Zatoichi the Outlaw (Zatoichi Royaburi) (1967)

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Released 21-Jun-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Gallery
Trailer-Zatoichi Trailers (7)
Trailer-Kenny; Kill!; Bang Rajan; The Isle
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1967
Running Time 91:11
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Satsuo Yamamoto
Studio
Distributor
Madman
Madman Entertainment
Starring Shintarô Katsu
Rentaro Mikuni
Kô Nishimura
Yuko Hamada
Toshiyuki Hosokawa
Takuya Fujioka
Kenjiro Ishiyama
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Sei Ikeno


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Zatoichi 'the blind swordsman' is a luminary of Japanese culture and has appeared in countless films, books, comics and television shows. Zatoichi The Outlaw, directed by Satsuo Yamamoto and produced in 1967, was the sixteenth film to feature this character, however it was the first to be produced by Toho Studios. Up to this point the franchise had been overseen by Daiei Studios, and after Outlaw Toho would produce another six. Shochiku Studios made the final Zatoichi film in the eighties, known as Zatoichi 26.

    The lead character is depicted here by Katsu Shintaro, who would continue to co-produce and direct other films in the series. Takeshi Kitano recently directed and starred in his own version, produced in 2003. Until recently, Kitano's film was the only one I had experienced, so Shintaro's portrayal of the character has been new to me. Now that I've seen a lot more of Shintaro's films he is my preferred by far. His performance has a gritty, dirty edge to it that forms a facade for so much underlying humour. It's hard to imagine anyone else playing this role so well.

    This Zatoichi adventure sees our beloved hero assisting the village folk of Kiyotaki with two resident gangland bosses; Tamizo and Asagoro. After a little archery practice Zatoichi wanders into the town, only to find that the locals frown upon the essentials in life. You know, popular pastimes like gambling, drinking and bedding feral women. Sounds like a typical night out to me! Not here though, the village yielded poor harvests of late and now desperation, and even starvation is setting in. Problem is, the two bosses have contrary ideas of how to rectify the situation. Tamizo runs a gambling house and preys on those who have the potential to gamble their lives into oblivion. On the other hand, Asagoro is much nicer and helps to bail out the villagers when their debts get too high. After exposing Tamizo's casino as being completely rigged in the owner's favour, Zatiochi sides with Asagoro, but all is not what it seems. A higher power is behind both of the bosses, and it is up to Zatoichi to help the villagers regain their wellbeing.

    As a film, the plot is rather clunky and difficult to follow, while most key characters are not given sufficient screen time for the audience to form any kind of empathy towards them. Outlaw is not the best in the Zatoichi series, but there are plenty of flying limbs and enough swordplay action to make up for any shortfalls in the script. It is certainly worth a look if you enjoy the other Zatoichi films, or classics such as Lady Snowblood.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This film has been transferred to DVD in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, complete with 16x9 enhancement. Given its age, this is a pretty good presentation.

    The overall image is generally sharp and clear, with a fair degree of visible detail in fine objects such as hair and hay. Shadow detail is acceptable and black levels are nice and deep when they need to be. There was no low level noise evident in the transfer, although it does have a slight edginess about it that may be some kind of digital enhancement.

    Some titles hang over the left side of the screen during the film's opening, which indicates some minor cropping has been performed. There weren't any scenes that I felt were lacking as far as framing was concerned, so I believe the cropping is very minimal.

    Most colours are well rendered and appear realistic. I didn't notice any issues regarding bleeding or oversaturation at all.

    This disc is single layered (DVD5 formatted), so that means the film has been compressed somewhat. MPEG artefacts are present in the form of grain and some slight blocking when there is motion on screen, however this is not likely to be an issue for viewers with smaller displays. I also viewed the disc on my 76cm CRT and was happy with the result. Some film artefacts can be seen, but these only amount to small specks of dust and dirt that never become overly obtrusive. I also noted a mild amount of telecine wobble during some scenes, particularly the film's opening and closing.

    An English subtitle stream is activated by default and is comprised of a yellow font that is easy to read. The translation is easy to follow, however I noted a couple of lines of dialogue that appear before they are spoken.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The only audio accompaniment is the film's original Japanese language mono soundtrack, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s). There are no real surprises to report.

    The dialogue is always easy to discern in the mix. Audio sync isn't an issue, however I did notice a couple of lines of dialogue that don't exactly match lip movements, probably pointing to sloppy ADR. As far as soundtrack quality is concerned, I noticed a few pops and crackles, as well as some very mild distortion in a few spots. Again, given the film's age this is not surprising.

    The score by Sei Ikeno maintains humour and tension appropriately, all while adhering to traditional Japanese instrumentation. The music has some grand orchestral passages and is an essential facet of this film.

    There is obviously no surround or subwoofer activity to report.

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

Extras

Menu

    The menu pages are 16x9 enhanced, themed around the film and include some subtle animation. A short clip of the score loops in the background.

Gallery- Stills

    There are fifteen black and white promotional shots to flick through using your remote, presented with 16x9 enhancement.

Zatoichi Trailers (7)

    Trailers are included for the films; Zatoichi the Outlaw (16x9 enhanced), Zatoichi's Conspiracy, Zatoichi In Desperation, Zatoichi At Large, Zatoichi Meets The One Armed Swordsman, Zatoichi - The Festival Of Fire and Zatoichi 26.

Madman Trailers (4)

    Trailers in this section include; Kenny, Kill!, Bang Rajan and The Isle.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 disc includes some trailers, character biographies and historical text, as well as a bio of actor Katsu Shintaro. The transfer sounds comparable to ours.

    The Region 2 UK release is not 16x9 enhanced and contains additional cast and crew biographies.

    I don't see any reason not to go with the local product.

Summary

    Zatoichi the Outlaw is sword-slashing good fun, and will certainly be loved by fans of the other films in the series.

    The transfer is acceptable, given the film's age.

    The extras amount to some stills and a few trailers.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using DVI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector, Screen Technics Cinemasnap 96" (16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

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