Master of the Flying Guillotine (Jimmy Wang Yu, 1976)

IT’S A MEAN MACHINE – CUTS YOUR HEAD OFF CLEAN!

This classic martial arts death match pits two wuxia icons against each other – the famed One-Armed Boxer (Hong Kong superstar Jimmy Wang Yu) versus a blind assassin (veteran character actor Kam Kong) and his legendary Flying Guillotine. Set in 1730, during the early part of the Ching dynasty, ethnic Chinese Hans formed bands of rebels to fight their Manchurian oppressors. After the One-Armed Boxer, a stoic kung fu expert and Han revolutionary, disposes of two would-be assassins, their master, a formidable blind emissary of the Ching posing as a Buddhist monk, swears revenge, searching out every one-armed martial artist and snatching their heads with his tethered decapitation device called the Flying Guillotine.

Arguably the most famous Hong Kong martial arts film of the post-Bruce Lee, pre-Jackie Chan period, this independently-produced classic is more popular than ever, with a legacy extending to films like Kill Bill and video games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. With its wild, fantasy face-offs and its cosmic Krautrock soundtrack, Master of the Flying Guillotine is undoubtedly a film worthy of losing your head over!

Special Features:

  • New High Definition digital transfer
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original Mandarin version and English dub track (uncompressed on the Blu-ray Disc)
  • New optional English subtitle translation
  • Audio commentary with film critics Andy Klein, Wade Major, and Alex Luu
  • Interviews with star/director Jimmy Wang Yu
  • Spinning Vengeance – director Quentin Tarantino on Master of the Flying Guillotine
  • Design for Decapitation – Grant Imahara on the mechanics of the Flying Guillotine
  • Trailers
  • Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Craig Lines

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Our Little Sister (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2015)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Our Little Sister.

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Our Little Sister (Umimachi Diary) is a scenic and gently sensitive domestic drama that confirms its maker’s reputation as a great director in the tradition of Yasujiro Ozu and Mikio Naruse. Adapted from a popular Japanese comic book, the film concerns three twentysomething sisters – Sachi, Yoshino, and Chika – who live together in an old, large house in the seaside city of Kamakura. When their long absent father dies, they travel to a small countryside town for his funeral and meet their shy, teenage half-sister for the first time. Bonding quickly with the orphaned Suzu, they invite her to live with them and the four sisters commence a new life of tentatively joyful discovery. With documentary precision and picturesque elegance, Our Little Sister is a touching survey of love, generosity, and the weight of family histories.

Disc Features:

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Fighting Tatsu, the Rickshaw Man (Tai Kato, 1964)

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddMMC!‘s proposed collection of Tai Katô films continues with another exceptionally titled movie – Fighting Tatsu, the Rickshaw Man (1964). Adapted by Katô and Noribumi Suzuki from Gohei Kamiya’s novel, Shafu yukyoden – kenka tatsu (Fighting Tatsu‘s Japanese title) is a lighter take on the yakuza genre, injecting a romantic comedy into its story of mob politics and gang warfare. The film still manages its share of bloodshed, untimely deaths, and wild, riotous street fights to satisfy strict genre fans.

The movie opens in 1898 with scruffy and truculent rickshaw driver Tatsu (Ryôhei Uchida) arriving from Edo to Osaka ready to start his career with the town’s only rubber-wheeled carriage. Before even leaving the Victorian-designed train station, Tatsu bumps into a high-ranking official and gets into a brawl with him, his assistant, and his bodyguard. When told to mind his place and defer to the official, Tatsu proclaims that they live in a new era where all are “born equally now.” By these first few minutes, the film’s main character is immediately and perfectly defined – headstrong, independent, egalitarian, pugnacious – and no question is left as to how Fighting Tatsu will develop its dramatic conflicts.

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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 Lost One (Peter Lorre, 1951)

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

criterion logoIn Peter Lorre’s only directorial effort, German scientist Dr. Karl Rothe murders his fiancée for betraying him and disclosing his research to enemy nations.  Instead of being punished, Rothe’s crime is covered up by Nazi authorities, leaving the doctor gripped by a compulsion to kill.  With the end of World War II, Rothe finds work at a refugee camp under an assumed name, but his past catches up with him when a fellow scientist and former Nazi agent arrives looking for sanctuary of his own.  Co-written and starring Lorre as well, The Lost One was rejected by audiences upon its release but has since become a masterpiece of post-WWII German cinema, an intensely haunting and fatalistic film that interrogates the psychological cruelty that enabled the war and the individual and collective guilt that followed.

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, undertaken by the German Film Institute, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary by Lorre biographer Stephen D. Youngkin
  • Peter Lorre – The Double Face, Harun Farocki’s 1984 documentary
  • Displaced Person: Peter Lorre, Robert Fischer’s 2007 documentary
  • Interview with German film historian Christoph Fuchs
  • Theatrical trailer
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by Lorre scholar Sarah Thomas, excerpts of Lorre’s own work script, biographical character sketches, documents on the film’s rating, and Bertolt Brecht’s poem to Lorre, “To the Actor P.L. in Exile;” and a new paperback edition of Lorre’s original novel “The Lost One,” unreleased in Germany until 1996 and available in North America here for the first time

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Black Angel (Roger Christian, 1980)

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

criterion logoOriginally commissioned by George Lucas to accompany The Empire Strikes Back and believed lost until rediscovered in 2011, Roger Christian’s mythological short film follows an honorable knight who returns from far away wars to find his family dead, his land destroyed, and a terrible sickness plaguing his people.  He is saved from drowning by a young maiden bound to the Black Angel, a fearsome and deathly warrior, and the knight vows to free the maiden from her captor.  Shot amid the stunning landscapes of Scotland and featuring an early score by Trevor Jones and electronic sound effects by Paddy Kingsland, Black Angel is a highly influential work of fantasy filmmaking and a long-sought-after mini-masterpiece.

Disc Features:

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by filmmaker Roger Christian and Bay Area Visual Effects Society members Brice Parker and David Tanaka, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • The Tale of Sir Maddox, a new interview with Christian on the origin, loss, and recovery of Black Angel.
  • New interviews with George Lucas, Terry Gilliam, cinematographer Roger Pratt, and producer Sandy Lieberson
  • Restoration demonstration with Parker and Tanaka
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film and medieval studies scholar Kevin Harty

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