Criterion's Lone Wolf & Cub BD set

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Criterion's Lone Wolf & Cub BD set

Unread postby HungFist » 16 Aug 2016, 11:12

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3 disc set. 8 Nov 2016

New 2K digital restorations of all six films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-rays
High-definition presentation of Shogun Assassin, the 1980 English-dubbed reedit of the first two Lone Wolf and Cub films
New interview with Kazuo Koike, writer of the Lone Wolf and Cub manga series and screenwriter on five of the films
Lame d’un père, l’âme d’un sabre, a 2005 documentary about the making of the series
New interview in which Sensei Yoshimitsu Katsuse discusses and demonstrates the real Suio-ryu sword techniques that inspired those in the manga and films
New interview with biographer Kazuma Nozawa about filmmaker Kenji Misumi, director of four of the six Lone Wolf and Cub films
Silent documentary from 1937 about the making of samurai swords, with an optional new ambient score by Ryan Francis
Trailers
New English subtitle translations
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay and film synopses by Japanese pop culture writer Patrick Macias
- https://www.criterion.com/boxsets/1217- ... lf-and-cub

Amazon currently has this for an amazing price of $39.99
- https://www.amazon.com/Lone-Wolf-Criter ... 01KGR17U8/

Fingers crossed they won't try to modernize the look of the films like they did with Lady Snowblood. Having seen the first two LW&C films from National Film Center's near pristine 35mm prints (and having written detailed notes about the prints) I know pretty much how they should look like (that is, strong but natural colours, solid blacks but no crazy contrast boosting, no blue tint in night scenes).

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Re: Criterion's Lone Wolf & Cub BD set

Unread postby grim_tales » 16 Aug 2016, 17:10

This is actually coming? Holy shit :o

Thanks Hung

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Re: Criterion's Lone Wolf & Cub BD set

Unread postby saltysam » 16 Aug 2016, 19:42

up to $99.99 now
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Re: Criterion's Lone Wolf & Cub BD set

Unread postby Richardrli » 10 Oct 2016, 11:07

Apparently there are non-negligible color timing issues with this set....

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Re: Criterion's Lone Wolf & Cub BD set

Unread postby HungFist » 13 Oct 2016, 11:18


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Re: Criterion's Lone Wolf & Cub BD set

Unread postby Ivan Drago » 16 Oct 2016, 19:52

Not very promising
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Re: Criterion's Lone Wolf & Cub BD set

Unread postby Shingster » 17 Oct 2016, 03:21

Yeah, it only looks about a hundred times better than the ultra-blurry Animeigo release!

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Re: Criterion's Lone Wolf & Cub BD set

Unread postby saltysam » 18 Oct 2016, 02:02

The Animego release was that bad i sold it and rebought the Eureka dvd set. Going from the caps this looks great,admittedly i'm not that fussy though,which kind of underlines how bad the first BD was.
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Re: Criterion's Lone Wolf & Cub BD set

Unread postby Guro Taku » 18 Oct 2016, 06:47

I still only own the films on the Eureka DVDs and so far this looks like an improvement over that. It's certainly no Lady Snowblood/Sasori type disaster as I half expected.

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Re: Criterion's Lone Wolf & Cub BD set

Unread postby Richardrli » 19 Oct 2016, 03:06

Why exactly were the Lady Snowblood blu rays bad? I know the Arrow release had some major issues but what problems did the Criterion version have?

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Re: Criterion's Lone Wolf & Cub BD set

Unread postby HungFist » 19 Oct 2016, 11:44

Richardrli wrote:Why exactly were the Lady Snowblood blu rays bad? I know the Arrow release had some major issues but what problems did the Criterion version have?


I don't know how to describe it in accurate technical terms, but it has a really boosted, modernized look in terms of colors and contrast. I saw the film on 35mm last year and that's not how it - or pretty much any Japanese film made in the 70s - looked like theatrically.

The Arrow BD looks closer to the theatrical presentation, although it sadly has weak blacks and I'd say the colors are a slightly pale as well.

Should be noted though, that I'm referring to screencaps only. I don't own either disc since both seem a bit underwhelming (and I already have the films on Toho DVD, and the films play on 35mm in Tokyo every once in a while).

As for Lone Wolf and Cub, the Beaver screencaps do look a bit odd, but the BD.com look a good bit better. I'm hopeful about the release so far, but I'll save my judgement till I have the discs in my own hand.

