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The Bounty Hunter Trilogy (Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film (Killer's Mission)
The Film (The Fort of Death)
The Film (Eight Men to Kill)
The Video
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Wakayama Tomisaburô (Lone Wolf and Cub) stars in these three films known as The Bounty Hunter Trilogy. A collection of violent films that blend spaghetti westerns with chambara, or samurai films, with a very heavy influence from Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.

In the first film, Killer’s Mission (1969), directed by Ozawa Shigehiro, Wakayama stars as a doctor, Ichibei Shikoro, who is also a ronin bounty hunter. He Shikoro is hired to prevent the sale of powerful guns to the shogun by a Dutch warship.

Director Kudo Eiichi’s (13 Assassins) follow-up, The Fort of Death (1969) has the strongest influence from Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Ichibei is to protect a village of farmers from a ruthless Lord. He assembles a group of ronin, some disloyal, to help him stave off the overwhelming forces. Famous for its use of the Gatling gun like a western, Kudo handles the action better than Ozawa and the film, with ninja battles in the forest, sieges on the fort, and over-the-top spaghetti western references.

Lastly, Ozawa returns to direct the final entry, Eight Men to Kill (1972), wherein Ichibei is hired to recover a cache of gold stolen from the government mine. Leaning heavily into influences from James Bond, this one is heavy on gadgets and dark comedy – one character swallows a large gold coin that gets lodged in his belly. Ichibei gets a large entourage of helpers for this one, including female ninjas and a network of spies.

Whether it is the zoom in close-ups on characters eyes, to the galloping scores or the Gatling gun assaults and the wildly choregraphed swordplay, these films are a fun mixture of everything we love about these genre films. They are visually stunning, the acting is gripping, and the action keeps us entertained. Each of the directors balances the influences flawlessly. Anyone who loves chambara, spaghetti westerns, and Bond flicks will love these.

Purchase The Bounty Hunter Trilogy on Blu-ray at Amazon.com

  • Killer's Mission (1969)
  • Killer's Mission (1969)
  • Killer's Mission (1969)
  • Killer's Mission (1969)
  • Killer's Mission (1969)
  • Killer's Mission (1969)
  • Killer's Mission (1969)
  • The Bounty Hunter Trilogy (Radiance)
  • The Bounty Hunter Trilogy (Radiance)
  • The Bounty Hunter Trilogy (Radiance)

The Video

This is the worldwide debut of the high-definition transfer of each of these films on Blu-ray. They appear in 2.35:1 AVC 1080p encodements. There is flicker in each of the films, so stability in the image is the weakest part of these transfers which otherwise look very organic and rich in natural, crispy grain and vibrant colors. The look of each film remains consistent from one to the next, with little if any differences.

The Audio

All three films in this Bounty Hunter trilogy come with their original mono soundtracks. Killer’s Mission gets a LPCM 2.0 track and the remaining two films get a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. They sound decent, but there is noticeable sibilance on the dialogue even as it still sounds intelligible and dynamic.

The Supplements

This collection is gorgeously packaged in a rigid box with a thick booklet featuring essay, Kudo obituary, and an interview with Ozawa. There are also six postcards with film artwork.

Limited Edition Contents:

  • Six postcards of artwork from the films
  • Reversible sleeves featuring artwork based on original posters
  • Limited edition booklet featuring new writing by samurai film expert Alain Silver, an obituary of Eiichi Kudo by Kinji Fukasaku and an interview piece on Shigehiro Ozawa after his retirement from filmmaking
  • Limited Edition of 3000 copies, presented in a rigid box with full-height Scanavo cases and removable OBI strip leaving packaging free of certificates and markings

Bonus Features:

  • Limited edition booklet featuring new writing by samurai film expert Alain Silver, an obituary of Eiichi Kudo by Kinji Fukasaku and an interview piece on Shigehiro Ozawa after his retirement from filmmaking
  • Limited Edition of 3000 copies, presented in a rigid box with full-height Scanavo cases and removable OBI strip leaving packaging free of certificates and markings
  • Six postcards of artwork from the films
  • Audio Commentary by Tom Mes (Killer’s Mission)
  • Akihiko Ito (1080p; 00:15:43) – Genre film historian Akihiko Ito discusses the life and work of director Shigehiro Ozawa and his two entries in The Bounty Hunter trilogy, shot exclusively for Radiance in November 2023.
  • Robin Gatto (1080p; 00:18:00) – In this visual essay, samurai film connoisseur Robin Gatto looks at The Fort of Death and the work of its director, the Toei Studio action specialist Eiichi Kudo. Created exclusively for Radiance in November 2023.
  • Killer’s Mission Trailer (1080p; 00:03:13)
  • The Fort of Death Trailer (1080p; 00:03:20)
  • Eight Men to Kill Trailer (1080p; 00:03:07)
  • Gallery (1080p)

The Final Assessment

A brilliant collection of films that are fun to watch, full of action, great performances, and great bonus features. Another winning entry in the young life of Radiance.


The Bounty Hunter Trilogy is out on Blu-ray March 26, 2024 from Radiance

Purchase The Bounty Hunter Trilogy on Blu-ray on Amazon.com


  • Rating Certificate: Not Rated
  • Studios & Distributors: Toei Company | Radiance
  • Directors: Ozawa Shigehiro (Killer’s Mission & Eight Men to Kill) | Kudô Eiichi (The Fort of Death)
  • Written By: Takada Kôji | Honda Tatsuo
  • Run Time: 275 Mins.
  • Street Date: 26 March 2024
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: Japanese LPCM 2.0 Mono | Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: English SDH
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Estimated reading time: 7 minutes Wakayama Tomisaburô (Lone Wolf and Cub) stars in these three films known as The Bounty Hunter Trilogy. A collection of violent films that blend spaghetti westerns with chambara, or samurai films, with a very heavy influence from Kurosawa’s Seven...The Bounty Hunter Trilogy (Blu-ray Review)