Samurai Spy [Criterion Collection] [DVD] [1965]

The Criterion Collection continues their "Sixties Swordplay Classics" series with this striking blend of espionage, samurai action, and revisionist philosophy, all brought to the screen with grace and vigor by director Masahiro Shinoda. Samurai Spy (aka Sarutobi) has been given a spectacularly well-detailed transfer to disc in the widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, which has been letterboxed for play on standard monitors and enhanced for anamorphic play on widescreen equipment. Masao Kosugi's camerawork is a glorious balance of light and shadow, and it looks marvelous in this release. The audio has been mastered in Dolby Digital Mono from the original single-channel mix, and sounds superb, with the frequent significant silences as clear and penetrating as the dialogue and the music. The dialogue is in Japanese, with optional subtitles in English, which are easy to read and convey the dialogue with both efficiency and gravity. As a bonus, this release also includes an exclusive interview with Masahiro Shinoda, who among other things talks about his early years working with Yasujiro Ozu and his battles with studio brass to give Samurai Spy its distinctive look. Just as Sarutobi rises high above the conventions of traditional Japanese genre cinema, this DVD of Samurai Spy stands head and shoulders above most digital releases of classic Asian action filmmaking, and once again Criterion are to be commended for giving their best efforts to nearly everything they issue.
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Overview

Special Features

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • Exclusive new 16-minute video interview with director Masahiro Shinoda
  • Gallery of key characters in the film
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • A new essay by film scholar Alain Silver

Synopsis

Sarutobi
A seemingly simple assignment sends a warrior for hire into a labyrinth of danger and intrigue in this intelligent and expressive action vehicle from filmmaker Masahiro Shinoda. In Japan in the year 1614, Sasuke Sarutobi (Koji Takahashi) is a retainer of the Sanada Clan who has grown weary of the constant warfare that has become a fact of life in his country. Tatewaki Koriyami (Eiji Okada) is a lieutenant with the Tokugawa Clan who has fled his commanders and thrown his alliances behind a rival clan, and Sarutobi is ordered to discover his whereabouts. However, as Sarutobi sets out in search of his quarry, two people he meets en route -- a charming but amoral thug and a beautiful woman -- both wind up dead shortly after he establishes friendship with them, making it clear to the samurai that someone is out to get him. As a strange and deadly assassin follows Sarutobi's trail, he finds himself drawn deeper into a web of dangerous alliances and bitter conflicts, with the warrior meeting almost no one he can trust short of a beautiful dancer also hoping to escape the violence around her. Sarutobi was loosely adapted from a novel by Japanese author Koji Nakada. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Image coming soon
    Koji Takahashi
  • Seiji Miyaguchi
    Seiji Miyaguchi
  • Tetsuro Tamba
    Tetsuro Tamba
  • Image coming soon
    Jun Hamamura
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