Samurai Trilogy-Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple (1955)

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Released 8-May-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Theatrical Trailer
Gallery-Photo
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1955
Running Time 99:26
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
Koji Tsuruta
Mariko Okada
Kaoru Yachigusa
Michiyo Kogure
Mitsuko Mito
Akihiko Hirata
Daisuke Katô
Kuroemon Onoe
Sachio Sakai
Yu Fujiki
Machiko Kitagawa
Eiko Miyoshi
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 Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple is the second in The Samurai Trilogy directed by Hiroshi Inagaki about the life of Musashi Miyamoto, one of the most famous samurai in 17th century Japan.

     Takezo / Musashi Miyamoto (Toshiro Mifune) travels around Japan fighting duels. He is a strong fighter, but has not yet learnt to temper his strength with compassion and chivalry. Meanwhile, Otsu (Kaoru Yachigusa) waits for him in Kyoto where Akemi (Mariko Okada), still dreaming of Takezo, is courted by Seijuro Yoshioka (Akihiko Hirata), head of the famous Yoshioka fencing school. Musashi comes to Kyoto, and seeks a duel with Seijuro. Also in Kyoto is the young, but lethal, samurai Kojiro Sasaki (Koji Tsuruta) who is yet to make a name for himself.

     Akemi meets Otsu, and tells her Takezo has asked Akemi to marry him. In distress Otsu flees back to the temple of priest Takuan (Kuroemon Onoe) and asks to become a nun. Seijuro’s retainers do not want him to face Takezo and ambush Takezo a number of times, but fail to kill him. To avoid attacks Takezo drops out of sight in the geisha house of Dayu Yoshino (Michiyo Kogure) but accepts a challenge to fight Seijuro at dawn at the Ichijoji Temple. Akemi warns Takezo that it is a trap and that 80 Yoshioka fighters will be there instead of Seijuro, and she urges Takezo to run away with her instead. Takezo refuses her, and the act is witnessed by Otsu. Takezo takes up the challenge at the temple, watched by Kojiro and Akemi, but is forced by weight of numbers to retreat. In the woods he comes across Seijuro and they fight. Takezo wins, but he heeds some of the lessons he has learned and lets Seijuro live. Exhausted, Takezo is helped by Otsu and they talk about a life together; he has started to learn the lessons of chivalry and is feeling peaceful for the first time. But when he attempts to caress and kiss Otsu she is distraught and although she has waited four years for Takezo she rejects his advances. In shock, Takezo renounces affection, and sets out again on the road.

     Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple is a different film from the first, which concentrated upon the title character. The first half of this film is more the story of Akemi and her relationships with her suitor Seijuro, the samurai Kojiro and her mother Oko (Mitsuko Mito), who in this film runs away from her husband Matahachi (Sachio Sakai) with her lover, leaving Akime to fend for herself. Indeed, although Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple has some exciting action sequences, the film continues to be melodramatic where Masashi and women are involved. The women tend to fall into two groups: those who offer themselves to Takezo, and Otsu who doesn’t. In the first category are Oko and Akime, who he rejects, and the courtesan Yoshino who he later accepts. On the other hand, his true love Otsu never declares her love although she has waited for him for years, and when Takezo makes an advance he is rejected, which may say something about the culture at the time or may not. Rather it results from the novel and stage play origins of the screenplay and dramatic licence, for it seems that Otsu and Akemi did not exist in reality.

     Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple is somewhat frustrating with its melodramatic moments, but the film is beautifully photographed by Jun Yasumoto, Toshiro Mifune in the title role continues to be great to watch and the battle against numbers at the climax of the film is exciting. As the second part in a trilogy, it introduces a new adversary for Musashi but still leaves most things unresolved.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple 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 and the red kimonos of the geisha girls look deep, but others are more muted. As well the colours can vary quite a lot, sometimes having a distinct yellow or red hue, while the contrast, brightness and skin tones are also variable. Blacks are mostly good, but shadow detail is indistinct and in some night scenes it is very difficult to see what is happening.

     The print has some light grain, but also frequent marks, although mostly quite small, vertical scratches and reel change markers.

    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 score 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 horses’ hooves, shouts and water sounds obviously lacked depth but still worked fine. In quiet moments there was a slight crackle and some hiss, but not when there was music or effects. The score by Dan Ikuma was rousing and melodramatic.

    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 (3:38)

Stills Gallery

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

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 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

     In Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple, the second in The Samurai Trilogy, Musashi starts to learn some lessons about himself, and women, and finds a new and deadly adversary. Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple is melodramatic and, as the second part of the trilogy, it still leaves many strands unresolved.

     The video and audio are acceptable for a 60 year old film. The extras are limited to a trailer 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)
Thursday, August 22, 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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