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Game Trilogy (Limited Edition) (Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film (The Most Dangerous Game)
The Film (The Killing Game)
The Film (The Execution Game)
The Video (The Most Dangerous Game)
The Video (The Killing Game)
The Video (The Execution Game)
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

Late 1970s trilogy of films starring Matsuda Yûsaku about a hitman who is hired by high-powered people and gets involved with beautiful femme fatales.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Game Trilogy collects the three late 1970s films directed by Murakawa Tôru and starring the charismatic and riveting Matsuda Yûsaku, who would breakout to superstardom in the 1980s.

Infused with jazz scores and a Beat style reminiscent of the early Japanese New Wave and the very jazz the underscores the films. In the first of the trilogy, The Most Dangerous Game (1978), we meet Narumi, an assassin who likes to spend his time while not working boozing and picking up women in clubs. To say one can draw a direct line from this film to anime series like Cowboy Bebop would be an understatement. Murakawa sets a syncopated pace, uses shaky cameras, and infuses lots of motion and chiaroscuro into the cinematography. Narumi is hired to rescue a business executive involved in bidding on a defense contract, but there is far more going on. He also becomes involved with one of the men’s girlfriends, whose apartment he breaks into and holds captive – naked – while he tries to get information out of her. The film is very violent and misogynistic toward women, at times for no real reason.

Moving on to the second film, The Killing Game (1978), the violence towards women continues. It is five years after a spectacular hit in which he let the target’s girlfriend and daughter go free. He crosses paths with the beautiful women again as he becomes embroiled in a plot by two rival yakuza bosses who hire him to kill the other. There is a brutal rape scene, more tearing off women’s clothes, and slapping of women. These films, despite their energy and slick production values, lose much of their impact today for the senseless violence. Nevertheless, this second entry steps up the production values and continues the rise of Matsuda as an actor to be reckoned with.

The final film is The Execution Game (1979). This one slows the pace and takes the visual style in a slightly more traditional direction. This is not to say this is a film that looks boring. On the contrary, this film looks gorgeous. It just excises some of the handheld, shaky camera and quick cuts for longer takes but ones that make full use of the surroundings, the lighting, and the lesser metropolitan areas of Tokyo. In this film, the hitman Narumi (Matsuda again) is abducted, tortured, and let loose to kill another assassin. In the meantime, he is involved with a beautiful nightclub singer who just may be setting him up. If you overlook the shocking final scene, the violence against women is almost completely removed from this film, which also has a slower, more deliberate pace, but does eventually build to the same sort of violent crescendo as each of the previous films.

  • Matsuda Yûsaku in The Killing Game (1978)
  • Matsuda Yûsaku in The Killing Game (1978)
  • Game Trilogy (Arrow Video - AV512)
  • Game Trilogy (Arrow Video - AV512)
  • Game Trilogy (Arrow Video - AV512)

The Video

All three films are presented in 2.35:1 AVC 1080p encodements on Blu-ray form Arrow. There is no information beyond that on the provenance or restoration of the film. They all look natural but with a coarse granularity and some inherent film softness. The first film, The Most Dangerous Game, looks the roughest, but is still clean. The shadows look a little noisy, however. The color reproduction and presentation of the gorgeous cinematography is very satisfying and colorful.

The Audio

Each film in the Game Trilogy collection comes with the original Japanese monaural sound mix in LPCM 1.0. The audio levels are sort of low, but the biggest issue is the sibilance on the dialogue. Otherwise, the sound is fine and the Jazz scores for each film come across with good tonality.

The Supplements

This is not one of the most feature-rich Arrow releases, but the collection is still full of excellent features. Each film has an interesting and easy to listen to audio commentary. The collection also comes with a fold-out poster and reversible sleeve.

Limited Edition Contents:

  • Double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tony Stella
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Tony Stella

Disc 1 — The Most Dangerous Game

Bonus Features:

  • Audio Commentary by Chris Poggiali and Marc Walkow
  • The Action Man – An interview with director Toru Murakawa (1080p; 00:20:05)
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 00:02:23)
  • Image Gallery (1080p)

Disc 2 – The Killing Game & The Execution Game

The Killing Game:

Bonus Features:

  • Audio Commentary by Earl Jackson and Jasper Sharp
  • Remembering Yusaku Matsuda (1080p; 00:17:41) – An interview with Yutaka Oki, film critic and personal friend of Matsuda
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 00:02:51)
  • Image Gallery (1080p)

The Execution Game:

Bonus Features:

  • Audio Commentary by Tom Mes
  • Game Changer (1080p; 00:22:15) – An interview with screenwriter Shoichi Maruyama
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 00:01:28)
  • Image Gallery (1080p)

The Final Assessment

Each film in the Game Trilogy (The Most Dangerous Game, The Killing Game, The Execution Game) is a riveting, brutal, and visually stunning crime thriller infused with the spirit of jazz and propelled by the magnetic performance of Matsuda Yûsaku. Arrow Video’s Blu-ray presentation across two discs is very satisfying.


Game Trilogy (The Most Dangerous Game, The Killing Game, The Execution Game) (Limited Edition) is out on Blu-ray June 20, 2023, from Arrow Video.


  • Rating Certificate: Not Rated
  • Studios & Distributors: Toei Central Films | Toei Company | Arrow Video
  • Director: Murakawa Tôru
  • Written By: Nagahara Hideichi (The Most Dangerous Game) | Hama Koji & Saji Susumu (The Killing Game) | Maruyama Shoichi (The Execution Game)
  • Run Time: 281 Mins.
  • Street Date: 20 June 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: Japanese LPCM 1.0
  • Subtitles: English
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Late 1970s trilogy of films starring Matsuda Yûsaku about a hitman who is hired by high-powered people and gets involved with beautiful femme fatales. Game Trilogy (Limited Edition) (Blu-ray Review)