smashing the 0-Line, The Man with a Shotgun), 3.75/5 (Tokyo Knights), 3.5/5 (Eight Hours of Terror)
Here’s the information provided about the transfers, "The films in this collection were remastered in High Definition and delivered to Arrow Films. Additional restoration and grading work was completed at R3store in London."
Eight Hours of Terror, Tokyo Knights, and The Man with a Shotgun come on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.
Disc Size: 43.5 GB
Feature: 11.4 GB (Eight Hours of Terror), 12 GB (Tokyo Knights), 18.5 GB (The Man with a Shotgun)
The Sleeping Beast Within, and Smashing the 0-Line come on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.
Disc Size: 43.5 GB
Feature: 16.5 GB (The Sleeping Beast Within), 16 GB (Smashing the 0-Line)
The source for Eight Hours of Terror has some minor instances of print-related damage, and the grain looks natural. And though there is an inconsistency when it comes to contrast and black levels, There are also moments where contrast and black levels look very good.
The source used for Tokyo Knights is in good shape, and though colors fare well, there is room for improvement. The image looks crisp, and the grain looks natural.
The source used for The Man with a Shotgun is in good shape, and when compared to Tokyo Knights, the colors for this transfer fare much better. Details look sharp, black levels fare well, and grain looks natural.
The source for The Sleeping Beast Within is in good shape; details generally look crisp; contrast and black levels fare well. And though grain is noticeable throughout, there does appear to have been some DNR applied to this transfer.
The source for Smashing the 0-Line is in very good shape, and it is the best-looking film included as part of this collection. Details generally look crisp, black and contrast levels remain strong throughout, and grain looks natural.
Each film comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in Japanese, and removable English subtitles are available for each film. All issues related to background noise and distortion are minimal. Dialog comes through clearly, and range-wise, these audio mixes sound balanced.
Extras on Blu-ray disc with Eight Hours of Terror, Tokyo Knights, and The Man with a Shotgun include stills galleries for Eight Hours of Terror, Tokyo Knights and The Man with a Shotgun, and theatrical trailers for Tokyo Knights (3 minutes 51 seconds, LPCM mono Japanese with removable English subtitles) and The Man with a Shotgun (4 minutes 16 seconds, LPCM mono Japanese with removable English subtitles).
Extras on Blu-ray disc with Eight Hours of Terror, Tokyo Knights, and The Man with a Shotgun include stills galleries for The Sleeping Beast Within and Smashing the 0-Line, theatrical trailers for The Sleeping Beast Within (3 minutes 25 seconds, LPCM mono Japanese with removable English subtitles) and Smashing the 0-Line (2 minutes 54 seconds, LPCM mono Japanese with removable English subtitles), an interview with film critic/historian Tony Rayns (49 minutes 23 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles) and an audio commentary with film critic/author Jasper Sharp for the film Smashing the 0-Line.
Other extras include reversible cover art, a sixty-page booklet with cast and crew information for each film, an essay titled Seijun Rising: Border Crossings written by Jasper Sharp, a Seijun Suzuki filmography, and information about the transfers.
Included with this release are two DVDs that have the same content as the Blu-ray included as part of this combo release.
Seijun Suzuki was born on May 23rd, 1923, in Tokyo, Japan. Seijun Suzuki’s calculated B-movie renditions of Yakuza thrillers put him in the company of other postmodern artists (Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman, Jean-Luc Godard, and Samuel Fuller). Seijun Suzuki's work is now being recognized.
Seijun Suzuki’s style is deliberate, as the flow of his narrative structures and the experiments in his symbolic use of colors and stylized acting show in every frame. He was just ahead of his time. In 1956, Seijun Suzuki would make his first feature for the Nikkatsu Studios, and he would go on to direct 42 films over an 11-year span for Nikkatsu.
During his peak period of 1963–1967, Seijun Suzuki would go on to create some of the most ambitious and daring B-films in the history of cinema. With each new film, he would try to top himself as an artist and keep the audience’s attention. Films like Toyko Drifter and Branded to Kill (a film that is now regarded as Seijun Suzuki’s masterpiece worldwide) would lead to Seijun Suzuki being fired from Nikkatsu.
In an unprecedented move, Seijun Suzuki, feeling cheated, sued Nikkatsu for wrongful dismissal, a case that the director won three and a half years later. Though he won in court. He was effectively blacklisted by all the major studios for nearly ten years. Seijun Suzuki would work on and off for the next 35 years, and with the film Pistol Opera, he appears to have returned to his more experimental roots.
Eight Hours of Terror: When a typhoon prevents passengers on trains from getting home. The more determined passengers get on a bus that travels across treacherous terrain,
From a production standpoint, Eight Hours of Terror takes full advantage of its limited resources. The premise is well executed, and the briskly paced narrative allows key moments to resonate. Another strength of Eight Hours of Terror is its colorful cast of characters.