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Re: Criterion's Lone Wolf & Cub BD set

Unread postby Richardrli » 19 Oct 2016, 12:42

OK, I think I've read somewhere that the Criterion Lady Snowblood blu ray was actually made in response to Arrow's, that is that they were in response to the negative feedback people had to the Arrow version. The people who bought the Arrow release were apparently furious after they saw the less than awesome picture quality and Criterion basically capitalized on that opportunity. Even so, it turns out that Criterion messed up on some level as well, but I remember reading a while back that the consensus seemed to be the Criterion version is still somewhat superior to the Arrow one. I don't know how true all this is though and I don't have either of these blu rays but I do have the two Snowblood films on Australian region 4 DVD and by the look of things I don't want these two blus either.

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Re: Criterion's Lone Wolf & Cub BD set

Unread postby grim_tales » 19 Oct 2016, 22:51

Looking forward to the Criterion, I liked Animego's subtitles though (for example coloured yellow and green so you could tell who was talking) and they would put notes on screen to explain difficult words.

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Re: Criterion's Lone Wolf & Cub BD set

Unread postby Ivan Drago » 19 Oct 2016, 23:11

I liked that in theory, but it got a bit OTT.
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Re: Criterion's Lone Wolf & Cub BD set

Unread postby Shingster » 20 Oct 2016, 03:05

HungFist wrote:The Arrow BD looks closer to the theatrical presentation, although it sadly has weak blacks and I'd say the colors are a slightly pale as well.
It has the wrong dynamic range so the blacks are thin and the colours and everything else about the image looks "milky". This is a very common issue with Japanese masters. Arrow should have fixed the issue but it's something that just about every distributor seems to fail to do 90% of the time (other than Criterion, who like to boost contrast as a matter of principle). If you have a BD player that has an option to output "PC Levels" then you can fix the Arrow transfer with a simple setting change.

Richardrli wrote:OK, I think I've read somewhere that the Criterion Lady Snowblood blu ray was actually made in response to Arrow's, that is that they were in response to the negative feedback people had to the Arrow version. The people who bought the Arrow release were apparently furious after they saw the less than awesome picture quality and Criterion basically capitalized on that opportunity. Even so, it turns out that Criterion messed up on some level as well, but I remember reading a while back that the consensus seemed to be the Criterion version is still somewhat superior to the Arrow one. I don't know how true all this is though and I don't have either of these blu rays but I do have the two Snowblood films on Australian region 4 DVD and by the look of things I don't want these two blus either.
That sounds like fan conjecture Richard. Basically you have the Arrow release that has crap blacks that are easily fixable IF your player has the settings vs the Criterion release that has what in my and Hungfist's opinion (and Hungfist is getting to be something of an authority on seeing classic J-cinema on 35mm) heavily boosted contrast.

I don't think Criterion overcooked their Lady Snowblood transfer to distance themselves from the Arrow. I think something else went on, it's supposedly sourced from a low-contrast print but it looks more like something sourced from a theatrical print. I'm not saying that's the case because the Arrow Female Prisoner set has the exact same overcooked look (with a heavy blue tint added on top for good measure) and that Arrow release was also supposedly sourced by a low contrast print. The Criterion Lady Snowblood was a brand-new 2K restoration but I think the scan itself might have been left to the Japanese studio and they could have fudged the contrast or something. It certainly doesn't look anything like other Criterion releases of films from that era.

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Re: Criterion's Lone Wolf & Cub BD set

Unread postby Ivan Drago » 20 Oct 2016, 09:54

I don't mind the Criterion Lady Snowblood, expect for the flashback scene which is now a blinding white - even the grass!
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Re: Criterion's Lone Wolf & Cub BD set

Unread postby Shingster » 23 Oct 2016, 01:33

Yeah it's certainly preferable to the Arrow Female Prisoner Scorpion set.

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Re: Criterion's Lone Wolf & Cub BD set

Unread postby HungFist » 19 Nov 2016, 05:33

I received my BDs and took a quick look. The transfer for 6th film looks quite fantastic, the rest I'm a little bit less impressed with but quite happy. I mainly have two smallish gripes.

1) For some reason the transfers do look quite red/pink. This is something was certainly absent from the 35mm prints (first 2 films), which had better colours than the BDs.

2) This one is not much of a gripe at all, and it's something I have to be careful with because I'm absolutely not calling for DNR. However, I always wondered why does the grain (on good BDs like these) look more emphasized on BD than on 35mm? People praise the BDs like this for "film like look" but in theatre (well, at least in theatres here in Japan) you can only see a slight layer of grain compared to the BDs where the grain often pops up much stronger. I've always been wondering what's the reason for this? Is it something to do with digital or scan, or perhaps presenting the negative look rather than the theatrical look?

