Samurai Trilogy-Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island (1956)

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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 1956
Running Time 104:21
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Hiroshi Inagaki
Studio
Distributor
Toho Company
Madman Entertainment
Starring Koji Tsuruta
Toshirô Mifune
Kaoru Yachigusa
Michiko Saga
Mariko Okada
Takashi Shimura
Minoru Chiaki
Takamaru Sasaki
Daisuke Katô
Haruo Tanaka
Kichijiro Ueda
Kokuten Kodo
Ikio Sawamura
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 III: Duel at Ganryu Island is the final film in The Samurai Trilogy directed by Hiroshi Inagaki about the life of Musashi Miyamoto, one of the most famous samurai in 17th century Japan.

     Rejected by Otsu (Kaoru Yachigusa), Musashi Miyamoto (Toshiro Mifune) and a young boy travel the roads of Japan. Musashi has finally begun to learn mercy and to temper his power and strength with compassion. The young samurai Kojiro Sasaki (Koji Tsuruta) wants to make his reputation by fighting Musashi but meanwhile is seeking employment with a lord in Edo, but he is too arrogant, and too good, to be initially successful. When Kojiro and Musashi meet in Edo, Musashi declines an immediate match, and leaves the city with two companions, the young boy and the horse thief Kuma (Haruo Tanaka).

     Musashi and his companions settle in a village, build a house and become farmers. Otsu finds out where they are and goes to the village to be with Musashi, and although they love each other their reserve makes them unable to declare their love. Akemi (Mariko Okada) is still in love with Musashi and also travels to the village where, unlike the reserved Otsu, she is able to declare her love for Musashi and implore him to come away with her. Musashi refuses, and when bandits attack the village Akemi is killed protecting Otsu. But the simple life is not for Musashi. Kojiro also knows his whereabouts and sends a challenge to a duel and the two samurai meet at sunset at Ganryu Island to determine once and for all who is best. From this epic duel only one can live.

     Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island, as the final film in the trilogy, resolves a number of the plot strands, while leaving still others open. The The Samurai Trilogy films have always had two distinct plot arcs, one dealing with Musashi’s search for enlightenment to go with his prolific ability with the sword, the second his inability to relate to the women who love him. Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island is the longest film in the trilogy, and unlike the others does not include a massive pitched battle. There is the wonderful one against one climactic duel at Ganryu Island that is tense and spectacularly shot against the setting sun, and the chaotic attack by bandits against the village, but these are almost the only action in the film. Instead the film develops the character of Kojiro and the woman, Omitsu (Michiko Saga), who loves him and there is some comic relief in the character of the horse thief Kuma. But a lot of the running time is still focussed on the two contrasting women, Otsu and Akemi, and their love for Musashi.

     This strand continues to be very melodramatic, as Otsu is incapable of declaring her love, even though she has waited for Musashi for years and then followed him into the rural village. Given this, one would think that Musashi would have some idea of her feelings, but they are two people who are seldom on the same wavelength. Akemi is much more direct, but then, unlike the saintly Otsu, she is a courtesan and is rejected out of hand by Musashi. Her death in the battle is pure melodrama, days of our lives with edged weapons. Yet, even with her death opening the way for Otsu, it doesn’t happen. It may be indeed, as she says, that Musashi loves his sword more than her, but given her reserve one hardly blames him!

     Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island continues being melodramatic, but the film is beautifully shot by new cinematographer Kazuo Yamada, who worked again later with director Hiroshi Inagaki and star Mifune on Samurai Rebellion in 1967 (the same year incidentally he also shot the less than impressive Son of Godzilla). The end of the film does not tie up all the plot strands but the concluding battle is one of the most beautiful ever committed to film and Toshiro Mifune in the title role continues to be great to watch.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island, is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and is not 16x9 enhanced.

     This film is over 50 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, and the sunset at the end is spectacular but most of the colours are more muted and can vary quite a bit, as can the contrast, brightness and skin tones. Blacks are OK, although some turn to blue, and shadow detail is indistinct so that in some night scenes, such as the attack on the village, it is difficult to see what is happening.

     The print has some light grain, but also frequent dirt marks, although mostly quite small, vertical scratches, some quite big, 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 have been 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 horses’ hooves, shouts, and the fire and water effects obviously lacked depth but still worked fine. In quiet moments there was a slight hiss, but not when there was music or effects. The score by Dan Ikuma was rousing and melodramatic, but not quite as over the top as in the earlier films in the trilogy.

    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 (3:14)

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

     Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island as the final film in the trilogy resolves a number of the plot strands, while leaving still others open. The film is very melodramatic, but Toshiro Mifune in the title role continues to be great to watch, the film is beautifully shot and the concluding battle is one of the most beautiful ever committed to film.

     The video and audio are acceptable for a 50 plus 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)
Friday, August 23, 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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