Sunday, August 09, 2009

Nikkatsu Action finally comes to DVD!

Okay, so that title is a bit misleading. There have already been assorted Nikkatsu Action films released on DVD in the US, like Home Vision's odd-man-out DVDs of Yasuharu Hasebe's BLOODY TERRITORIES and STRAY CAT ROCK: SEX HUNTER, plus the now-out-of-print Image DVD of his BLACK TIGHT KILLERS. Criterion released a one-off of Ko Nakahira's CRAZED FRUIT without once ever referencing the genre that produced it, and of course there have been a fistful of Seijun Suzuki Nikkatsu Action titles released on disc, but were never marketed as or considered to be part of the genre itself. And finally, Kino recently released the Akira Kobayashi oddity 3 SECONDS BEFORE EXPLOSION, but I never really considered it to be a good choice to represent the subgenre.

All of these previous titles, however, will be trumped on August 25th with the release of Criterion's Eclipse label box set of NIKKATSU NOIR, a set that's been a long time coming and one which we've been closely involved with since its original conception. Not only does the set contain five prime titles from four landmark filmmakers, it also represents the first time Nikkatsu Action will be represented in the US by a DVD set that fully attempts to grapple with the genre as a whole. Read Chuck Stephens' fantastic liner notes and you'll understand not only why the genre came about and what significance it has on contemporary filmmaking, but you'll also be able to connect the dots between a melodramatic, noirish potboiler like I AM WAITING and a whacked-out, Italian Western-inspired hitman saga like A COLT IS MY PASSPORT.

Of course, COLT screened as part of last year's Nikkatsu Action screening series, but the other four are making their subtitled debuts for U.S. viewers. And except for RUSTY KNIFE and I AM WAITING, none of the films in the set have ever been on DVD even in Japan yet. So COLT, CRUEL GUN STORY and TAKE AIM AT THE POLICE VAN are making their worldwide DVD debut with this important box set.

We were lucky enough to get an early copy of the box set, and it's fabulous. The transfers all look terrific, the subtitle are well-translated, and except for an interview with someone like Joe Shishido or director Toshio Masuda, it's all a fan could ever ask for! If you wind up buying the set - and you should, if you want to see more titles like this on DVD in America - please send Criterion a polite email of 'thanks' and let them know how much you want to see more Nikkatsu Action films on DVD, including titles they already own like Kurahara's THE WARPED ONES and Masuda's RED HANDKERCHIEF and THE VELVET HUSTLER. It's still possible that some of these might come out under the regular Criterion DVD label, with interviews and other supplements. At least we can keep our hopes up for it.

Until then, enjoy the films!


Blogger Chris Casey said...

This DVD release is the best one of 2009, in my humble opinion!
Finally getting the chance to see a pristine print of KENJU ZANKOKU MONOGATARI (CRUEL GUN STORY) is an absolute thrill. Several years back, a good tomodachi of mine recorded it onto VHS via a Japanese cable TV (Neco) broadcast and sent it to me. I was totally knocked out by it! Absolutely one of my most favorite Japanese films of all-time.

As I have said elsewhere on the web, A COLT IS MY PASSPORT and CRUEL GUN STORY would be worth the price of this set; but, there are 3 more classic Nikkatsu Action flicks to enjoy, as well, and that makes it a solid bargain! I've never had the chance to see I AM WAITING or TAKE AIM AT THE POLICE VAN--so I am more than anxious to put those in front of my eyes as soon as my set arrives! This collection truly is a MUST HAVE for any self-respecting fan of Japanese cinema.

8:27 PM  
Blogger 追放マーク said...

And Criterion has five more Nikkatsu Action films in the vault, too, including two more early Suzukis!

Keep your fingers crossed and email them politely to release them, and hopefully there'll be a Nikkatsu Noir volume 2 in 2010!

Thanks for the comments, and glad you like the films. Hope you enjoy the rest!

9:57 PM  

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