The Essential Tai Kato – Volume 1

JAPAN’S ANSWER TO SAM FULLER AND BUDD BOETTICHER

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddNearly unknown outside of Japan, director Tai Kato was one of Toei’s genre masters during the 1960s, making hard-boiled films about gangsters and samurai that were bold, stylish, and uncompromised.

In Cruel Story at the End of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Kato offers a merciless view of the Shinsengumi, an elite police force in the service of Japan’s military government. Starring Okawa Hashizo (breaking from his typically lighthearted roles) and Junko Fuji (who would later star as the Red Peony Gambler), this bloody tale chronicles the brutal indoctrination of a young peasant into the Shinsengumi and the secret plot that hides within its ranks.

Next, Akira Shioji stars as Fighting Tatsu, the Rickshaw Man, an independent and confrontational young rickshaw driver who falls in love with a local geisha played by Rumiko Fuji and becomes embroiled in a local gang war. Here, Kato creates a highly entertaining film that is equal parts romantic comedy and gangster action movie.

By a Man’s Face Shall You Know Him is a sprawling, gutsy account of a Korean-Japanese gang’s ruthless rise to power in 1948 Osaka and a local doctor’s unexpected opposition to the hoodlums. Told though vibrant colour cinematography and a complex series of flashbacks, Kato traces the influences of sex, violence, and racism in post-war Japan.

Finally, I, the Executioner provides one of Japanese cinema’s most disturbing dissections of the serial killer, as five women are stalked by a sadistic sex killer intent on avenging the suicide of a 16-year-old boy. Contrasting an uninspired police-investigation with lurid, solarized flashbacks and on-location shooting in Tokyo, I, the Executioner is a shattering story often hailed as Kato’s finest movie.

Presented on DVD and Blu-ray for the first time in the West, these thrilling genre films feature some of Kato Tai’s smartest, toughest work.

Special Features:

  • Limited Edition Blu-ray collection (3000 copies)
  • High definition digital transfers of all four films from the original film elements by Toei Company
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard DVD presentation
  • Original uncompressed mono audio
  • Newly translated English subtitles
  • Specially recorded video discussions with Japanese cinema expert Tony Rayns
  • Original trailers for all four films
  • Extensive promotional image galleries for all films
  • Reversible sleeve featuring new artwork
  • Booklet featuring new writing on all the films and a director profile by Stuart Galbraith IV, Tom Mes, Mark Schilling, and Chris D.

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The Betrayal (Tokuzo Tanaka, 1966)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Betrayal.

criterion logoRaizô Ichikawa stars as a naïvely honorable samurai who protects his clan by taking the blame for a murder he did not commit and living as a fugitive for a year. Upon his return, he discovers that the promises to restore him to his former position will not be kept and that he remains falsely accused. Betrayed, hunted, and with nothing else to lose, the samurai must defend his life with deadly force, culminating in one of Japanese cinema’s most daring and brutal sword-fights! Tokuzô Tanaka’s The Betrayal stands among the director’s best works and is a classic example of the cruel jidai-geki film.

Disc Features:

  • New, high definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interview with Japanese cinema scholar Isolde Standish
  • Orochi, Buntarô Futagara’s 1925 film starring Tsumasaburô Bandô that inspired The Betrayal
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • Plus: A new essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien

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The Whale God (Tokuzo Tanaka, 1962)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Whale God.

criterion logoA small Japanese village is obsessed with killing a monstrous whale that has decimated its hunting parties. The town’s wealthiest man offers his land, position, and only daughter to the individual who can kill the demon whale. Shaki, a popular young man whose family has been massacred by the beast, steps forward vowing to slay the whale and avenge his relations, but his efforts are complicated by a brutish stranger to the village also intent on killing the monster and collecting on the promised riches. Based on Koichiro Uno’s award-winning novel published the previous year and scripted by visionary writer-director Kaneto Shindo, this loose adaptation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick captures the madness and danger of whaling and combines it with period drama and kaiju monster effects.

Disc Features:

  • New, high definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interview with Japanese film critic Tadao Sato
  • New interview with Japanese-literature scholar Jeffrey Angles
  • Theatrical trailer
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by critic, novelist, and musician Chris D.

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The Servant (Joseph Losey, 1963)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Servant.

criterion logoBritish class distinctions are abused and upended in Joseph Losey’s adaptation of Robin Maugham’s 1963 short novella, where Tony (James Fox), a rich, ineffectual Oxford bachelor, is gradually debased by the insidious influence of his newly hired manservant, Hugo Barrett (Dirk Bogarde).  Despite the suspicions of Tony’s girlfriend Susan (Wendy Craig) and her opposition Hugo’s constant presence, Tony’s servant ingratiates himself to his naïve employer and becomes an indispensable facet of Tony’s lifestyle, all while slowly subjugating his employer through subtle manipulation.  This superb, shadowy study of brooding decadence and corruption features the claustrophic cinematography of Douglas Slocombe, the uneasy jazz score of John Dankworth, and marks the first of three cinematic collaborations between Losey and celebrated playwright and screenwriter Harold Pinter.

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Introduction by experimental electronic musicians Matmos
  • Interview with actor James Fox by actor-director Richard Ayoade
  • Interviews with actors Wendy Craig and Sarah Miles, producer-director Stephen Woolley, Pinter-associate Harry Burton, and Dirk Bogarde biographer John Coldstream
  • New interview with scholar Amy Sargeant on the design and context of The Servant
  • Audio interview with cinematographer Douglas Slocombe
  • Interview of screenwriter Harold Pinter from the 1965 British television show Tempo
  • Archival interview with Joseph Losey on The Servant
  • Excepts from the 1963 television show Camera Three featuring Losey, filmmaker Adolfas Mekas, New York Film Festival director Amos Vogel, and festival organizer Richard Roud
  • Stills gallery
  • Theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: Booklet with essay by Peter Bradshaw and the 1948 novella by Robin Maugham

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The Wife of Seishu Hanaoka (Yasuzo Masumura, 1967)

Eclipse LogoDomestic rivalry finds unexpected expression in Yasuzo Masumura’s The Wife of Seishu Hanaoka, the true-life story of the Japanese physician who first developed general anesthetic for use in 1804 and the women who competed to be his test subjects.  Hanaoka (Raizð Ichikawa) has little attention for his imperious mother (Hideko Takamine) and his dutiful wife (Ayako Wakao) while he searches for the precise formula for his herbal anesthetic.  Screenwriter Kaneto Shindo and director Yasuzo Masumura step away from the expected conventions of the bio-pic by focusing on the doctor’s spouse Kae, portraying her commitment and sacrifice to her husband’s endeavor as the truly heroic act of this dizzying tale of love and obsession.

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Seisaku’s Wife (Yasuzo Masumura, 1965)

Eclipse LogoIn this riveting examination of mad love and social obligation set at the eve of the Russo-Japanese War, Okane (Ayako Wakao) returns to the small village of her youth where she endures the scorn and rejection of the townsfolk with sullen distemper.  When Seisaku (Takahiro Tamura), the village’s “model youth,” returns from military service, the beloved patriot strikes up an unlikely romance with Okane, marginalizing himself in the process.  Based on a story by Kojiro Yoshida and written by Kaneto Shindo, Seisaku’s Wife is a sensual tale of rebel love and wild obsession standing against the strict military demands of Imperial Japan.

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