Kill! (Kiru) (1968)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Trailer-Kenny, Sanjuro, Samurai Assissan,Kwaidan
|Year Of Production||1968|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Kihachi Okamoto|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (160Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.30:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Kihachi Okamoto's dark comedy Kill! satirizes the entire gamut of samurai film convention in what has become a surprise entry on my favourites list. Appearing on Japanese screens in 1968, Kill! stars the talented Tatsuya Nakadai who had worked previously with Okamoto on the far more serious Sword of Doom in 1966. In the earlier film, Nakadai plays an emotionless ronin who lives only to kill; in the later Kill! Nakadai subverts his earlier performance, balancing a killer's remorse with a blend of wry cynicism and a dash of slapstick.
The film opens on an all but deserted town, clouds of dust swirling in the wind, as two hungry travellers attempt to lay their hands on an emaciated chicken. Hanjiro (Etsushi Takahashi) has wandered into town hoping to become a samurai; Genta (Nakadai) carries his own personal burdens as he hides among the yakuza. While the chicken avoids their clutches, the pair stumble on a band of seven samurai and their plan to assassinate the Chief Vassal whose misrule has lead to widespread corruption and violence. The rebels are betrayed by Ayuzawa (Shigeru Koyama) who manipulates both the rebels and the samurai-wannabes (including Hanjiro) to his own political advantage. Genta attempts to avoid the slaughter of the past by siding with the seven samurai and revealing skill and strategy at odds with his vagrant appearance.
On reading such a description, one would be forgiven for thinking that Kill! was just another samurai drama, full of sword-play and zealous commitment to clan and ideals. But as mentioned above, this is comedy through and through, albeit dark in tone. Genta and Hanjiro share an appealing chemistry, a chuckle-inducing encounter between Genta's world weary cynicism and Hanjiro's honest naivety. The genre parody comes thick and fast, but is always subtle: slapstick and bodily humour make their appearance, but Kill! is about dry, droll conversation and observation. You won't find yourself rolling on the floor, but Kill! is guaranteed to leave you grinning.
Adding to the witty goings-on is Masuro Sato's fantastic score. A brilliant blend of jidai-geki sounds with Ennio Morricone brass and guitar, Sato's score evokes the spaghetti-western genre that owes so much to the samurai film. It's a chicken and egg question when it comes to the influences of the samurai on the cowboy and vice versa: suffice it to say that Sato's score straddles both genres successfully and adds a heightened element of absurdity to the convoluted situation Genta and Hanjiro find themselves caught up in.
All of the actors inhabit their stereotypes well, managing to imbue them with a few human and sympathetic qualities. But this is Nakadai's show and he runs with the opportunity from the opening shot. As Genta, his comic timing is spot on, his witty delivery perfect. But there is also a genuineness to his character that kept me involved. All too often comedy feels false and alienating, including characters only to deliver jokes. Genta is a real human being, and his comic observations stem from a buried sorrow he struggles to exorcise throughout the entire film. Kill! is only the second of Nakadai's film to cross my path (the first being Kurosawa's Ran), but I certainly look forward to seeing more of his work.
Okamoto, too, is now on my "must investigate" list of directors. He has produced one of the better satires I've seen in a long time and I look forward to seeing some of his serious work, like Sword of Doom and The Human Bullet. Until then, Kill! looks set to take quite a few more spins in the DVD player. Even if you don't usually go in for samurai or jidai-geki films, Kill! is highly recommended: I loved it!
Madman have really pulled out the stops on this video transfer: this is one of their best. Kill! is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.30:1, close to the original 2.35:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.
Even though Kill! is some forty years old, the transfer shows excellent levels of sharpness and detail. A shot here and there is a little soft, but for the most part the video is crisp and shadow detail deep. The black and white image shows excellent contrast and great range in the gray scale with solid blacks. Whites may be a little strong, as evidenced by some minor shine on facial close-ups, producing some posterization. Grain is minimal and low level noise absent. There is some very minor flickering (see 28:39 for example).
Other than the posterization issue mentioned above, their are no MPEG artefacts at all. The opening scene obscured by swirling dust could have been a nightmare, but is handled with aplomb. I saw no edge enhancement. I was flat out finding film artefacts: either the source for this transfer was stored under excellent conditions or has undergone top-class restoration. Video is pristine and dirt is very rare.
Madman have given us well placed subtitles in a readable white font. I found the translation effective in conveying the Japanese dialogue. The film is divided into twenty-four chapters.
Considering the monaural source, the audio transfer is very good. The disc includes a Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track.
Dialogue is clear and audible and hiss is almost completely absent. Very little in the way of crackle can be heard and there are just a few audio pops during the film. As a mono track, dynamic range is naturally limited, but all sounds, and particularly the score, sounded surprisingly full. The ADR is a bit sloppy, but matches relatively well with mouth movements: no one continues to obviously move their mouth after finishing what they have to say.
The score has already been discussed above. Just to repeat: Masuro Sato's score is excellent. I did become a little weary of the main theme, which is varied over and again throughout.
The audio is monaural: there is no surround or subwoofer activity.
|Surround Channel Use|
(1:16) - 16x9 enhanced. Japanese audio with English subtitles. A great trailer and in excellent condition, but marred by such heavy combing as to be almost unwatchable.
(2:38) - 16x9 enhanced. Japanese audio with English subtitles. The combing has vanished on this trailer, but be warned: some spoilers are included.
Thirty stills from the film. Progress through them with the forward button on your remote. Or, a better option - just watch the movie.
Piracy (0:31); Kenny (1:53)(16x9 enhanced); Sanjuro (2:40)(16x9 enhanced); Samurai Assassin (2:30)(4x3 letterboxed); Kwaidan (3:47)(16x9 enhanced). Combing returns on Sanjuro and Samurai Assassin.
Well, not really. If, clicking about on the menus, you find that Genta suddenly sprouts a speech bubble saying "What me worry?", clicking on it will only take you to the DVD credits.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
Kill! has been released in Region 1 by Criterion (spine #313). That release includes the same theatrical and teaser trailers, plus an essay by Howard Hampton. I can't imagine Criterion could improve much on the transfer given the film by Madman and the essay can be read for free on Criterion's website. PAL vs. NTSC differences are all that separate the releases.
Kill! is an excellent satire of the samurai film genre.
The video transfer is impressive.
Audio is very well transferred.
There are very few extras.
|DVD||Sony DVP-S336, using Component output|
|Display||LG Flatron Widescreen RT-28FZ85RX. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).|
|Speakers||DB Dynamics Belmont Series: Fronts: B50F, Centre: B50C, Rears: B50S, Sub: SW8BR|