Zatoichi's Conspiracy (Shin Zatoichi Monogatari: Kasama no Chimatsuri) (1973)

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Released 21-Jun-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Gallery
Trailer-Zatoichi Trailers (7)
Trailer-Kenny; Hanzo The Razor 1; Yojimbo; Sonny Chiba Collection 2
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1973
Running Time 83:54
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Studio
Distributor
Madman
Madman Entertainment
Starring Shintarô Katsu
Yukiyo Toake
Eiji Okada
Kei Sato
Yoshio Tsuchiya
Shirô Kishibe
Eri Yokoyama
Tatsuo Endo
Takashi Shimura
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Akira Ifukube


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

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Plot Synopsis

    Zatoichi 'the blind swordsman' is a luminary of Japanese culture and has appeared in countless films, books, comics and television shows. Zatoichi's Conspiracy was directed by Yasuda Kimiyoshi and produced in 1973 by Toho Studios. Up until 1967 the franchise had been overseen by Daiei Studios, and Conspiracy is one of only six Zatoichi films produced by Toho. Shochiku Studios made the final Zatoichi film in the eighties, known as Zatoichi 26.

    Our beloved hero tosses a coin and decides to take the path to his hometown, only to find very few of the townsfolk actually remember him. It has been 23 years, after all! His return happens to coincide with the homecoming of his childhood friend Shinbei, now a high ranking official who is received in the town with much fanfare. The village has endured three years of bad rain and poor crops to boot, so Shinbei volunteers to relieve the townsfolk of their heavy tax debt and henceforth enjoys all the spoils the villagers can offer. Three girls are delivered to his door, but he refuses them, demanding a 'fresher flower'. One is delivered with haste, plucked from the farmhouse of a nearby family who is understandably upset.

    When he pops by to give his old chum a back rub, Zatoichi senses that all is not right with Shinbei and he tries to warn the villagers, who scoff at him and tell him to mind his own business. The villagers now hold Shinbei in such high regard, he is referred to as 'god-like'. It seems Shinbei's ulterior motive for helping the village lies in their rich quarry, which he plans to take off their hands indefinitely. Worse still, when Shinbei grows bored with his 'fresh flower' his attentions turn to Omiyo, Zatoichi's sister (well, the closest he has to a sister anyway). A great deal of politics and tension-building lead to a frantic final half hour, in which Zatiochi must rescue the girl, expose the crooked officials and redeem the village's honour.

    There are a few familiar faces in this cast, including Takashi Shimura (Ikiru) as Omiyo's Grandfather and Kishibe Shiro (who played Sandy in the Magic Monkey! television series) as a local ruffian who resides in the ruins of Zatoichi's former home.

    The pace of Conspiracy is a little slower than other Zatoichi films I have seen, however the finale more than makes up for any lack of action in the film's first half. The final showdown is one of the most relentlessly violent scenes I have experienced in a Zatoichi film, making it a must for fans of this genre.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This film has been transferred to DVD in it's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, complete with 16x9 enhancement. Conspiracy was made more recently than Zatoichi The Outlaw (six years to be exact), however the transfer is not nearly as good.

    The overall image is very soft and a little blurry at times, and looks particularly ordinary on a large screen. Shadow detail is acceptable and black levels contain adequate depth when needed. There was no low level noise evident in the transfer.

    Most colours are a little washed out, but appear realistic enough to not be too much of a distraction. I didn't notice any issues regarding bleeding or oversaturation at all.

    This disc is single layered (DVD5 formatted). 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. 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.

    The thing that irritated me most of all was a noticeable amount of vertical stretching throughout the film, elongating all objects in the frame.

    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 and keeps up with the pace of the dialogue.

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

Audio

    The only soundtrack is the film's original Japanese mono, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s).

    The dialogue is always easy to discern in the mix. Audio sync and ADR are perfect. As far as soundtrack quality is concerned, I found the audio very raspy and tinny, with very little depth at all. Given the film's age I'm inclined to expect a little better.

    The score by Akira Ifukube is brassy and orchestral, with some superb passages of electric organ woven throughout. If you close your eyes and listen to the score on its own, you know straight away that you are watching a samurai film.

    There is obviously no surround or subwoofer activity to speak of.

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

Extras

Menu

    The menu page is animated subtly and is 16x9 enhanced. A 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's Conspiracy, Zatoichi the Outlaw (16x9 enhanced), 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, Hanzo The Razor 1: Sword Of Justice, Yojimbo and Sonny Chiba Collection Vol. 2.

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 from Animego includes some trailers, character biographies and historical text. The transfer seems to be comparable to ours.

    I don't see any problems with our local product.

Summary

    Zatoichi's Conspiracy is one of the better instalments in the franchise, with a great story and a finale bursting with great swordplay.

    The transfer is a bit disappointing in most respects, but this is likely to be the best we'll get.

    The extras amount to some stills and a couple of trailers.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Friday, September 01, 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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