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New region 4 Kurosawa from Madman

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!



Jeremy Quintanilla


That “Kurosawa – Samurai Classics II” is really funny.

I have never seen “The fencing master” is it worth the effort and cost of getting the box set?

I have the criterion version of the other three movies.

And on that subject, I havent seen any of the Kurosawa written but not directed movies, are any of those worth getting? Can you even tell there is some Kurosawa in them?


Vili Maunula

I don’t know about The Fencing Master, and neither have I personally had the opportunity to see many Kurosawa scripted movies.

From the top of my head, I can in fact only think of three: Runaway Train, After the Rain and The Sea is Watching. All relatively recent ones, of course.

Runaway Train, while by no means a bad film, does not really seem like a “Kurosawa movie” to me. There are a few moments and lines of dialogue in it that make you think of Kurosawa, but all in all it does not pretend to be a Kurosawa movie, and I think it’s right in doing so. Obviously, when you watch it, you keep thinking about how Kurosawa would have filmed it, and then how it might have changed the rest of his career had the film actually got made. But you can only guess, of course.

If you feel like watching an action film, though, you could make a worse choice. It would also be great if, one day, the company holding the rights for the film and the earlier scripts would publish Kurosawa’s version alongside with the other drafts.

After the Rain perhaps feels the most Kurosawa-like of these three. Considering that most of the crew and actors had worked for Kurosawa, this is quite understandable. I must also say that I really quite like it. It is by no means a revolutionary movie or even a very remarkable one, and I doubt that it would have been that even if Kurosawa had himself directed it, but it is, I think, a very nice little film that has clearly been made with a lot of love and respect for Kurosawa.

The Sea is Watching is not bad either, although with this one I felt that the script was not fully finished. Or maybe it is just that, as far as I can recall, Kurosawa worked on the script alone, and it would perhaps have needed that co-writer he usually employed to bring his scripts and characters a second point of view and thus more depth. If you haven’t seen this yet, it is well worth watching, and you can usually find it quite cheap on eBay.


Jeremy Quintanilla

Thanks, In my goal to have the completest works of Kurosawa possible. I am at the point at looking towards the movies only scripted by Kurosawa. Later ones directly based off his movies.
It shouldnt be too expensive, but I wonder if I would just wastefully buy a bunch of subpar movies and if the Kurosawa connection is strong enough to warrant the effort.

I am very picky about what DVDs go in my collection, wanting only the best movies over just a large amount, so having some subpar movies would really bother me.

By chance Vili, have you found any word about the DVD release date for the new Sanjuro?
I search to no avail


Vili Maunula

The DVD release date has not yet been set, as far as I know. I’ll keep my eye on it, though.


Master Thief

I have bought a copy of the box set with The Fencing Master included. I have posted scans of the artwork here: http://kurosawa.jokerman.net/fencingmaster.html

I watched half of it the other night and am quite enjoying it. When I get a chance I will rip the sub-titles and post them on my site with the others that I have extracted from various DVDs.

Now I have extra copies of the Eastern Eye releases of Rashomon, Throne of Blood and Red Beard. I guess I’ll see who has a birthday coming up who might appreciate them.

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