12.2 C
New York
Friday, November 27, 2020
Advertisement

Throne of Blood [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review

throne-of-blood-blu-ray-coverU.S. Release

– –

The Film

[Rating:5/5]

Throne-of-Blood-Criterion-BD_01

Throne of Blood or Spider’s Web Castle (蜘蛛巣城) is Japanese filmmaker Kurosawa Akira’s hauntingly powerful adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. For his vision of the tragedy, Kurosawa chose to transplant the tale to feudal Japan and infuse it with Noh (能楽), the traditional Japanese masked musical drama that has been performed for centuries. This ties in perfectly with the Shakespearean play since, just like in Shakespeare’s time, Noh typically uses men in the female roles (but Kurosawa did not go that far in this film).

In Kurosawa’s film, Macbeth is replaced by courageous general Washizu Taketoki (Mifune Toshirô) serving under Lord Tsuzuki of Spider’s Web Castle. Washizu  crosses paths with a strange female apparition after a battle in which he defeats the lord’s enemies. When the apparition offers him and his fellow general several predictions, mainly that Washizu will be made master of the North Castle and eventually become Lord of the Forest Castle that his fellow general, Miki (Kubo Akira), will gain a crucial command post, and finally, Miki’s son will eventually become Lord of the Forest Castle. When he returns home and parts of the prophecies begin to come true, Washizu is spurred on by his ambitious wife Asaji-sama (Yamada Isuzu) to take matters into his own hands to ensure the prophecy is fulfilled by killing Lord Tsusuki. This also leads to further plots and betrayals when the couple realize Miki’s wife may have a son that could supplant Washizu as the Lord of the castle.

Kurosawa declined to consult Shakespeare’s original text in crafting his adaptation of Macbeth, and the film is all the better for it. It is shrouded in Japanese feudalism, painted against a bleak, foggy landscape, and devoid of its minor characters. What is left is a bare, almost eerie tragedy made all the more pronounced by the brilliantly icy cold portrayal of Lady Asaji/Lady Macbeth by Yamada Isuzu, who counters Mifune Toshirô’s towering Washizu flawlessly.

The shrouds of fog and mist in the film suggest its protagonists folly at trying to predict or influence their futures and their inability to see clearly what they are headed for. The stark blacks and bright whites reminiscent of a film noir are also suggestive of the dark foreboding atmosphere and the terrible path that Asaji-sama is leading everyone down.

Throne of Blood may be Kurosawa’s bleakest film, but it is also one of his most powerful and beautifully rendered. With its visuals and language, it seamlessly shifts the Shakespearean world of Macbeth to the Japanese aesthetic and makes for one the best adaptations of the play there is going.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

Throne-of-Blood-Criterion-BD_02

The new digital transfer of Throne of Blood was created in 2K resolution on a DFT Scanity film scanner from the original 35mm fine-grain master positive; the film’s original negative no longer exists. MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean were employed to manually remove thousands of instances of dirt, scratches, debris, flicker, warps, cinch marks, and jitter, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used as well for a small amount of dirt, gain, and noise management. The ending result was encoded onto Blu-ray in AVC/MPEG-4 1080p in the film’s original 1.37:1 aspect ratio. While the image is not flawless, it is by far one of the best looking versions of Throne of Blood yet. It’s not a film that will probably ever look fantastic, given its smokey settings, but when the scenes allow, there is a lot of sharp detail and wide contrast extracted by Criterion’s efforts.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

Throne-of-Blood-Criterion-BD_03

Throne-of-Blood-Criterion-BD_04

The original monaural soundtrack comes in LPCM 1.0 (48kHz/24-bit) and was remastered from an optical print track. Pro Tools HD was used to manually remove clicks, thumps, hiss and hum. AudioCube’s integrated workstation was also used t attenuate crackle. While some dynamic compression can still be heard, giving the sound that “canned” or “boxed in” sound, it is rather clean and surprisingly full and free from an excess of background noise.

