So, today on March 23, it is exactly one hundred years since the birth of Akira Kurosawa. Criterion has fittingly decided to celebrate this with two new Region A Blu-ray releases by bringing out high-definition releases of Yojimbo and Sanjuro. (They had originally planned to put out Seven Samurai, but couldn’t finish the restoration in time.) Here is how they have turned out, based on a scan of online reviews.
In short: Video and audio quality has apparently improved for both films since their last DVD release by Criterion, while the extras are exactly the same as with the DVD release. Yojimbo has been especially enhanced by the move to Blu-ray.
DVD Beaver on Yojimbo Blu-ray: “The improvement can seem subtle at times and dramatic at others. … The final result of the move to Blu-ray are highly impressive visuals more fully respecting the theatrical appearance. This no longer looks video-y”.
DVD Beaver on Sanjuro Blu-ray: “The final result of the move to Blu-ray supports the visuals to a more pronounced degree appearing much more film-like but it still looks cropped beside the BFI (and Madmen).”
DVD Talk on Yojimbo Blu-ray: “Seeing how much this film has escalated in quality is quite an impressive comparison, both for the restoration efforts and for the technology in itself. … Though the most recent DVD is impressive in its own right, this Blu-ray takes the film’s visual demeanor to another, far more natural level.” The reviewer also praises Yojimbo’s newly-remastered DTS HD Master Audio 3.0 Perspecta track (don’t ask me), which is presented as an alternative option to the original uncompressed monaural track. Video 4.5/5, Audio 4.5/5.
DVD Talk on Sanjuro Blu-ray: “The black and white image is incredibly crisp and shows far more detail than was present on the previous standard definition releases that Criterion has released over the years.” Again, the reviewer praises the alternative HD soundtrack. Video 4/5, Audio 4/5.
DVD Verdict on Yojimbo Blu-ray: “Kurosawa’s fine attention to detail pays off with a transfer that presents daytime scenes as clear, bright, and pristine. I couldn’t imagine a fifty-year-old film with a limited budget could ever look this good.” Thumbs up also for the sound. Video 99/100, Audio 94/100.
DVD Verdict on Sanjuro Blu-ray: “Criterion has done a fine job with the Blu-ray presentation, but owners of the 2007 remastered release may be well served to stick with what they have, unless the slight visual bump appeals to you.” Again, thumbs up for the sound. Video 90/100, Audio 72/100.
DVD Town on Yojimbo Blu-ray: “The Blu-Ray is, as expected, a step-up from the 2007 digitally restored SD release though it is not quite as significant an improvement as some of Criterion´s best Blu-Rays (like ‘Days of Heaven’ and ‘Last Year at Marienbad.’)” Video 9/10, Audio 8/10.
DVD Town on Sanjuro Blu-ray: “In the 2007 re-release of both titles, the restored SD transfer for ‘Sanjuro’ was just a shade below that of ‘Yojimbo’ and the same holds true for the Blu-Ray”. Video 8/10, Audio 8/10.
Blu-ray.com on Yojimbo Blu-ray: “aside from some very mild flickering that I noticed during a couple of scenes, everything else looks superb. … this Blu-ray release of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo represents a dramatic upgrade over its SDVD counterpart”. Video 5/5, Audio 4.5/5.
Blu-ray.com on Sanjuro Blu-ray: “Even though the transition to 1080p here is not as striking as it is with Yojimbo, the final result is still pleasing.” Video 4/5, Audio 4.5/5.
For more in formation about the availability of these films on Blu-ray, see the page on Akira Kurosawa Blu-rays.