Samurai Saga (Aru Kengo No Shogai) (1959)

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Released 16-Aug-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Trailer-The Samurai Trilogy 3; Seven Samurai; Kwaidan
Reversible Cover
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1959
Running Time 106:48 (Case: 111)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Hiroshi Inagaki
Madman Entertainment
Starring Toshirô Mifune
Yôko Tsukasa
Akira Takarada
Keiko Awaji
Seizaburô Kawazu
Kamatari Fujiwara
Akihiko Hirata
Eiko Miyoshi
Sachio Sakai
Yoshifumi Tajima
Akira Tani
Yutaka Sada
Senkichi Omura
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Akira Ifukube

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (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 No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Director Hiroshi Inagaki brings Edmond Rostand's play Cyrano De Bergerac to the screen in an impressive samurai epic set in Kyoto, 1599. Toshiro Mifune stars as Komaki, a decorated warrior who occupies himself by upholding honor in his town and teaching young kids calligraphy. He is a literary genius and has a superb talent for improvisation, however nature has let him down big time in the facial beauty department. Nowadays it wouldn't be such a big deal, just a quick Queer-Eye makeover and everyone's happy! Alas, his massive proboscis has made him less than desirable to the ladies, in fact the only action he gets is from an aloof homeless girl who seems mentally unstable. Beggars can't be choosers, I guess.

    Komaki's true feelings of romance are directed at his beautiful childhood friend, an orphan named Princess Chiyo (Yôko Tsukasa), however the interest is not reciprocated with the same intensity. She's the most gorgeous woman in Kyoto and could potentially tie the knot with any hunky dude she claps eyes on, so she chooses Jurota (Akira Takarada) and asks the reliable Komaki to befriend and protect him. Not surprisingly, Jurota is a complete knob-end and has the romantic capacity of a stale wafer biscuit, so Komaki ends up composing all manner of romantic prose, assisting him to win the Princess's heart. War arrives and the two men are sent to battle, all the while Komaki is writing letters to the princess in Jurota's name. Will the princess discover who she really loves before it's too late?

    Aru kengo no shogai contains great swordplay and some impressive battle sequences, however there is not a drop of blood to be seen. What it lacks in gritty realism is more than made up for in the performance of Mifune, who looks absolutely hilarious in giant-nose makeup. This is certainly worth a look for anyone with an interest in Samurai cinema.

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Transfer Quality


    This film has been transferred to DVD in it's original 'tohoscope' aspect ratio of 2.35:1, complete with 16x9 enhancement. This film is more than forty years old, and it shows in this transfer.

    The level of detail is poor throughout and judging by the presence of some distracting aliasing, or combing artefacts, as at 72:11, this transfer appears to have been derived from an interlaced source. There is also some noticeable cropping present on the bottom of the image, as some titles hang off the bottom of the screen during the opening sequence.

    Most colours are washed out, while some wide expanses of colour come across rather noisy.

    The video bitrate is a bit lean and highly variable, with an average of only 4.6Mb/s. MPEG compression artefacts are present in the form of low level noise and some mild blocking at times. Detailed scenes and moments of heavy motion on screen are the most susceptible to compression issues. Some film artefacts can also be seen, such as positive and negative specs of dust and dirt, water marks, minor film damage and scratches. The image is also awash with film grain of varying degrees throughout the feature. The strangest video glitch appeared during battle shots at 76:00. Some, but not all of these scenes, are stretched horizontally so as to fill the widescreen frame. Perhaps this was stock footage, utilised by the Director? I have no idea.

    An English subtitle stream has been provided for the Japanese impaired. The font is coloured yellow for spoken words and white for translation of titles on screen. The text is normally situated within the bottom black bar of the transfer. I noted a couple of spelling errors and Americanisms in the text, but the translation is generally easy to follow.

    This is a single-layered disc.

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


    The film's original Japanese language mono soundtrack is provided, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0.

    Samurai Saga was screened theatrically with Perspecta sound. This would translate as Dolby Digital 4.0 surround, as on the recent release of Kurosawa's High and Low.

    The dialogue is a little on the muddy side, but is discernable for the most part. The film's ADR seems to be okay and audio sync is as good as can be expected. Some of the musical passages are not perfectly synced with the musicians on screen, but I suspect this would be due to the production limitations of the day.

    There is some distortion present in the soundtrack, usually associated with any noise or effect above normal conversation volume. Pops and crackles can also be heard at times.

    The score by Akira Ifukube is typically traditional and orchestral and doesn't challenge the viewer all that much. It certainly suits the overall feel of the film.

    The surround channels and subwoofer were given the night off.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu pages are all 16x9 enhanced. The main menu features an audio clip from the film's score and a selection of key scenes that subtly animate the background.

Madman Trailers (3)

    Trailers are included for Samurai Trilogy 3, Seven Samurai and Kwaidan.

Reversible Cover Slick

    The reverse side of the slick is void of ratings logos.

R4 vs R1

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

    Details of other regions are sketchy, however I don't see any problems with the local product for now. If you're really keen, it might be worth waiting for a superior transfer.


    Samurai Saga is enjoyable viewing, highlighted by another great performance by Mifune.

    The video transfer is far from perfect, but is watchable.

    The audio transfer is similarly rough around the edges.

    The extras amount to a few trailers.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Thursday, September 28, 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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