Criterion has also gone the extra mile by providing two choices of English subtitle tracks by two separate translators. The informative booklet (see below) includes detailed explanations from each on their philosophy on translating Japanese films to English, and Throne of Blood in particular. My personal preference is for the default subtitles by Linda Hoaglund who seems to capture more of the moodiness and artistry of the language versus the translation from Donald Richie who goes for a slightly more direct approach.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3.5/5]

Throne-of-Blood-Criterion-BD_05

As always, Criterion makes sure that they include material here that educates us on the film and its creators.

The supplements:

  • Commentary – Recorded by the Criterion Collection in 2002, this audio commentary features Japanese-film expert Michael Jeck.
  • Akira Kurosawa: It is Wonderful to Create (1.33:1; 1080i/60 – upscaled; 00:22:44) – This twenty-three-minute documentary about the making of Throne of Blood is part of the Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It is Wonderful to Create
  • Trailer (1.33:1; 1080i/60; 00:03:45)
  • Booklet features an essay on the film by film historian Stephen Prince and notes on the subtitling by Linda Hoaglund and Donald Richie

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4.5/5]

Throne-of-Blood-Criterion-BD_06

Criterion brings yet another astounding Kurosawa classic to Blu-ray with his magnificent Hamlet adaptation Throne of Blood. Their transfer is on the mark and so is this unrivaled film. This is one that is a must for any film lover.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B00GBT62N8[/amazon-product]

Throne-of-Blood-Criterion-BD_07

Throne-of-Blood-Criterion-BD_08

Throne-of-Blood-Criterion-BD_09

Throne-of-Blood-Criterion-BD_10

Throne-of-Blood-Criterion-BD_11

Throne-of-Blood-Criterion-BD_12

Throne-of-Blood-Criterion-BD_13

Throne-of-Blood-Criterion-BD_14

Throne-of-Blood-Criterion-BD_15

Throne-of-Blood-Criterion-BD_16

Throne-of-Blood-Criterion-BD_17

Throne-of-Blood-Criterion-BD_18

[amazon-product]B00GBT62N8[/amazon-product]

Advertisement

Related Articles

The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)

A stunning 4K Ultra HD restoration of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy arrives.

My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (Blu-ray Review)

An excellent entry (or farewell?) for this beloved franchise with lots of action and great animation.

Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula (Blu-ray Review)

This is an uneven but still fun to watch sequel to the 2016 smash hit zombie/action movie lands on Blu-ray with a rollicking Atmos mix.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Stay Connected

301FansLike
0FollowersFollow
723FollowersFollow
- Advertisement -

Notice of Compliance with FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION 16 CFR Part 255

In accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR part 255 guidelines, this website hereby states that it receives free discs and other theatrical or home entertainment “screeners” and access to screening links from studios and/or PR firms, and is provided with consumer electronics devices on loan from hardware manufacturers and/or PR firms respectively for the purposes of evaluating the products and its content for editorial reviews. We receive no compensation from these companies for our opinions or for the writing of reviews or editorials.
Permission is sometimes granted to companies to quote our work and editorial reviews free of charge. Our website may contain affiliate marketing links, which means we may get paid commission on sales of those products or the services we write about. Our editorial content is not influenced by advertisers or affiliate partnerships. This disclosure is provided in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR § 255.5: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Latest Articles

The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)

A stunning 4K Ultra HD restoration of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy arrives.

My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (Blu-ray Review)

An excellent entry (or farewell?) for this beloved franchise with lots of action and great animation.

Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula (Blu-ray Review)

This is an uneven but still fun to watch sequel to the 2016 smash hit zombie/action movie lands on Blu-ray with a rollicking Atmos mix.

Chernobyl (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review)

The account of the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster in Ukraine, Soviet Union, and the subsequent health and political fallout is told in five gripping episodes.

2067 (Blu-ray Review)

With the world deforested and people dying from a deadly disease caused by synthetic oxygen, a quiet tunnel worker receives a message from the future and must save humanity in this uneven but watchable dystopian Aussie indie sci-fi thriller.
%d bloggers like this: