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Missing Kurosawa Films Finally Available on DVD

Akira Kurosawa smiling

Films that Akira Kurosawa worked on as an assistant director, such as the 1941 film Horse (馬), have recently been made available on DVD in Japan, alongside almost all of the films that Kurosawa wrote for other directors.

Since 2018, publisher Asahi Shinbun has been putting out a series of magazines that discuss a Kurosawa film and come with a DVD that contains it. I saw the release announcement back when the series started and thought that it was a nice idea, and then forgot all about it because I already have enough copies of Kurosawa’s films, especially on DVD, and the magazines looked interesting, but not as interesting as to warrant import fees. That was a mistake.

Last year, after having gone through Kurosawa’s 30 films, the series turned its attention to films that Kurosawa was involved with but did not direct himself. Release #31 was Horse (1941), which Kurosawa practically directed on his own and that many of us have wanted to see. Release #32 was the 1948 film The Portrait that Kurosawa wrote for Keisuke Kinoshita. And so on it has gone until apparently finally finishing two months ago with release #71 (!), which concentrated on the making of Ran, including Chris Marker’s 1985 documentary A.K..

A huge thanks goes to François Coulombe, who wrote to me about the movies now being available. And apologies that it has taken this long for me to act on this.

Here is the full list of releases in Asahi Shinbun’s “Akira Kurosawa DVD Collection”. The interesting stuff starts from release #31. No subtitles are included of course, and everything is in Japanese.

  • #1: Yojimbo
  • #2: Seven Samurai
  • #3: Red Beard
  • #4: Sanjuro
  • #5: High and Low
  • #6: Rashomon
  • #7: Ran
  • #8: The Hidden Fortress
  • #9: Ikiru
  • #10: Throne of Blood
  • #11: Drunken Angel
  • #12: Stray Dog
  • #13: The Quiet Duel
  • #14: The Bad Sleep Well
  • #15: Kagemusha
  • #16: Record of a Living Being
  • #17: Dodesukaden
  • #18: The Lower Depths
  • #19: No Regrets for Our Youth
  • #20: One Wonderful Sunday
  • #21: The Idiot
  • #22: Sanshiro Sugata
  • #23: Sanshiro Sugata Part II
  • #24: Dersu Uzala
  • #25: Rhapsody in August
  • #26: The Most Beautiful
  • #27: Scandal
  • #28: Those Who Thread on the Tiger’s Tail
  • #29: Dreams
  • #30: Madadayo
  • #31: Horse (1941, officially assistant director under Kajirō Yamamoto, but effectively mainly directed by Kurosawa)
  • #32: The Portrait (1948, script by Kurosawa, directed by Keisuke Kinoshita)
  • #33: Jakoman and Tetsu (1949, script by Kurosawa, directed by Senkichi Taniguchi)
  • #34: Bravo! Tebare Ishin (1945, script by Kurosawa, directed by Kiyoshi Saeki)
  • #35: Vagabonds in a Country at War aka Sword for Hire (1952, co-written by Kurosawa with director Hiroshi Inagaki)
  • #36: Vendetta of a Samurai (1952, script by Kurosawa, directed by Kazuo Mori)
  • #37: Sanshiro Sugata (1965, produced and re-adapted by Kurosawa from his earlier film, directed by Seiichiro Uchikawa)
  • #38: Saga of the Vagabonds (1959, adapted by Kurosawa from an earlier film, directed by Toshio Sugie)
  • #39: Fencing Master (1950, script by Kurosawa, directed by Masahiro Makino)
  • #40: Snow Trail (1947, script by Kurosawa, directed by Senkichi Taniguchi, notable for being Toshirō Mifune’s first film)
  • #41: Beyond Love and Hate (1951, co-written with director Senkichi Taniguchi)
  • #42: Four Love Stories (1947, Kurosawa wrote one of the four segments, which was directed by Shiro Toyoda)
  • #43: Hiba Arborvitae Story (1955, written and edited by Kurosawa, directed by Hiromichi Horikawa)
  • #44: Escape at Dawn (1950, co-written by Kurosawa with director Senkichi Taniguchi)
  • #45: Vanished Enlisted Man (1955, co-written by Kurosawa with Ryuzo Kikushima, directed by Akira Mimura)
  • #46: My Wonderful Yellow Car (1953, co-written with director Senkichi Taniguchi
  • #47: The Lady from Hell (1949, co-written by Kurosawa, directed by Motoyoshi Oda)
  • #48: Advance Patrol, aka Three Hundred Miles Through Enemy Lines (1957, script by Kurosawa, directed by Kazuo Mori)
  • #49: Wrestling-Ring Festival (1944, script by Kurosawa, directed by Santaro Marune)
  • #50: The Den of Beasts (1951, script by Kurosawa, directed by Tatsuyasu Osone)
  • #51: Wind Currents of Youth (1942, script by Kurosawa, directed by Osamu Fushimizu)
  • #52: Composition Class (1938, Kurosawa was the chief assistant director under Kajirō Yamamoto)
  • #53: Songoku (1940, Kurosawa was the chief assistant director under Kajirō Yamamoto)
  • #54: Avalanche (1937, Kurosawa was a third assistant director under Mikio Naruse)
  • #55: Roppa’s Honeymoon (1940, Kurosawa was the chief assistant director under Kajirō Yamamoto)
  • #56: Saga of the Vagabonds (1936-37, two parts, Kurosawa was a third assistant director under Eisuke Takizawa)
  • #57: Jakoman and Tetsu (1964, remake of the film originally written by Kurosawa, directed by Kinji Fukasaku)
  • #58: Tokyo Rhapsody (1936, Kurosawa was a third assistant director under Osamu Fushimizu)
  • #59: Tojuro’s Love (1938, Kurosawa was the chief assistant director under Kajirō Yamamoto)
  • #60: Subterranean Heat (1938, Kurosawa was the chief assistant director under Eisuke Takizawa)
  • #61: Enoken’s Ten Millions (1936, Kurosawa was a third assistant director under Kajirō Yamamoto)
  • #62: Enoken’s Ten Millions 2 (1936, Kurosawa was a third assistant director under Kajirō Yamamoto)
  • #63: The Beautiful Hawk (1937, Kurosawa was the chief assistant director under Kajirō Yamamoto)
  • #64: Enoken’s Surprising Life & Enoken’s Shrewd Period (1938 & 1939, Kurosawa was the chief assistant director under Kajirō Yamamoto)
  • #65: A Husband’s Chastity (1937, two films where Kurosawa was a third assistant director under Kajirō Yamamoto)
  • #66: Fencing Master (1962, remake of an earlier film written by Kurosawa, directed by Harumi Mizuho)
  • #67: Enoken’s Chikiri Kinta (1937, two films where Kurosawa worked as a third assistant director under Kajirō Yamamoto)
  • #68: Japanese Women’s Textbook (1937, Kurosawa was a third assistant director under Sotoji Kimura, Toshio Otani and Kajirō Yamamoto)
  • #69: Enoken’S Chopped Hair (1940, Kurosawa was the chief assistant director under Kajirō Yamamoto)
  • #70: Triumphant Song of the Wings (1942, written by Kurosawa and Bonhei Sotoyama, directed by Satsuo Yamamoto)
  • #71: The Making of Ran / A.K. (documentaries on the making of Kurosawa’s Ran)

