High and Low [2 Discs] [Special Edition] [Criterion Collection] [DVD] [1962]

Akira Kurosawa was arguably Japan's greatest filmmaker and certainly the nation's most influential, and though he was most celebrated for historical epics such as Rashomon, Shichinin no samurai (aka The Seven Samurai) and Kakushi Toride No San-Akunin (aka The Hidden Fortress), he also made a number of powerful dramas examining life in contemporary Japan, and Tengoku To Jigoku (aka High and Low) was one of his most successful works in modern dress, a tense thriller about a businessman who is torn between financial ruin and moral obligation when his chauffeur's son is abducted by kidnappers. While the Criterion Collection first issued High and Low on Region One DVD in 1998, they've upgraded their presentation for this new release, and fans of Kurosawa should be pleased with the results. The film has been given a widescreen transfer to disc, letterboxed at 2.35:1 on conventional televisions and enhanced for anamorphic playback on 16x9 monitors. The black and white image lacks a bit of definition in the opening sequences set in the wealthy man's home, but the film looks sharp and displays an impressive grey scale when the story moves into the larger world. Like many early CinemaScope films, High and Low was released with a four-track magnetic stereo soundtrack for its initial engagements, and Criterion have restored the multi-channel mix for this DVD release, which plays as a surround mix on Dolby Digital Surround gear and folds down to a two-track mix for conventional stereo playback. The stereo mix doesn't sound remarkably spacious, but it does reveal details missing from the mono version and it certainly adds to the archival accuracy of this edition. The dialogue is in Japanese, with optional English language subtitles, and an alternate commentary track is also included, with film historian Stephen Prince talking about the technical details of the shoot as well as the finer points of Kurosawa's style. The first disc of this set is devoted to the feature, while disc two features supplemental material, including an installment of Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful To Create (a Japanese documentary series on the filmmaker's life and work) devoted to the making of High and Low, an appearance by leading man Toshiro Mifune on Tetsuko Kuroyangi's TV talk show, and an exclusive on-screen interview with actor Tsutomu Yamazaki, who portrays the kidnapper. Two Japanese trailers and one American preview round out disc two, and the booklet boasts an original essay on High and Low by Geoffrey O'Brien and a 1963 Films and Filming article by Donald Richie drawn from a visit to the set during the film's production. It's hard to imagine a more attentive DVD edition of High and Low being released in North America, and once again Criterion have gone the extra mile to present an important film at its best advantage.
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Overview

Special Features

  • Disc One:
  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer with original four-track surround sound
  • Audio commentary featuring Akira Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • Disc Two:
  • a 37-minute documentary of the making of High and Low, created as part of the Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosaw: It Is Wonderful to Create
  • Rare video interview with actor Toshiro Mifune, conducted by tv talk-show host tetsuko kuroyanagi
  • New video interview with actor Tsutomu Yamazaki, who plays the kidnapped
  • Theatricak trailers frpm Japan and the U.S.
  • A bookley featuring a new essay by critic Geoffrey O'Brien and an on-set account by Japanese film scholar Donald Richie

Synopsis

High and Low
Based on King's Ransom, an "87th Precinct" novel by Ed McBain (aka Evan Hunter), High and Low stars Toshiro Mifune as Gondo, a wealthy industrialist. Gondo is contacted by a gang of kidnappers, who inform him that they've kidnapped his son. The crooks demand a huge ransom for the boy's return -- an amount so huge that it will utterly bankrupt Gondo. As the harried businessman prepares to pay the ransom, he discovers that his son is safe at home: the kidnappers have accidentally snatched the son of his chauffeur. Does Gondo drop his payoff plans, or does he do the honorable thing and rescue his employee's son? This dilemma is but one aspect of the multilayered character study from the unbeatable team of star Toshiro Mifune and filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, who directs this superb film with his usual depth and impeccable eye for detail and character. As a man forced to make impossible decisions, Mifune gives a nuanced, perceptive and psychologically convincing performance. While not one of Kurosawa's master works, High and Low, with its grim reality and moral ambiguity stands as a superb example of film noir at its best. High and Low was originally released in Japan as Tengoku To-Jigoku. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Toshiro Mifune
    Toshiro Mifune - Kingo Gondo
  • Image coming soon
    Kyoko Kagawa - Reiko, Gondo's Wife
  • Tatsuya Nakadai
    Tatsuya Nakadai - Inspector Tokura
  • Yutaka Sada
    Yutaka Sada - Aoki
  • Image coming soon
    Kenjiro Ishiyama - Detective Taguchi
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