Overall the set is quite nice of course. The image quality does somewhat pale in comparison to the 35mm prints of the first 2 films I saw at National Film Center (except for the 6th film, which looks on BD very much like the first two on 35mm) but then again, those were absolutely gorgeous prints and I never expected the BDs to match them. The 5th film I've seen from a weaker print a few years ago and the BD is indeed an improvement in some ways.

(oh, and let me say again, I'm commenting based on a quick look only).

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Re: Criterion's Lone Wolf & Cub BD set

Unread postby Ivan Drago » 19 Nov 2016, 10:38

I think the grain looks "worse" due to the transfers not being set right gamma wise.
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Re: Criterion's Lone Wolf & Cub BD set

Unread postby HungFist » 18 May 2017, 04:53

Ok, I'm finally through re-watching the whole series. All from BD as well as parts 1, 2 and 5 in 35mm. This is going to be a long post

Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (Japan, 1972) [35mm] - 4.5/5
The first (but not the best) film in the series established the unique formula, an assassin with a child. What gets mentioned a bit less often is how well director Kenji Misumi utilizes nature in the series, rooting the fantastical storylines to a living world, and bringing the world to life, in a way that many other movies don't. With Misumi's handling of the nature, as well as the father-son relationship, the series got a director that such exploitative films rarely got to enjoy. Equally important was Tomisaburo Wakayama, a prolific yakuza film actor and frequent comic relief prone to over-acting, who landed the role of his life with the series that put his silent charisma and impeccable sword handling skills to a full use. The first two sequels would further improve with even better action, pacing and character direction. The first film suffers a tiny bit for being a "beginning story". Lone Wolf and Cub would soon become stuff of the legends, and such mythical heroes are only hurt by too much background exposure.

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Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at River Styx (Japan, 1972) [35mm] - 5/5
The 2nd and best film in the series excels with terrific direction and writing. Especially interesting is the symbiosis between characters and the natural world that is done subtly enough for not every viewer to pay attention to it a on conscious level. The ninja troops move with the wind, the kunoichi women march by the riverside, and the nature heals the injured hero. In the boat scene fire first threatens the protagonist, then water saves him, and few scenes later the climax is set in a desert. There's also a constant feel of thread "in the air", something director Misumi handles amazingly well via top notch use of sound and silence. The atmospheric, near perfect film also comes with memorable characters and amazing action scenes, including a riverside scene that is not only the best scene in the series but one of the finest scenes in any movie. Simply mind blowing. An extra mention must be given to the 4 year old Akihiro Tomikawa who plays Daigoro with amazing silent intensity.

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Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades (Japan, 1972) [BD] - 5/5
This was the first movie with the Bohachi Clan, which would later star in their own two films, starting with Teruo Ishii's mind blowing Bohachi Bushido: Code of the Forgotten Eight (1973). The villainous yakuza clan's portrayal in this film is far more restrained, yet it happens to be Ogami's encounter with the clan's female leader that is the film's most intense scene. That can once again be attributed to Kenji Misumi. His direction is amazing throughout the film, both in terms of how he handles characters and in how he shows great restraint in proceeding to the fights. There are many great moments where he lets DoP Chikashi Makiura's camera observe, rather than cut right to the action or use music to tell us what is about to happen. This film is a example of the naturalistic approach that Misumi utilized so successfully in his Lone Wolf films, and which created a perfect counterforce for the storylines that were pure samurai pop fantasy. The film's climax marks the first 1 vs. 100 battle in the series, however, it is the duel between Ogami's and a melancholic ronin that follows that is the best fight. The film's last reel also sees - or rather hears - Wakayama performing a wonderful theme song. An amazing film.

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Lone Wolf and Cub: Babycart in Peril (Japan, 1972) [BD] - 4.5/5
Another supremely entertaining, only slightly lesser entry. This one was directed by Buichi Saito, a Nikkatsu action director gone freelance after his former employer went Roman Porno. He was not quite Kenji Misumi's equal, which shows in how he places music where Misumi would've used silence - this applies to both action and drama - and tends to give characters unnecessary amounts of exposure with frequent flashback sequences. That is a bit of a shame as the supporting character of Oyuki, a bare breasted swordswoman beating her opponents with her short sword as well as looks, is great. The film also contains wonderful shots of Ogami travelling in the countryside, a beautifully atmospheric hot springs scene, and a shrine ambush that remains shocking to this day in its graphicness. There's also a cool tattoo sub-theme that reminds of Teruo Ishii's films, as does the casting of Asao Koike. Speaking of casting, Retsudo is played in this film by Toei slime bag Tatsuo Endo rather than Yunosuke Ito like in part 1.