That’s a pretty comprehensive collection! For slightly more detailed descriptions of these films, you can check my Films with Kurosawa’s involvement page, although that is obviously now out of date when it comes to availability information.

Asahi Shinbun DVDs

Not everything is included in the collection, of course. Curiously, Kurosawa’s TV film Song of the Horse is not part of the series, nor are the films directed after Kurosawa’s passing: After the Rain, The Sea is Watching and Dora-Heita. Fortunately, those are all available on home video anyway.

But sadly missing is also the 1946 film Those Who Make Tomorrow that Kurosawa was pressured to take part in directing and that few have seen, as well as the 1950 Tetsu of Jilba which was co-written by Kurosawa for Isamu Kosugi. Another interesting film would have been The Legacy of the 500,000, the only film directed by Toshirō Mifune, and which Kurosawa edited into its final form.

The other missing films are three films where Kurosawa worked as the chief assistant director under Kajirō Yamamoto: Easy Alley (1939), Chusingura Part II (1939), and The Beautiful Hawk (1937), as well as Kurosawa’s very first work in the film industry, Paradise of the Virgin Flowers (1936) where Kurosawa worked as a third assistant director under Shigeo Yagura. And finally, also not included is Spring Flirtation (1949), a Kajirō Yamamoto film that Kurosawa produced.

But one should certainly not look a gift horse in the mouth (especially since it actually has Horse). This series has literally everything else, and many of the included films have never been available on home video before, and those that were, were only available on old VHS tapes.

As I understand it, and I have not seen any of these in person yet, each release comes with a magazine that talks about the film, as well as the DVD. As I mentioned before, no subtitles are included, and everything is of course in Japanese. Hopefully, some aspiring Western company might see an opportunity here and put these out for international audiences with English subtitles.

But if you do speak Japanese or are just curious, all of Asahi Shinbun’s Kurosawa collection releases are available at Amazon Japan, although they may not ship to all countries. Let me know if you know of other good and reliable shops that stock these and offer worldwide shipping.

Inspired by this, and people repeatedly telling me how out-of-date some of this website’s sections are, I am currently working on a full rewrite of this website’s filmography sections, including information about availability of these and English-friendly Kurosawa releases.


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Discussion

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lawless

I would be happy if someone reissued The Quiet Duel. Last I checked (okay, it was awhile ago), it was only available used at high prices.

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BMWRider

I hope they will make it to the west. It would be a great opportunity to get some more of my money. 🙂

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