Kill! plays like something of a dark spaghetti western comedy. Honestly, how many times have you heard that line before? A warrior with no master wanders into a ghost town, tired and hungry, to find the only restaurateur in town dead. As he begins to contemplate where he will find his next meal, a farmer wonders into town under similar circumstances. The two form a loose partnership as they discover that they have placed themselves in the middle of a standoff between the local samurai and yakuza clans. As they…find out more about what is going on in the seemingly-deserted town, their loyalties shift and they begin to concentrate more on doing what is right than on their original selfish desires.
Fans of the Kill Bill films will find much to enjoy in this film, as it will give them an opportunity to see some of the history behind Tarantino’s films. This piece is an unconventional take on the same book on which Akira Kurosowa’s film Sanjuro was based. I always enjoy the opportunity to see different takes on a theme, and this 1965 film is quite fascinating in its disregard for traditional samurai film conventions.
One thing that I would like to bring special attention to is the excellent score on this film. The music here is highly derivative of one of Ennio Morricone’s great western scores. Such music lends a unique-yet-familiar feel to the picture. Luckily, the score can easily and clearly be heard on this excellent Dolby Mono soundtrack.
Did I just use the words “excellent” and “Dolby Mono” in the same sentence? I did indeed, as Criterion seems to be hitting a new high water mark for mono soundtracks on the samurai films that are sold as part of their Sixties Swordplay Classics collection. Clear music, powerful dialog and tight, sharp sound effects make this a fantastic soundtrack, while still keeping the film true to its original presentation format.
The video quality on this disc s good, but not great. The original negative underwent a complete restoration before being transferred to the digital medium, but there are still some legitimate problems with grain on this disc. A little grain is fine, but the level on this disc seems to be a bit excessive. The black and white picture is basically clean otherwise, however, with no dust or spotting to be found. I was also pleased with the 2.35:1 format, as it helps to accentuate the wonderful cinematography used in the film.
Sadly, this disc is pretty limited when it comes to extras. There is a teaser and a trailer on the disc, and an essay in the box. I’m afraid that if you want more information on this one, you are going to have to conduct your own research.
This disc can be purchased alone, or as part of Criterion’s Rebel Samurai – Sixties Swordplay Classics box set. If you know that you like this film, I suggest you pick up the box set, as there are films in the set that I actually enjoyed more than this one. This is still a fine film in its own right, though, so you really can’t go wrong ether way. The fight scenes are well choreographed, the script is intelligent, and there are some genuinely funny moments. Criterion has dug up a fun one with their newly-restored release of Kill!
Special Features List