Sayonara (1957)

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Released 14-Jul-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1957
Running Time 141:12
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (71:09) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Joshua Logan

Starring Marlon Brando
Patricia Owens
James Garner
Martha Scott
Miiko Taka
Miyoshi Umeki
Red Buttons
Kent Smith
Douglass Watson
Reiko Kuba
Soo Yong
Ricardo Montalban
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Irving Berlin
Franz Waxman

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, just a little bit

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Sayonara was one of the most lauded films of 1958, certainly in terms of Academy Award nominations, receiving 10 overall, and winning four. The wins were for Red Buttons (Best Supporting Actor), Miyoshi Umeki (Best Supporting Actress), Best Art Direction and Best Sound. It missed out on Best Picture & Best Director, losing out to Bridge on the River Kwai. Competition was very strong that year and other Best Picture nominees included 12 Angry Men, Peyton Place & Witness for the Prosecution. Marlon Brando missed out on the Best Actor nod to Alec Guinness, again for Bridge on the River Kwai.

    The film is set in Korea and Japan in 1951 during the Korean War. The central character is Major Lloyd Gruver (Marlon Brando in a role supposedly originally offered to Rock Hudson), a hero of the Air Force. On Doctor's orders, he is reassigned to Japan and a desk job, although it also seems to be part of the plan of General Webster to reunite Gruver with Eileen, the General's daughter (Patricia Owens). Gruver & Eileen have been engaged for some time. Lloyd's father is also a General who is close friends with General Webster. Seemingly, his future is already decided - an heroic career, a loving wife and children. However, one of his men, Airman Kelly (Red Buttons), decides to marry a Japanese girl, Katsumi (Miyoshi Umeki), much against the military's wishes. Everyone, including Gruver, tries to talk him out of this plan, and at that particular time, Japanese wives of servicemen could not return to the United States with their husbands. The marriage goes ahead, and despite his reservations, Gruver agrees to be best man, thus incurring the displeasure of the military command. Other important characters include Hana-Ogi (Miiko Taka), the lead dancer in a Japanese dance troupe, who Gruver is attracted to, Capt Mike Bailey (James Garner), who Gruver develops a friendship with and Nakamura (Ricardo Montalban! with a bizarre Spanish/Japanese accent), the lead actor in the Japanese Kabuki theatre.

    The main theme of this film is of course a romantic one, however, the inherent racism within both the American military command and amongst the Japanese people, so soon after World War II, is a critical ingredient in the story. The film shows a lot of Japanese culture including Kabuki, dancing, puppet shows and tea ceremonies, one assumes to get across the idea to 1950s American audiences that there is more to the Japanese than kamikaze pilots and bombing Pearl Harbor. The film also shows the racism within Japanese society that means that it would be very damaging for a Japanese girl to be seen having a relationship with an American. Despite this, the Americans are certainly shown to be more prejudiced in their approach, especially Airman Kelly's commanding officer, Colonel Crawford.

    The film moves along at a fairly stately pace, slowly building to a tragic climax. The musical score is a mixture of Japanese and Western styles which suits the film quite well, although I think it has aged worse than the film itself. The acting is of a very high standard as evidenced by the three Academy Award nominations for acting and two wins. Brando, I believe, was not really unlucky to miss out on the Academy Award, especially considering the performance by Alec Guinness which he lost out to. The film was directed by Joshua Logan, who is probably better known for films such as South Pacific, Camelot & Paint Your Wagon. It was based upon a novel by James Michener. It was filmed on location in Japan, and benefits from the authentic landscapes and architecture.

    Warning! If you are going to watch this film, and someone in the audience is prone to crying during films, have a box of tissues at the ready.

    Overall, this is a well made film, which includes a well told romantic saga but also exposes the racism inherent in the period involved.

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Transfer Quality


    The video quality is very good for a film of this age, especially considering the lack of 16x9 enhancement.

    The feature is presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio non 16x9 enhanced which is very close to the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

    The picture was generally clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise, although the sharpness was affected by the lack of 16x9 enhancement. There was some grain throughout. The shadow detail was surprisingly good for a film of this age, without having the detail which can be seen in modern films.

    The colour was generally good for a film of this vintage, however it was a little washed out, especially in outdoor scenes. Indoor scenes showed better saturation, such as the scenes of Kabuki and other Japanese culture. During dark scenes, the backgrounds sometimes looked grey rather than black.

    From an artefacts perspective there was also quite a bit happening during this film. There were quite a lot of film artefacts, mostly black, throughout the film with some scenes being affected more so than others, such as at 14:00. A couple of times I noticed a flash of white between cuts, such as at 10:27 and 28:04. Reel change markers were also present and I noticed these at 18:30, 37:53 & 104:13 specifically, although there were probably more. There were also some thick opaque lines which flashed across the screen very occasionally. Aliasing was a significant problem, probably made worse by the lack of 16x9 enhancement. Examples included the hanger at 13:20, fields at 15:05, clothes at 18:32, Brando's hair at 27:10, a bridge at 39:40, stairs at 74:29, clothes at 77:34 & 101:23 and many more.

    There are subtitles in 6 languages including English for the hearing impaired. The English subtitles were clear, easy to read but a little summarised from the spoken word. A minor benefit of the lack of 16x9 enhancement is that the subtitles appear in the black bar and do not overlay the picture.

    The layer change occurs at 71:09 and is very well hidden.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio quality is quite good.

    This DVD contains five audio options; an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s and the same in German, French, Spanish & Italian. The soundtrack is fairly quiet, and I had to set the amplifier at 10dB above my normal reference level for the dialogue to be clearly audible.

    Dialogue was generally clear and easy to understand (once the volume was turned up) and there was no problem with audio sync. Brando's tendency to mumble did not assist with understanding the dialogue and the subtitles came in handy from time to time.

    The score of this film by Franz Waxman is well suited to the film, including Japanese and Western elements. Also featured is a song by Irving Berlin, Sayonara. The music comes across quite well in this transfer.

    The surround speakers did occasionally add some atmosphere, especially for the music, when Dolby ProLogic II was engaged.

     The subwoofer was not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu included a still for the film and a scene selection function. Strangely it did not include any text at all, only symbols indicating the selections. This may be confusing unless you are very conversant with DVD menu systems.

R4 vs R1

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

    This film has been released in Region 1 & Region 2 in a similar package with only a trailer added in both cases. Let's call it a draw.


    This disc contains a romantic drama set in Japan from 1957 which won four Academy Awards and stars Marlon Brando.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is good.

    The disc has no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Monday, September 20, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

Other Reviews NONE
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R1 subtitles - penguin (there is no bio) REPLY POSTED