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Branded to Kill (The Criterion Collection) (1967)

Jo Shishido , Koji Nanbara , Seijun Suzuki  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Jo Shishido, Koji Nanbara, Isao Tamagawa, Anne Mari, Mariko Ogawa
  • Directors: Seijun Suzuki
  • Writers: Atsushi Yamatoya, Chsei Sone, Hachiro Guryu, Mitsutoshi Ishigami, Takeo Kimura
  • Producers: Kaneo Iwai, Takiko Mizunoe
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Color, Letterboxed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Japanese (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: February 23, 1999
  • Run Time: 91 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 078002205X
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,135 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Branded to Kill (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Exclusive interview with director Seijun Suzuki
  • Vintage Japanese film ephemera from the collection of John Zorn

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Branded to Kill, the wildly perverse story of the yakuza's rice-sniffing "No. 3 Killer," is Seijun Suzuki at his delirious best. From a cookie-cutter studio script, Suzuki delivered this brutal, hilarious, and visually inspired masterpiece-and was promptly fired. Criterion presents the DVD premiere of Branded to Kill in a pristine transfer from the original Nikkatsu-scope master.

Seijun Suzuki's absolutely mad yakuza movie bends the hit-man genre so out of shape it more resembles a Luis Bunuel take on Martin Scorsese. Number three killer Goro Hanada (Jo Shishido) is a hired killer who loves his work, but when he misses a target after a mere butterfly sets his carefully balanced aim astray, he becomes the next target of the mob. Goro is no pushover and easily dispatches the first comers, leaving them splayed in death contortions that could qualify for an Olympic event, but the rat-a-tat violence gives way to a surreal, sadistic game of cat and mouse. The legendary Number One mercilessly taunts his target before moving in with him in a macho, testosterone-laden Odd Couple truce that ends up with them handcuffed together. Kinky? Not compared to earlier scenes. The smell of boiling rice sets Goro's libido for his mistress so aflame that Suzuki censors the gymnastic sex with animated black bars that come to life in an animated cha-cha. Because Suzuki pushed his yakuza parodies and cinematic surrealism too far, his studio, Nikkatsu, finally called in their own metaphoric hit and fired the director with such force that he was effectively blackballed from the industry for a decade. It took about that long for audiences to embrace his audacious genre bending--Suzuki's pop-art sensibilities were just a bit ahead of their time. --Sean Axmaker

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Butterfly Kiss September 14, 2001
Format:VHS Tape
I was inspired to seek out Branded to Kill as it's one of Jim Jarmusch's favorite films, and he's one of my favorite filmmakers. You could say that his interest in Japanese pop culture first came to the fore in Mystery Train, the darkly comic tale of two Japanese tourists on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Elvis. But it's Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, which mostly clearly takes its inspiration from Seijun Suzuki's bizarre, yet strangely beautiful Branded to Kill. Certainly, the external trappings are different (Suzuki's film is in B&W, it's set in Japan, RZA most definitely did not compose the soundtrack, etc.), but the central characters are cut from the same inscrutable cloth. Arguably, Ghost Dog also takes its inspiration from another non-American noir released in '67--Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samourai with Alain Delon as, you guessed it, a bird-loving hitman of few words (a film that, in turn, inspired John Woo's The Killer).

Branded to Kill plays like a cross between an American noir from the 1950s (Kiss Me Deadly), a French New Wave post-noir (Breathless, Le Doulos), and a Japanese "art" film (Woman in the Dunes). At first, you think Goro (Jo Shishido) is one odd dude (with his chipmunk cheeks, weird rice obsession, insatiable libido, etc.), but then you meet the women in his life... Both of them, his wife (Mariko Ogawa) and butterfly-obsessed mistress (Mari Annu), are about as strange as it gets (so strange--and downright kinky--that accusations of misogyny would not be completely misplaced).

