Lone Wolf and Cub-White Heaven in Hell (1974)

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Released 8-May-2013

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Theatrical Trailer
Gallery-Photo
Trailer-Baby Cart in Peril, Baby Cart in the Land of Demons
Trailer-Madman trailers x 4
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1974
Running Time 80:04
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Yoshiyuki Kuroda
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Tomisaburo Wakayama
Fumio Watanabe
Tomoko Mayama
Shigeru Tsuyuguchi
Tomoo Uchida
Taketoshi Naitô
Yoshi Kato
Yoshiko Fujita
Reiko Kasahara
Akihiro Tomikawa
Kauji Sokiyamo
Teruo Matsuyama
Toshiya Wazaki
Case ?
RPI ? Music Hideaki Sakurai


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Master swordsman and ex-Shogun’s Executioner Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama), pushing his baby son Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa) in a wooden baby cart, is on his way to Edo to kill his arch enemy Retsudo Yagyu (Minori Oki), head of the Yagyu clan and the man who framed Ogami, killed his wife and usurped the position of Shogun’s executioner for his own clan. But Retsudo’s failure to kill Ogami is causing the Shogun concern and undermining the Yagyu’s reputation and position. Retsudo sends his last remaining legitimate child, his daughter Kaori (Junko Hitomi), to kill Ogami with her two daggers technique, but Ogami manages to defeat and kill Kaori instead. In desperation Retsudo turns to his illegitimate son Hyoei (Kenji Ushio), whom he had abandoned in the mountains as a child many years ago. But Hyoei is now part of the shadowy Tsuchigumo clan; he rejects his father’s approach but decides to kill Ogami anyway and take over the Yagyu’s position in the Shogunate for his own clan. His most potent weapons are three demon warriors, who are neither dead nor undead.

     But Ogami, as ever, proves impossible to kill, so Hyoei and his warriors evolve another strategy; anyone Ogami speaks to or has contact with is slaughtered. If he and Daigoro stay at an inn, the staff and all customers are killed, if Ogami buys food from a vendor, the seller is killed, making life even more isolated for Ogami and Daigoro and driving them away from all human contact. Yet finally Hyoei does come to face Ogami in a duel, where his wish to become a legitimate samurai leads to his defeat. Then, in the snow covered mountains, Ogami faces Retsudo himself and hundreds of Yagyu warriors in a final bloody battle.

     Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell (the original title was Kozure okami: Jigoku e ikuzo! Daigoro, which is literally Lone Wolf and Cub: Daigoro! We’re off to Hell) is the sixth, and final, film in the Lone Wolf and Cub series. Unlike most of the earlier films that were directed by Kenji Misumi, this film is directed by Yoshiyuki Kuroda, who was better known as a special or visual effects supervisor.

     To my mind, Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell is the weakest film in the series, although others would disagree. This is because this is more of a straight forward action film, without the deeper examination of the moral bankruptcy within the society that made other films in the series so compelling. Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell also includes a supernatural element, with warriors who can burrow underground or fly in the air, that is at odds with the general tone of the series. However, the fights as usual are very bloody, with limbs and torsos severed and blood spraying elaborately, and one sequence, a battle in a pavilion over the water, looks very beautiful. The climax of the film is a battle between Ogami and the Yagyu’s led by Retsudo in a snow covered landscape using sleds with cannons and guns and samurai warriors on skis which has perhaps the biggest body count in the series, and that is saying something. Yet for all the spectacle, this final battle feels campy, the staging not rising to any interesting heights as the swaying camera basically stays in close.

     Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell ends inconclusively. It was not intended to be the final film in the Lone Wolf and Cub series, but it was, leaving the saga and Ogami’s revenge against the Yagyu’s incomplete. What we do get is a spectacular looking film that is action packed and never boring and which ends with carnage, blood and a huge body count in the snow. If that was to be the last image of this incredible series of films, it is one to remember.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     This print has generally good clean detail, especially in close-ups. Colours are deep and natural with the spurting and gushing blood a deep vibrant red, sunsets are stunning while the snow covered slopes and the forests are spectacular. Blacks and shadow detail are very good. Skin tones are also good.

     Light film grain is evident and there is some inconsistency with brightness in exterior scenes where the camera struggles to adjust to the brightness of the snow for example. There is slight aliasing and the occasional fleck, but this print looks good for a film almost 40 years old.

     Subtitles in American English are easy to read and seemed timely. They are mostly in a yellow font, but when two people were talking the other dialogue is in a white font. I did not notice any spelling or grammatical errors. On one occasion a “pop up” text appeared in white on the top of the screen to explain the Japanese term “Bakufu”.

    The layer change on this disc is not noticeable.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio is Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 Kbps, which is not surround encoded. The film was released with mono sound, so this represents the original mix.

     Dialogue was clear. The sound effects were quite good with horse’s hooves and gunfire having some resonance although clearly the audio does not have the depth of modern audio tracks. There was no hiss or other problems. There was obviously no surround or sub-woofer use.

    Lip synchronisation was noticeably out a number of times, but nothing too serious.

     The original score this time is by new composer Murai Kunihiko. It is varied and includes some beautiful eastern themes plus some music that sounds a bit like a 1970’s James Bond theme. Mostly the score worked well with the visuals.

     The audio track was perfectly adequate, reflecting the original release.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Original Trailer (3:33)

Stills Gallery

     15 black and white film stills. Silent, use the remote to advance to the next still.

Lone Wolf and Cub Trailers

     Trailers for Lone Wolf and Cub 4: Baby Cart in Peril (3:08) and Lone Wolf and Cub 5; Baby Cart in the Land of Demons (3:02).

Promo Trailers

     Trailers for The Samurai Trilogy 2 – Duel at Ichijoji Temple (3:46), Son of Godzilla (2:35) and Godzilla – Invasion of Astro Monster (2:24).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     There are Region 1 US and Region 2 UK collections of the Lone Wolf and Cub complete series. The UK set includes the 7 films the same as our release; extras are trailers and written liner notes. The US release is a 6 disc set, excluding Samurai Assassin and has no extras listed. There is also a Region A Blu-ray with the six Lone Wolf and Cub films on 2 discs.

     A Region 1 stand-alone edition of Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell is listed on Amazon.com; previous releases in Australia seem no longer to be available. But really, for the price there is no reason to go past the Lone Wolf and Cub: Ultimate Collection from Madman which contains the six original Lone Wolf and Cub films plus Shogun Assassin.

Summary

     Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell is the sixth, and final, film in the Lone Wolf and Cub series. It is more a straight forward action film but it includes a supernatural element and a massive battle over a snow covered landscape which has perhaps the biggest body count in the series. This film was not intended to be the final film in the series but it was, leaving the saga, and Ogami’s revenge against Retsudo and the Yagyu’s, incomplete.

     The video and audio are fine, extras are limited.

     The Lone Wolf and Cub: Ultimate Collection from Madman contains the six original Lone Wolf and Cub films plus Shogun Assassin, the 1980 US film that resulted when parts of the first two films in the Lone Wolf and Cub series were edited together, new dialogue written and dubbed into English and a new score added. For a RRP of $39.95 no self-respecting fan of Japanese or samurai cinema should be without this set.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, August 01, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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