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Eclipse Series 17: Nikkatsu Noir (The Criterion Collection)

10 customer reviews

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(Aug 25, 2009)
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  • Eclipse Series 17: Nikkatsu Noir (The Criterion Collection)
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Editorial Reviews

From the mid-1950s to the early 1970s, wild, idiosyncratic crime movies were the brutal and boisterous business of Nikkatsu, the oldest film studion in Japan. In an effort to attract youthful audiences growing increasingly accustomed to American and French big-screen imports, Nikkatsu began producing action potboilers (mukokuseki akushun, or borderless action) modeled on the western, comedy, gangster, and teen-rebel genres. This bruised and bloody collection represents a standout cross section of the nimble nasties Nikkatsu had to offer, from such prominent, stylistically daring directors as Seijun Suzuki, Toshio Masuda, and Takashi Nomura.

I AM WAITING (1957): In Koreyoshi Kurahara's directorial debut, rebel matinee idol Yujiro Ishihara (fresh off the sensational Crazed Fruit) stars a restaurant manager and former boxer who saves a beautiful, suicidal club hostess (Mie Kitahara) trying to escape the clutches of her gangster employer. Featuring expressionist lighting and bold camera work, this was one of Nikkatsu's early successes.

RUSTY KNIFE (1958): Rusty Knife was the first smash for director Toshio Masuda, who would go on to become one of Japanese cinema's major hit makers. In the film, Yujiro Ishihara and fellow top Nikkatsu star Akira Kobayashi play former hoodlums trying to leave behind a life of crime, but their past comes back to haunt them when the authorities seek them out as murder witnesses.

TAKE AIM AT THE POLICE VAN (1960): At the beginning of Seijun Suzuki's taut and twisty whodunit, a prison truck is attacked and a convict inside is murdered. The penitentiary warden on duty, Daijiro (Michitaro Mizushima) is accused of negligence and suspended, only to take it upon himself to track down the killers.

CRUEL GUN STORY (1964): Fresh out of the slammer, Togawa (Branded to Kill's Joe Shishido) has no chance to go straight because he is immediately coerced by a wealthy mob boss into organizing the heist of an armoured car carrying racetrack receipts. After gathering together a ragtag bunch to carry out the robbery, Togawa learns that all is not what it seems in Takumi Furukawa's thriller. Cue the double (and triple) crosses!

