Yakuza Graveyard: Limited Edition – Radiance Films (Blu-ray)
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1976
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Writer: Kazuo Kasahara
Cast: Tetsuya Watari, Meiko Kaji, Tatsuo Umemiya, Hideo Murota, Jûkei Fujioka, Nobuo Kaneko, Mikio Narita, Kei Satô, Nagisa Ôshima, Kin Sugai
Release Date: May 15th, 2023 (UK), May 16th, 2023 (USA)
Approximate running time: 95 Minutes 53 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 15 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Japanese
Region Coding: Region A,B
Retail Price: £16.99 (UK), $34.95 (USA)
"When he falls for the beautiful wife of the jailed boss of the Nishida gang, things start to spiral out of control for detective Kuroiwa (Tetsuya Watari, Graveyard of Honour). In a world where the line between police and organised crime is vague, he finds himself on the wrong side of a yakuza war when his superiors favour Nishida’s rivals, the Yamashiro gang." - synopsis provided by the distributor
Here’s the information provided about the transfer, "Yakuza Graveyard was transferred in High-Definition by Toei Company Ltd and supplied to Radiance Films as a High-Definition digital master."
Yakuza Graveyard comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.
Disc Size: 23 GB
Feature: 19.8 GB
The source used for this transfer is in great shape; there are no issues with source-related damage. Colors look correct, image clarity is strong, and compression is very good. That said, the black levels in some of the darker scenes are not as convincing as they should be. During these moments, image clarity is not as strong.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in Japanese with removable English subtitles. There are no issues with distortion or background hiss. Dialog always comes through clearly, and everything sounds balanced. Range-wise, this track at times sounds surprisingly robust.
Extras for this release include a gallery of promotional imagery, a theatrical trailer (3 minutes 12 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Japanese with removable English subtitles), a visual essay by critic Tom Mes on Meiko Kaji and Kinji Fukasaku’s collaborations titled The Rage and the Passion (12 minutes 10 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an appreciation by filmmaker Kazuya Shiraishi (14 minutes 36 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Japanese with removable English subtitles), an Easter Egg interview with Kazuya Shiraishi tilted Kinji Fukasaku’s Influence on Kazuya Shiraishi’s Blood of Wolves (4 minutes 9 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Japanese with removable English subtitles), reversible cover art, removable OBI strip leaving packaging free of certificates and markings, and a 32-page booklet (limited to 3000 copies) cast & crew information, an essay titled 'Zainichi Koreans' In Japanese Yakuza Films written by Mika Ko, an archival article titled Could Rice Still Fall From The Screen? written by Kazuo Kasahara, a contemporary review titled Kinji Fukasaku's Boundary Crossing: An Attempt To Decipher Yakuza Graveyard written by Masao Matsuda, and information about the transfer.
The narrative revolves around a hot-headed detective whose anger often gets him into trouble. He reluctantly formed an unlikely partnership with a yakuza clan that put him in the crosshairs of his superiors and fellow police officers.
With Yakuza Graveyard, director Kinji Fukasaku returns to familiar territory. In 1970s Japanese cinema, no name was more synonymous with Yakuza cinema than Kinji Fukasaku. His most celebrated foray into Yakuza cinema is the epic five-film Battle Without Honor and Humanity Films series.
Content-wise, there are many similarities between Yakuza Graveyard and the Battle Without Honor and Humanity films. Notably, the way in which information is told via voice-over narration and still images That said, with Yakuza Graveyard, Kinji Fukasaku comes full circle with the thematic ideas that he spent most of the 1970s exploring.
Kazuo Kasahara wrote Yakuza Graveyard’s screenplay. He worked with Kinji Fukasaku a year before on Cops vs. Thugs. When compared to Cops vs. Thugs, Yakuza Graveyard does a better job fleshing out its characters.
The action sequences are best described as controlled chaos. The bulk of the visuals are shot with handheld cameras, which gives them a documentary feel that adds to their gritty realism. Kinji Fukasaku’s direction is rock solid, as he employs every trick in his arsenal.
Music is always an important part of any film. And my favorite sequence is a scene where the protagonist, Kuroiwa, is playing his music too loud. The neighbors have called the police because he is disturbing the peace. Kuroiwa resolves the situation by showing the beat cop his badge before assaulting him.
Yakuza Graveyard has a phenomenal cast. With the most memorable performance being Tetsuya Watari (Tokyo Drifter) in the role of Kuroiwa. Also, the way his character slaps his knuckles when he is agitated further enhances his performance.
Another performance of note is that of Meiko Kaji, who is best remembered for the Lady Snowblood and Female Scorpion films. In Yakuza Graveyard, she is cast in the role of Keiko, the wife of a Yakuza boss who is in prison. This is a different kind of role for Meiko Kaji, in which she gets to portray a vulnerable character instead of the cold-blooded femme fatales she's most known for.
Yakuza Graveyard is a film that dives in headfirst. From its exemplary pre-credit opening montage, which does a superb job laying the foundation for what follows, there is rarely a moment for viewers to catch their breath. With an exceptional ending that provides a perfect coda for Kuroiwa's journey.
Though elements that are related to the yakuza’s way of life are what drive yakuza cinema, Kinji Fukasaku’s films often interject social commentary, and in the case of Yakuza Graveyard, he returns to a familiar theme: Japan's ill feelings towards half-breeds. Notably, Kuroiwa and Keiko form a bond because of their mixed nationalities, which also makes them outsiders. Also, Kinji Fukasaku’s films are filled with anti-heroes, and Yakuza Graveyard has one of his most compelling ones in Kuroiwa. Ultimately, Yakuza Graveyard is an extraordinary film that stands out as one of the best examples of yakuza cinema.
Yakuza Graveyard gets a first-rate release from Radiance Films that comes with a strong audio/video presentation and a trio of insightful extras, recommended.
Written by Michael Den Boer