Without a doubt, Eight Hours of Terror's greatest asset is its claustrophobic visuals. And nowhere is this clearer than in how the visuals reinforce the characters isolation from the rest of the world. Standout moments include the scene where the occupants on the bus discover that a murderer is in their midst and the scene where one of the women passengers’ lures one of the fugitives into a bear trap. This latter scene’s off-screen bloodcurdling screams from the fugitive accentuate this moment.
Performance-wise, the cast is all very good in their respective roles. With the standout performance being Keiko Shima in the role of the woman who seduces one of the convicts that have taken the occupants of the bus hostage, another performance of note is Nobuo Kaneko (Youth of the Beast) in the role of Mori, a murderer who is in the custody of a police officer. Despite the actions of his character, he creates a performance that exudes sympathy.
Tokyo Knights: When a college student takes over his family’s crime syndicate, he discovers that his family’s business has been infiltrated by a rival crime syndicate that wants to take it over.
Though organized crime is once again front and center in Tokyo Knights, the tone of the film is in contrast to the harsher reality depicted in Seijun Suzuki’s other Yakuza films.
Content wise Tokyo Knights is closer to a melodrama than a crime film. With humor and romance playing a significant role in the story at hand. And not to be overlooked is the role that music plays in Tokyo Knights.
Though Tokyo Knights features an interesting premise, the end result is a by-the-numbers film that any director could have made. And nowhere is this clearer than in how Tokyo Knights lacks the cinematic flourishes that have become synonymous with Seijun Suzuki’s most celebrated films.
The performances are best described as adequate. With the most memorable performance being the actor who portrays the bumbling music teacher, unfortunately, there is a lack of information about who portrayed this role. Another performance of note is Kôji Wada (Gate of Flesh) in the role of Matsubara Kôji, a high school student who becomes the head of a crime syndicate after his father's untimely death.
The Man with a Shotgun: A shotgun-carrying wanderer with ulterior motives infiltrates a remotely located mill run by criminals.
Though the western film genre is the one that never really gained traction in Japanese cinema, there is no denying the impact of western genres on Japanese filmmakers. And nowhere is this clearer than in how the core elements of the western film genre were transferred into crime/Yakuza-themed films. Case in point: The Man with a Shotgun
From a production standpoint, The Man with a Shotgun achieves all of its goals. The premise is well executed, and there are ample tense moments that build up to a superbly realized crescendo. Standout moments include the scene where the wanderer (the man with the shotgun) character’s introduction occurs and the scene where Ryoji and Masa settle which one of them will be the new sheriff by dueling.
Performance-wise, the cast is good in their respective roles. With the most memorable performance being Hideaki Nitani (Voice Without a Shadow) in the role of a wanderer named Ryoji. Another performance of note is Yuji Kodaka (Tattooed Life) in the role of Masa, whose motives are linked to a tragic event from the past.
The Sleeping Beast Within: A businessman who has just returned from a trip abroad gets entangled with a religious cult involved in criminal activity.
The premise puts an inventive spin on Alfred Hitchcock’s "wrong man" scenario. The narrative is well constructed, and there is an ample amount of misdirection. The Sleeping Beast Within saves its biggest red herring for its last act.
From a production standpoint, The Sleeping Beast Within achieves all of its goals. And nowhere is this clearer than when it comes to its film noir visuals. Standout moments include the scene where the daughter discovers the truth about her father, a scene where a reporter who is investigating a religious cult turns the table on a woman who tries to poison him, and a superbly realized finale that ends in a fiery inferno.
Performance-wise, they are all good in their respective roles. With the most memorable performance being Yûko Kusunoki (Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell) in the role of a femme fatale character named Hiroko. Other performances of note include Shinsuke Ashida (Red Angel) in the role of the father and Hiroyuki Nagato (The Insect Woman) in the role of the protagonist, a reporter named Kasai.
Smashing the 0-Line: Two competitive reporters whose sense of morality couldn’t be further apart investigate an underworld crime syndicate's drug ring.
Content wise Smashing the 0-Line has many of the elements that have since become synonymous with Seijun Suzuki’s most celebrated films. The film’s opening setup does a superb job of laying the groundwork for the events that are about to unfold, and the briskly paced narrative keeps you on the edge of your seat.
From a production standpoint, there is not an area where Smashing the 0-Line does not excel. And nowhere is this clearer than in how the film noir visuals perfectly capture the tone. Standout moments include a scene where gangsters kidnap a reporter and his sister. The gangsters try to extort the reporter by threatening to harm his sister, and when he refuses to cooperate with them, they rape her. And the scene during the film’s finale where the two rival reporters, who are now trapped on a boat, must now work together
Performance-wise, the cast is all very good in their respective roles. With this film’s standout performances being Hiroyuki Nagato (Pigs and Battleships) and Yuji Kodaka (The Man with a Shotgun) in the roles of two reporters whose sense of morality is on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years. Vol. 2. Border Crossings: The Crime and Action Movies is a phenomenal release from Arrow Video that showcases five of Seijun Suzuki's lesser-known films, highly recommended.
Written by Michael Den Boer