A COLT IS MY PASSPORT (1967): One of Japanese cinema's supreme emulations of American noir, Takashi Nomura's A Colt Is My Passport is a down-and-dirty but gorgeously photographed yakuza film starring Joe Shishido as a hard-boiled hit man caught between rival gangs. Featuring an incredible, spaghetti-western-style soundtrack and brimming with formal experimentation, this is Nikkatsu at its finest.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Jô Shishido, Chitose Kobayashi, Jerry Fujio, Shôki Fukae, Zenji Yamada
  • Directors: Koreyoshi Kurahara, Seijun Suzuki, Takashi Nomura, Takumi Furukawa, Toshio Masuda
  • Writers: Haruhiko Ôyabu, Hideichi Nagahara, Hisataka Kai
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: August 25, 2009
  • Run Time: 442 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002AFX53W
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,468 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Eclipse Series 17: Nikkatsu Noir (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Brucifer on January 5, 2010
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Having seen most of the films in the traveling Nikkatsu noir retrospective last year when it hit New York and Boston, I was initially disappointed with the choice of titles in this collection, because the only film from that retrospective included in this box set was A Colt Is My Passport. But in hindsight, I'm glad Eclipse didn't merely duplicate the films from that retrospective, as obviously there is a lot more Nikkatsu noir out there than most of us had any clue about. Whoever chose the films for this collection knows their Japanese noir and picked a bunch of obscure and pioneering titles that all happen to be excellent. All 5 of the films in this collection are true films noir (not "sort of noir" borderline cases like many DVDs marketed as "noir" can be), kinetically and inventively filmed in black and white, featuring excellent jazz scores (and in one case a spaghetti Western-like score), beautifully presented with barely a hint of print damage, and in their original theatrical aspect ratios. As with the "no frills" approach taken in the Eclipse collections to keep the prices reasonable, there are no special features like interviews, documentaries, trailers, etc. However, the printed liner notes provided for each film give you all the critical/historical background you need on each film. I very much hope Eclipse decides to do not just a follow-up but multiple volumes of this collection -- and soon! No doubt there are plenty of noirs out there from the incredibly prolific Nikkatsu studios. Japanese noir didn't really take off until the late 1950s (barring the two influential Kurosawa films: Stray Dog and Drunken Angel in the late 40s), so many of the Nikkatsu noirs I saw in that travelling retrospective were inevitably in color.Read more ›
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Christopher T. Casey on May 29, 2009
Finally! It is about time someone released Takashi Nomura's brilliant noir film, A COLT IS MY PASSPORT. This film, alone, would be reason enough to buy this box set; but, the added attraction of four more clasic Nikkatsu Action flicks (including the superb CRUEL GUN STORY) makes this a gotta-get for fans of hard-boiled Japanese action cinema.
Hats off to Criterion/Eclipse for stepping up and unleashing more great Nikkatsu films!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Ron Rood on October 10, 2009
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When I received an email newsletter from Criterion announcing the release of 5 japanse noirs as part of their Eclipse Series my immediate response was: where is my credit card? Not everything in the genre is easily obtainable from this side of the globe, especially for the relatively older works not directed by Kurosawa and the other well-known masters. This fine collection of films from one of Japan's oldest film studios is certainly a welcome contribution. The five pieces are very diverse, worth watching at least once and delivered in excellent quality and obtainable for an affordable price.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mountains to Sea on August 29, 2011
All credit to the other reviewers who have done their homework and appreciate the stylistic elements of these films. I'll just say I picked up one these at the local library and found myself scouring the shelves for a similar Criterion pattern on the spine to score the rest.

What I enjoyed were characters who could convincingly slouch like a Japanese version of Zoot-suited Bogart, plots with match-ups and double-crossing like the "Good, the Bad and the Ugly". These movies provide an immersion in a time and world (Japan post-war low-lifes and gangsters) as lost to us all as a Jurassic forest, or the royal court of the Sun King. Gives me faith that in the worlds of film, literature and music there is more to explore.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A customer on April 24, 2012
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(3 1/2 stars) Criterion puts out another above average eclipse set for those looking to dig a little deeper into their vaults. Series 17 is five films put out by the Japanese Nikkatsu studio at various times between 1957 and 1967.

These can probably best be classified as slightly poppish crime-noir, nothing as over the top as Suzuki's "Branded to Kill", but nothing as realistic as say "Pale Flower" Pale Flower (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]. Some are better than others, and of course over a 10 year span you'll see some changes in tone and style. Considering the age of the films you will see minor transfer/quality issues here and there, but overall still very, very good. The movies vary somewhat as to theme, but most focus on some aspect of "redemption", "trying to go straight", or "rescuing your lover/friend/oneself" from corruptive influences. It is hard as an outsider to know if this was directly reflective in any way as part of the healing process of losing World War II, or just a reason why some of the typical aspects of these types of films struck a nerve and became so popular in Japan at the time.

The best of the bunch is "A Colt Is My Passport" (1967), directed by Takashi Nomura and starring Joe Shishido. You could give this 5 stars, but it does contain a very annoying spaghetti western soundtrack that does not fit well with the movie and is played so frequently that it proves to be distracting. Shishido plays a hitman that falls into the inevitable web of betrayals and doublecrosses, but it contains several nice touches and an ending that for '67 was fairly innovative.
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Eclipse Series 17: Nikkatsu Noir (The Criterion Collection)
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