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Lone Wolf and Cub: Babycart in the Land of Demons (Japan, 1973) [35mm] - 4.5/5
Kenji Misumi returned to the series with this 5th film without quite reaching the finesse of his finest work. This time Ogami is hired to assassinate a local lord and his entire family. It's a fascinating and morally ambiguous storyline that comes with very strong parts but also some sequences that underline the father-son relationship a bit too much. Daigoro getting in trouble is an example of this. In parts 2 and 3 Misumi was able to achieve similar results more subtly and without words. Another drawback is cinematographer Fujio Morita, whose work lacks the clarity and naturalistic touch of Chikashi Makiura who shot parts 1-3. Ultimately though, these are small flaws in a tremendously entertaining film that comes with loads of wonderful scenes (desert sledge, young lord giving a kill order etc.), fascinating spiritual dimensions and an immersing fantasy world populated by swordsmen, masked clansmen and assassins sailing to a sunset.

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Lone Wolf & Cub: White Heaven in Hell (Japan, 1974) [BD] - 4.5/5
Under-rated 6th film sometimes gets criticized because it doesn't bring the storyline to a conclusion - thankfully so, because legends like this should not have an ending. The film's first third, which follows Retsudo's daughter seeing vengeance, ranks among the most beautiful segments in the series - and concludes with one of the best duels. Immediately after this the film cuts to funky blaxploitation tunes (not unlike Hanzo the Razor) and then takes a wild turn to the supernatural (Ogami vs. undead ghost warriors) before reaching its huge climax at the snowy mountains. Truly a film of opposites. It all works surprisingly well with a cartful of odd scenes not to be found in any other film of its kind. The huge final battle reportedly took 6 weeks to film and was a great way to retire the series. Direction by Yokai Monsters director Yoshiyuki Kuroda is solid, although not on par with Misumi's. The biggest liability is Isao Kimura who makes an uncharismatic villain.

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LW&C Ranking
1. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at River Styx (1972) [part 2]
2. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades (1972) [part 3]
3. Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (1972) [part 1]
4. Lone Wolf and Cub: Babycart in Peril (1972) [part 4]
5. Lone Wolf & Cub: White Heaven in Hell (1974) [part 6]
6. Lone Wolf and Cub: Babycart in the Land of Demons (1973) [part 5]

LW&C Blu-Rays

I should note that I'm not commenting as someone who know much about tech stuff, but rather as someone who lives in Japan and sees dozens of 60s and 70s Japanese films from near pristine (and sometimes not near pristine) 35mm prints every year. In the past 5 years I've seen about 200 JP films from 60s and 70 in 35mm, including LW&C 1, 2 and 5. Parts 1 and 2 I saw last year from National Film Center's (Tokyo) magnificent 35mm prints; part 5 was from a weaker print in Jimbocho theatre about 2 years ago. (side note: I believe NFC owns all of their prints and they are rarely screened or lent out, so they tend to look almost brand new).

Criterion states the films were scanned from original camera negatives. Assuming everything went fine with the scan and BD production, those negatives must have been in notably worse shape than National Film Center's 35mm prints. The BDs don't look nearly as good as the natural yet very colourful 35mm prints. My apologies for not being able to elaborate in more detail - I'm no tech expect. All I can say is that the colour (a bit pinkish?) and general crispness on the BDs don't look half as good as they did in 35mm.

Somewhat an exception to this rule is White Heaven in Hell BD, which to my eyes looks the best of the 6 transfers. The Criterion transfers actually looks very much like the NFC prints for the first two films. The Criterion BD does lean a bit towards pink, though, unlike the 35mm prints, so it's still not quite on the same level.

I wish Criterion could have accessed the NFC prints so that all of the transfers would look more like part 6. These are stunningly beautiful films and I wish some day we will get BDs that do full justice to them. That being said, these BDs look pretty alright for home viewing and they are certainly no Lady Snowblood disaster. Obviously this is the best the films have looked on home video, but still, parts 1-2 (and assumedly 3-5) 1 are not even close to no matching the theatrical prints.

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Re: Criterion's Lone Wolf & Cub BD set

Unread postby saltysam » 18 May 2017, 10:46

i'm halfway through the set, i'm fairly pleased with it but then i'm far from an expert. They are certainly a big step up fron the old Animego dvds & DNR'd blu rays
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Re: Criterion's Lone Wolf & Cub BD set

Unread postby Ivan Drago » 22 May 2017, 00:30

I dislike the ugly pink colour timing and low gamma on the Criterions.
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