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Sword of the Beast [Criterion Collection] [DVD] [1965]

Release Date:10/25/2005
The Criterion Collection have been turning their attention to classic Japanese samurai cinema with their Sixties Swordplay Classics series, and this release finds them lending their typical attention to detail to a superb genre effort from Hideo Gosha. Sword of the Beast (aka Kedamono no ken) has been given a letterboxed transfer to disc in the widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, which has also been enhanced for anamorphic playback on 16 x 9 monitors. The image is superbly nuanced, with a marvelous scale of grays that reproduces the bold but elegant framings of Toshitada Tsuchiya's camera work to marvelous effect, and this is as handsome a black-and-white DVD as one is likely to find. The audio has been mastered in Dolby Digital Mono, and captures the original sound mix with sharpness and fine detail. The dialogue is in Japanese, with optional English titles that are located in the lower letterbox bar so they don't interfere with the images. Surprisingly, this is the rare Criterion title without any bonus materials (beyond an intelligent liner essay from Patrick Macias), but fans of Asian genre cinema will still be impressed with this excellent transfer of a title rarely seen in the West.
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    Special Features

    • A new essay by Japanese-film and -culture critic Patrick Macias


    Sword of the Beast
    A man of honor struggles to regain his good name after being exiled to the wrong side of the law in this period drama from Japan. Gennosuke (Mikijiro Hira) was a loyal swordsman hoping to gain a position of power in his clan when he killed a man on orders of one of his superiors. After committing the foul deed, Gennosuke discovers he's been betrayed by his masters; bitter and disillusioned, Gennosuke becomes a ronin, a samurai without a ruler, and pledges to wander the Earth like an animal. While on the run from his former associates, Gennosuke falls in with a band of outlaws who are poaching gold that belongs to the shogun. Among the criminals, Gennosuke discovers a man who may be able to restore him to a position of respect, but the ronin discovers the man is not to be trusted, a situation that becomes all the more complicated when he becomes infatuated with his wife. Sword of the Beast (aka Kedamono no ken) was the second feature film from Hideo Gosha, who went on to become one of Japan's leading directors of samurai cinema. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

    Cast & Crew

    • Mikijiro Hira
      Mikijiro Hira - Gennosuke

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