First and foremost, it is important to note that this is a large, “A” list film. While many samurai movies are low budget stories, everything about this beautiful film is first rate. As you can see by the two hour running time, the story comes first in this piece, with the swordplay coming in later, merely to serve the story.
And an important story it is. In 1967, World War II was still fresh in the minds of many Japanese citizens. These people, who had never questioned authority in thousands of years, had j…st begun to wonder if blind loyalty to authority was always the best path. This film dares to place the honor of the family unit over that of the ruling clan. The brilliance of the film lies in the fact that even the act of disobedience is performed with the utmost respect for the ruling class, and violence is considered absolutely as a last resort.
Samurai Rebellion is a film, in the truest sense of the word. The cinematography is beautiful, the story is complex and moving, and the acting is amazing. I was completely drawn into this world and the lives of these characters. If the definition of a film is to allow the viewer to experience the vision of the director, than this is a fine film, indeed.
This is a clean and nuanced mono soundtrack. Birds can clearly be heard chirping in the distance during outdoor dialog scenes. Details are present in the dialog, and no sound effects rise to the point of being comical; an easy trap for samurai films to fall into.
Though this film’s video presentation has clearly been painstakingly restored, there are still a few minor problems present. Most notably, many scenes suffer from a slight flicker that makes the film look like it is being viewed through a projector instead of on a television monitor. There are also some occasional, very minor problems with deep blacks looking like blues. Again, this is certainly not a major problem, but I would be remiss if I neglected to mention it altogether. The occasional scratch or faded negative does show up here and there as well.
For the most part, however, this is a clean transfer, with nice contrast levels, no problems with blooming white levels or edge defects, and very acceptable grain levels.
The extras on this disc are limited, but there are more extras here than on any other film in Criterion’s samurai series. The original theatrical trailer is here, as well as an essay by a Japanese film historian that helps to put some perspective on the film. Finally, this disc includes a rare excerpt 1993 interview with director Masaki Kobayashi. Unfortunately, this interview is just a little over three minutes in length.
While every film in Criterion’s Rebel Samurai – Sixties Swordplay Classics box set is special, this one is clearly my favorite. Viewers could do no wrong by purchasing the entire box set, but if they can only afford one title from the series, this outstanding, groundbreaking film is the clear choice.
Special Features List
- Theatrical Trailer
- 1993 interview with director Masaki Kobayashi