If you've been looking for something different, you've found it in Branded to Kill. If the plot is as incomprehensible as that of The Big Sleep, it doesn't really matter.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What's It Worth? November 20, 2000
By A Customer
Honestly, I was expecting a New Wave film, but what I got was a film that, stylistically, compares with the New Wave, but fails to achieve New Wave pathos. But that doesn't mean "Branded to Kill" is a bad film, it just means you have to look at it from a different perspective: The film is fluff, substance is style. It's lack of cohesion seems to be an intellectual bluff rather than a conscious, "artistic" convention. Therefore, the film should be compared to the films of Roger Corman and the Blaxploitation era.
"Branded to Kill" seems like the Asian precursor to films like "Hard Boiled" and "The Killer". BTK's action scenes are inventive and frenzied. They are not "realistic", but they fit within the film's tone, which is unrealistic anyway. Everything is over the top, and the film has that "go for broke" feeling of the New Wave. You have to admire Suzuki's moxy, which suits the era and environment in which the film was created.
In the interview on this disk, Suzuki says his films were meant to be strictly entertaining. That they are. "Branded to Kill" is one of the most entertaining films I've ever seen, besting even some of Roger Corman's films. It's both maddening and exuberant, and a great example of perverse cinema.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Japanese Noir? If such a thing is possible, I guess this is it. Although I think that the more recent Beat Takeda movies are closer to the classic American form that Suzuki's stuff. Am I detecting the influence of the French New Wave in this film? Existentialism seems to manifest itself in different ways throughout the film particularly in the numbering of the yakuza killers. I was amazed by the really strong erotic content but found some of the violence cartoonish (not neccessarily a bad thing). If you buy this, and I strongly reccomend that you do,don't try very hard to figure it out as you go along. Just ride along with it and it will take you to some very dark, and bizarre, places.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
It certainly does take a certain kind of film buff to enjoy this film. Style over substance is the order of the day, and one must be willing to sacrifice a coherent plot line for an excess of style. In this film the way a thing gets done takes precedence over the thing that is done. Don't get me wrong- the basic idea of the story is simple. however the style almost becomes the story and this is something we are not all used to. (You might want to see Kill Bill first and then Tokyo Drifter before this one). I won't go into the plot here because I think it's better if you don't have any expectations before watching this one. The black and white cinematography is superb. The sound is as good as can be expected. The extras are minimal, however it is a criterion release, so it required viewing. The only thing that could have made it better would be if Bela Lugosi were in it....
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ridiculous Sublime Yakuza Masterpiece March 9, 2001
The term "visionary" gets thrown around alot, but "Branded to Kill" redefines it. This '67 black and white will leave your jaw hanging. Yes, partly in incomprehension, but also in stunned awe. A stylistic tour de force that is still news and way hipper than anything you'll see at the mall multiplex. The coolest classic around.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another winner from Criterion May 26, 2000
I bought this DVD on a whim after doing some background research. Somehow the typical Japaneseyakuza action film cut-up and combined with surrealism and a Noirish sheen appealed to me. I certainly wasn't disappointed. I was Actually, I was amazed at how many levels "Branded to Kill" worked. Its over the top black humor (at time almost slap stick)was delightful. The characters were complex and the plot engaging though deliberately made hard to follow. I've haunted by the complexity of the ending for a few days now. Visually the film is a masterpiece, and heavily debted to the French New Wave. I disagree with the Widescreen Review of the picture and sound quality as the picture looks to be faithful recreation of the original. I think the washed-out contrastless black is quite beautifully done and portrayed.
This film was certainly a big influence on Tarantino and I'm pretty sure it is QT behind the camera on the exclusive interview of Seiuchi Suzuki (a great bonus).
Highly recommended for fans of gangster films, Japanese film-making, noir, and new-wave all rolled into one.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 3 months ago by Gregninja
3.0 out of 5 stars saved by a scene
The film's a little loose but has one of the great shoot-'em-up scenes: it's outside, only one guy left standing, he starts to walk away then ten paces later he takes off his... Read more
Published 13 months ago by L. Monstuart
5.0 out of 5 stars Branded to Kill
A Yakuza special film from Japan. A fine director. Necessaraly to see it for the fans of the genre. See an additional short with a conversation with the director. Read more
Published 22 months ago by yorge Zander
1.0 out of 5 stars Cult Trash
Seijun Suzuki is probably the most overated Japanese director in the West, it is completely inexplicable how his films are hailed as "cult classics" having watched a few of his... Read more
Published on October 25, 2012 by Joseph
5.0 out of 5 stars (4.5 stars) Unique and brilliant, Seijun Suzuki's masterpiece...
"Branded to Kill", Seijun Suzuki's masterpiece but also a film that led to the filmmaker's firing.

While we are graced with films with visual style, humor and coolness... Read more
Published on April 28, 2012 by Dennis A. Amith (kndy)
3.0 out of 5 stars Odd
This is a very strange movie. Maybe I just didn't understand it, so I hate to have to give a star rating. Read more
Published on August 17, 2010 by chungking
4.0 out of 5 stars Who is Number 1?
This bizarre little gem from director Seijun Suzuki begins stylishly, if conventionally, with a hired killer who agrees to a job in protection instead of assassination, and who... Read more
Published on March 4, 2010 by Bryan Byrd
4.0 out of 5 stars Filmmaking with a touch of demented genius!
Branded to Kill('67) was way ahead of its time. Watching this movie once is simply not enough.

After being handed a basic cardboard script about a contract killer,... Read more
Published on April 15, 2009 by C. Christopher Blackshere
4.0 out of 5 stars It just goes to show you...
...the industry is really stupid sometimes. When this movie was first released it was released under the heat of controversy. Read more
Published on February 27, 2009 by Andrew Ellington
4.0 out of 5 stars A directorial backlash becomes a cult classic
Branded to kill and other Suzuki films like 'Tokyo Drifter' and the beautiful 'youth of the beast'.. will remain sort of cult classics in the genre of Japanese gangster pictures.. Read more
Published on December 22, 2007 by Stalwart Kreinblaster
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