Samurai, The (Onmitsu Kenshi)-Volume 1 (1962)
|Year Of Production||1962|
|Running Time||72:00 (Case: 66)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Toru Toyama|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
In Japan 300 years ago there were two secret societies of people who called themselves Ninja. One group was called Ega, the other Koga. They were professional spies and assassins, experts at acrobatics, swordsmanship, judo, karate, and hypnotism. The secret scroll of the Ninja had three basic rules:
Thus goes the introduction to every episode of The Samurai.
I remember watching The Samurai on black and white television when I was quite young. I don't remember a lot of details, but certain things stuck in my young and impressionable mind. The men in black leaping backwards up into trees, or onto roof-tops. The shuriken (not that we knew that was their name) — throwing stars, we called them. The mouths moving completely asynchronously to the words. These are not things a young lad forgets easily. Amusingly, if you are younger you may have seen bad comedies that send up The Samurai without knowing what they were sending up.
Amongst the things I had forgotten was that this was a serial — I thought it was a series. It's rather interesting, discovering what this serial was really about after all these years. The keys to the plot are revealed, without much messing around, in the first episode. The plot is not particularly original. The main things to know are that our hero, Shintaro (Ose Koichi) the swordsman, is up against the Koga ninja society, and their 13 ninja masters. Shusaku (Omori Shunsuke), the boy, is worried about the disappearance of his father, and refuses to remain where he'd be safe; he insists on accompanying Shintaro (where would our hero be without a side-kick?). The pair are travelling towards the stronghold of the Koga ninja, but the leader of the Koga doesn't want them getting too close — he despatches one master ninja after another to wipe them out.
This serial was very popular in Australia in the 1960s. Apparently the star visited Australia at one point, and was given a wild reception. It's quite interesting to watch, even today.
Oh, I do have to be a bit picky about one thing (I do, honest!). This serial is set in the Japan of the 17th century. Both judo and karate are recent inventions, making them quite anachronistic. I suspect these names were used because they might be familiar to the audiences of the 1960s. I guess we'd substitute the term "martial arts" today.
This is the first volume of the series, and contains the first three episodes:
This series is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, as one might expect. It is not 16x9 enhanced.
The image is rather soft, and displays some grain. Shadow detail is poor. There is no low-level noise, but plenty of other artefacts to make up for it.
Colour is utterly absent from everything but the menu (which happens to be red on this disc) - this is a monochrome experience. Blacks are fairly black, whites can be even a bit over-white in places, and there's a decent range of greys in between.
There are film artefacts in abundance — there is probably not a single frame without some kind of film artefact, so there is no point in listing them. We get flecks, specks, hairs, fluff, some stains, lots of scratches, and even some ugly splice marks. There are a couple of telecine artefacts, too. Strangely enough, you find yourself ignoring them all, and watching the story — that's fairly impressive.
There is no aliasing or moire, no shimmer, and no MPEG artefacts.
There are no subtitles, which is a shame — a few words of dialogue are unclear, and I'd really like to see how some of the names should be spelled.
The disc is single-sided and single layered. There is no layer change to worry about, and no problem, given the limited amount included on this disc.
The soundtrack is provided in English (coded as "Other language"), Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. It's an excellent breakfast cereal soundtrack, with plenty of snap, crackle, and pop. There's constant hiss, too, but it's really only noticeable when you start or stop the program. It takes a little getting used to, but it is quite intentional that the soundtrack is silent (apart from the hiss) when the ninjas are running around — they move in silence, you see.
The dialogue is mostly clear and easy to understand. This has to be about the worst example of audio sync mismatch you'll ever see, though. It's not a case of the dialogue being too early, or too late, but rather a case of the dialogue being dubbed without any regard to matching the mouth movements and the voices. Funnily enough, this is part of the charm of this serial.
The music, from Hirooki Ogawa, is an interesting amalgam of bamboo flute, tapping sticks, Wurlitzer organ, and sundry orchestral instruments. This, too, is part of the charm of the series.
You might as well unplug everything but your centre channel speaker — this is a pure mono soundtrack. Heck, for real authenticity you should probably pipe the sound through a tinny old TV speaker.
|Surround Channel Use|
This disc is completely unpolluted by extras.
The menu is static and silent, listing the episodes, and allowing selection of one at a time.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This disc is not available in Region 1. It ain't even available on VHS in R1, as far as I can discover. Maybe it wasn't as popular there.
A classic TV serial, presented in poor condition on DVD.
The video quality is really quite poor, but it doesn't prevent you enjoying the story.
The audio quality is poor, but adequate.
There are no extras.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-S733A, using Component output|
|Display||Sony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Front Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5|