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Onibaba [Criterion Collection] [DVD] [1964]

Release Date:03/16/2004
One of the most acclaimed horror films in cinema history, Kaneto Shindo's chilling, psychosexual fable arrives on DVD courtesy of The Criterion Collection. Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, the image is spectacular. From establishing shots of an ocean of menacing grass to the horrific nighttime encounters with a hideous, steel-faced demon, the picture is sharp, crisp, and vibrant. Blacks are solid and dark as night. Sound is presented in bold Dolby Digital Mono with optional, easy-to-read English subtitles. For those who doubt the power of a mono sound mix, the whipping wind and ominous thunderstorms that comprise the sound scheme are undeniably effective even without a 5.1 remix. For those not averse to a little reading, Criterion has also seen fit to include a wealth of information in the form of extensive liner notes. In addition to discussing the active career of director Shindo, Film Comment writer Chuck Stephens' lovingly detailed essay places the film in historical context while also making mention of Hikaru Hayashi's unyieldingly primal, driving score. The director himself also chimes in with an intimate discussion of his take on the Buddhist legend of "A Mask With Flesh Scared a Wife," and an extended interview with Shindo delves even deeper into both his own career and the origins of the film. An abbreviated version of the actual legend is also included so those unfamiliar with the tale may familiarize themselves with the cautionary religious yarn. For those who assume such a rural location would make for a quick, gun-and-go shoot for the cast and crew, detailed behind-the-scenes notes give testament to the grueling hardships of filming Onibaba, with accompanying photographs and Super-8 footage offering a detailed look at the day-to-day living conditions of the crew.

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    Special Features

    • New high-definition digital transfer, with restored image and sound and enhanced for widescreen televisions
    • New video interview with writer/director Kaneto Shindo
    • Rare Super-8 black-and-white and color footage provided by actor Kei Sato, shot on location during the filming of Onibaba
    • Original trailer
    • Stills gallery featuring production sketches and promotional art
    • New essay by Chuck Stephens, noted critic and scholar of Asian cinema
    • Filmmaker's statement from Kaneto Shindo
    • Rare English translation of the original Buddhist fable that inspired the film
    • New and improved English subtitle translation
    • Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition


    A landmark in fantasy cinema, this lyrical ghost story is set in medieval Japan amid a bloody conflict between rival fiefdoms. While the warrior Kichi's impoverished wife (Jitsuko Yoshimura) and mother (Nobuko Otowa) wait for his return from battle, they maintain a humble existence by luring lost soldiers into the surrounding fields of tall grass and murdering them in order to sell their armor and weapons for food; the bodies are then disposed of in a deep cavern. After learning that her son has been killed in battle, Otowa begins to concoct a scheme to frighten her daughter-in-law into staying at home with her indefinitely. After killing a soldier clad in a hideous demon mask -- which hides his grotesque, scarred face -- the mother dons the mask and succeeds in frightening Yoshimura away from her new lover's house. To her own horror, the mother quickly discovers that the mask is now securely stuck to her face, and her attempts to remove it culminate in the greatest horror of all. Fraught with sexual tension, nefarious schemes, and Freudian symbolism, this compelling masterpiece, by turns hypnotically beautiful and shockingly brutal, represents the finest in horror filmmaking, driven by powerful imagery and aided by sumptuous black-and-white photography. ~ Cavett Binion, Rovi

    Cast & Crew

    • Nobuko Otowa
      Nobuko Otowa - Woman
    • Image coming soon
      Jitsuko Yoshimura - The Daughter-inLaw, Young Woman
    • Image coming soon
      Kei Sato - Hachi Farmer
    • Image coming soon
      Jukichi Uno - Samurai

    Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.