As Master Thief pointed out a few days ago in the comments to Amazon’s new Kurosawa offerings, the Australian Madman Entertainment’s Eastern Eye series put out a host of new Kurosawa DVDs in December. Here’s what’s now available:
Kurosawa – Samurai Classics II gathers together four films: Rashomon, Throne of Blood, Red Beard and The Fencing Master. What is quite hilarious about this collection is, of course, that despite of the box set’s title, none of the four movies is strictly speaking an Akira Kurosawa samurai film. After all, not one of the first three mentioned is what you would necessarily call a “samurai film”, while the last one on the list is not a Kurosawa directed film at all, but one based on his script.
Since Rashomon, Throne of Blood and Red Beard are all available also in other editions (including those in Eastern Eye) and there are no real extras on these discs, it is the Kurosawa scripted The Fencing Master (“Tateshi Danpei”) that draws our interest. According to Madman, this is the first time that the film has been made available outside of Japan, and this may very well be true. At the same time, however, one can but wonder why it was selected for this box set. Not least so, as the film on offer is apparently the 1962 remake, and not the 1950 original Tateshi Danpei for which Kurosawa actually wrote the script. While the remake probably used the same script, it is in my opinion questionable to what extend one could consider this an Akira Kurosawa film. As such, I feel that the box set is somewhat disappointing, and borders on deceptive marketing, considering that Madman’s website makes no mention that the film was not directed by Kurosawa.
The Kurosawa: Samurai Classics II box set can be purchased from the Madman website. To the best of my knowledge, The Fencing Master is not sold separately.
Another Region 4 Madman release from last December is The Lower Depths. Priced at $34.95 Australian dollars (c. $30 US), the price seems fairly reasonable, but I have no idea about the image or sound quality, although the Madman releases have in the past been good enough. The DVD comes with an image gallery, as well as a commentary by the Monash University film historian and critic Freda Freiberg, which might prove interesting enough to warrant purchasing this disc even if you already own another version of the movie. Madman’s The Lower Depths is available directly from Madman’s website.
The third Region 4 Madman release that was put out last December is The Bad Sleep Well. Again, my knowledge of this release is currently very limited, but as with The Lower Depths, I expect the quality to be fine. The DVD comes with a commentary by Ross Gibson, who works as a Professor of Media Arts in the University of Technology, Sydney. If you are a commentary junkie like myself, you may be interested. The film is again available from Madman’s website for $34.95 Australian dollars.
This concludes our run-through of recent Region 4 releases. It is really good to see Madman extending their Kurosawa catalogue, and making the director’s films available for the English speaking viewers in the Region 4 areas (Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Central America, the Caribbean, Mexico, Oceania, and most of South America). In fact, a quick count suggests that Madman have now released all but ten of Kurosawa’s movies.
Thanks again, Master Thief, for the heads-up!