Samurai Trilogy-Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto (1954)

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Released 8-May-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Theatrical Trailer
Gallery-Photo
Trailer-Eastern Eye trailers x 3
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1954
Running Time 89:40
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Hiroshi Inagaki
Studio
Distributor
Toho Company
Madman Entertainment
Starring Toshirô Mifune
Rentaro Mikuni
Kuroemon Onoe
Kaoru Yachigusa
Mariko Okada
Mitsuko Mito
Eiko Miyoshi
Akihiko Hirata
Kusuo Abe
Eitarô Ozawa
Akira Tani
Seijiro Onda
Fumito Matsuo
Case Amaray-Transparent-Dual
RPI ? Music Ikuma Dan


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     The Samurai Trilogy, directed by Hiroshi Inagaki, of which Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto is the first film, is the life story of Takezo who became known as Musashi Miyamoto, one of the most famous samurai in 17th century Japan. Of course, the film is heavily fictionalised as it is based upon the novels written in the 1930’s by Eiji Yoshikawa, and then adapted from a play by Hideji Hojo by director Inagaki and Tokuhei Wakao.

     1600 Japan. Takezo (Toshiro Mifune) and Matahachi (Rentaro Mikuni) are two village peasants with dreams of becoming samurai. Takezo is a wild man and an orphan but Matahachi has a mother Osugi (Eiko Miyoshi) and a fiancé Otsu (Kaoru Yachigusa) who loves him. Dreaming of glory, they leave the village to join the army of the local lord, but at the Battle of Sekigahara their side is heavily defeated and Matahachi wounded. Fleeing as fugitives Takezo and Matahachi stumble upon the house of the widow Oko (Mitsuko Mito) and her sixteen year old daughter Akemi (Mariko Okada) where they recover for three months. Both women have their eye on Takezo and when he defeats some bandits Oko offers herself to him, but he refuses and leaves the house. Oko tells Matahachi that Takezo propositioned her, and they and Akemi leave and travel to Kyoto where Matahachi marries Oko.

     Takezo returns to his village to tell Osugi that her son is not dead as she believes, but he is declared a bandit and hunted relentlessly by the authorities and the villagers. Takezo is finally captured by the priest Takuan (Kuroemon Onoe) who saves his life but decides to teach him some humility, suspending Takezo from a tree in all weathers. By now Otsu is aware that her fiancé Matahachi has married another, and she takes pity on Takezo and helps him escape. They start to fall in love but Otsu is captured although Takezo escapes. In attempting to rescue Otsu, Takezo is trapped by Takuan and imprisoned in a room for three years with the books that allow Takezo to study to achieve some understanding and humility. As Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto ends, Takezo, now known as Musashi Miyamoto, embarks on a journey throughout Japan to attain knowledge and enlightenment, Otsu awaits for him at the Hanada Bridge, Matahachi is disillusioned in Kyoto where his wife is cheating on him, Akemi is still dreaming of Takezo and Matahachi’s mother Osugi, blaming all her family’s troubles on Takezo, is after his head.

     Toshiro Mifune in the title role is wonderful. He is probably best known to Western audiences for his samurai films with Akira Kurosawa including Rashomon (1950) and Seven Samurai (1954), however Mifune was a prolific actor (he is listed in 184 films in the IMDb) in a wide range of genres and he is equally at home in serious and not so serious action films, such as Sanjuro (1962), again for Kurosawa, and the wildly entertaining Red Lion (1969) for Kihachi Okamoto. However, Musashi is the role he was born to play and he is fabulous, as is Kuroemon Onoe as a very unusual priest. The women are a mixed bag with Akemi the most interesting, but in fact the film, and some of the dramatic acting, especially by (Kaoru Yachigusa, is quite melodramatic by modern standards, a fact accentuated by the score by Dan Ikuma which, while sometimes rousing, is frequently very theatrical and overly dramatic.

     As the first part of a trilogy, Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto leaves many things unresolved. But the film is beautifully photographed by Jun Yasumoto and is still an interesting and intriguing film that won an honorary Oscar for best foreign language film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and is not 16x9 enhanced.

     This film is now 60 years old and the print is variable. Some of the close-ups are good, but in the main this is a soft print that is often quite hazy. Some colours, such as greens, look deep, but others are more muted and the colours can vary quite a bit, as can the contrast, brightness and skin tones. Blacks are mostly good, but shadow detail is indistinct and in some night scenes it is difficult to see what is happening.

     The print has some light grain, but also frequent marks, although mostly quite small, vertical scratches, occasional slight macro blocking and reel change markers. Pause at 65:32 for an example of scratches, marks and unnatural colours.

    English subtitles are in a yellow font and are easy to read. I did not notice any spelling or grammatical errors.

     While the print is not great, nor is it all that bad and except for the shadow detail there is nothing too serious that is likely to spoil your enjoyment of the film. The scores are adjusted to reflect the age of the film.

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 mono at 224 Kbps. The film was released with mono sound, so this represents the original mix.

     Dialogue was clear, sound effects such as horse’s hooves, shouts and shots obviously lacked depth but still worked fine. In quiet moments there was a slight crackle, but not when there was music or effects. The score by Dan Ikuma while rousing was also melodramatic and theatrical.

    Lip synchronisation was occasionally approximate, but was not distracting.

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

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

Extras

Original Theatrical Trailer (2:44)

Stills Gallery

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

Promotional Trailers

     Trailers for Kwaidan (3:55), Seven Samurai (4:05) and Godzilla vs Hedorah (2:13).

R4 vs R1

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

     Releases of The Samurai Trilogy, as well as the individual films, have been around for a while. In the US, Criterion has released a couple of Region 1 box sets of the films, the latest advertised as having new transfers. I have not seen a review of this newest DVD release, although the Blu-ray released at the same time looks spectacular. If your system will play Region 1 that looks the pick, otherwise stick to our Region 4 re-release.

Summary

     Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto is the first film in The Samurai Trilogy, the life story of Musashi Miyamoto. The film is beautifully photographed, while Toshiro Mifune is outstanding in the title role.

     The video and audio are acceptable for a 60 year old film. The extras are limited to trailers and a stills gallery.

     The three films in The Samurai Trilogy, although in different packaging, are identical to the previous release by Madman. Yet Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto (1954), Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple (1955) and Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island (1956) are collectively important chambara films in the history of Japanese cinema and if you do not have the films for a RRP of $29.95 they are well worth the investment.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, August 19, 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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