top of page
  • Writer's pictureGabe Powers

Haunted Samurai Blu-ray Review


Diabolik DVD/Surviving Elements

Blu-ray Release: September 21, 2023

Video: 2.35:1/1080p/Color

Audio: Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English

Run Time: 82:49

Director: Keiichi Ozawa


Rokuheita (Hideki Takahashi) is an enforcer for the Yagyu ninja clan. When his sister commits suicide as a result of his actions, Rokuheita considers his choices and eventually deserts the organization. Hunted by an army of bizarre shadow warriors, the target turns on his pursuers when he finds something worth fighting for. (From Diabolik DVD/Surviving Elements’ official synopsis)


Not to be confused with Yasuo Furuhata’s 2007 film, Keiichi Ozawa’s The Haunted Samurai (Japanese: Kaze no tengu; aka Duel in the Wind, Shinobi Demon: Duel in the Wind, and The Hunted, 1970) is a comparatively obscure entry in Nikkatsu’s jidaigeki canon based on a comparatively obscure early title, Dojinki, from famed manga artist Goseki Kojima. Kojima was the co-creator of Lone Wolf and Cub (pub: 1970-’76) and Samurai Executioner (pub: 1972-’76) with writer Kazuo Koike and one might assume that the Lone Wolf and Cub movie series had inspired it, but Haunted Samurai actually predates Kenji Misumi’s Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (1972) by two years. It would be more accurate to say it was drawing from the same well of influences, as well as the audience’s growing appetite for over-the-top violence. The Haunted Samurai has exaggerated gore, comic book action, and absurdly themed villains, but in moderation (it never really, erm, tops the island of topless female assassins sequence in this regard). It’s a distinguished harbinger of the Lone Wolf and Cub and Hanzo the Razor (1972, ‘73, and ‘74) brand of filmmaking, and a stone on the road to unabashedly exploitation-filled samurai vs. ninja movies.



Ozawa wasn’t one of Nikkatsu’s most prolific directors, though he did begin his career making all four sequels to Toshio Masuda’s Outlaw Gangster VIP in a row between 1968 and ‘69, and continued working with series star Tetsuya Watari on Ex Convict: Bail (also 1969) and Ex Convict: Sword Storm (also 1969). I believe that Haunted Samurai was his first jidaigeki and he brings a lot of that dirty, nihilistic yakuza energy to what is otherwise an emblematic samurai melodrama. The script, from screenwriter Seiji Hoshikawa, is heavily compacted in an effort to make room for set pieces and for the sake of a brisk runtime. It can feel as if whole chapters are missing, because Hoshikawa assumes we’ll get the gist of the story based on our familiarity with similar, oft-told folktales (it ends up having a lot in common with Robin Hood, too). As a result, much of the film’s success relies upon the quality of the performances, the inclusion of the aforementioned exploitation elements, and Ozawa’s overall direction, which, at best, demonstrates surprising patience during character-based scenes and takes time to appreciate the natural backdrops. Editor Shinya Inoue also does his part to keep things moving and mitigates lapses in action choreography between cuts.



Video

When I say this is an obscure title outside of Japan, I really mean it this time. I can’t find evidence of any physical home video releases on any format in any country under Haunted Samurai, Kaze no tengu, or Shinobi Demon: Duel in the Wind titles (the former is what appears on this print, for the record). You can buy it in HD on Amazon Prime in Japan, but that was just about your only option until this new Blu-ray release. This is a limited, one-time pressing that distributor Diabolik DVD promises will “never be reissued,” so, if it sounds like something you’d like to own, you should probably buy it soon. The 1080p, 2.35:1 transfer matches what we typically see from Nikkatsu’s in-house scans, including clean, slightly oversoftened details, and a combination of strong colors (though not overly saturated) and black levels that help boost the contrast on cinematographer Minoru Yokoyama’s moody compositions. There are fewer print-related artifacts than we’ve seen from earlier Arrow Nikkatsu releases, which tended to have some ragged splices, but those discs tend to have stronger texture, both generally and in terms of film grain.


Audio

Haunted Samurai is presented in its original Japanese language and uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio mono sound. It’s a typically sparse mix, but a surprisingly robust and loud track. The dialogue and limited effects work is clear with minimal distortion and manageable hiss on aspirated consonants. Hajime Kaburagi’s score utilizes a lot of traditional instrumental elements, like flutes, shamisen, and taiko drums, but occasionally augments them with modern rock accents (distorted guitar, sitar, a drum set, et cetera) to set the right mood. His music is rich and neat, despite the single-channel treatment.



Extras

  • Commentary with Chris Poggiali and John Charles – The one major extra here is a commentary from the author of These Fists Break Bricks: How Kung Fu Movies Swept America and Changed the World (with Grady Hendrix; Mondo Books, 2022) and the author of The Hong Kong Filmography, 1977-1997: A Reference Guide to 1,100 Films Produced by British Hong Kong Studios (McFarland, 2009), who discuss the history of Nikkatsu Studios, the original manga (very briefly, since it was never reprinted), the story’s historical and folktale basis, the wider careers of the cast & crew, related films and TV shows,

  • Trailer




The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.


0 comments

ความคิดเห็น


bottom of page