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Gate of Hell (Criterion Collection) (1953)

Kazuo Hasegawa , Machiko Kyo , Teinosuke Kinugasa  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Kazuo Hasegawa, Machiko Kyo, Yataro Kurokawa
  • Directors: Teinosuke Kinugasa
  • Format: Color, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English, Japanese
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: April 9, 2013
  • Run Time: 89 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00B2BYXSQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,612 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features

  • New high-definition digital restoration
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film historian Stephen Prince

  • Editorial Reviews

    A winner of Academy Awards for best foreign-language film and best costume design, GATE OF HELL is a visually sumptuous, psychologically penetrating work from Teinosuke Kinugasa (A Page of Madness). In the midst of epic, violent intrigue in twelfth-century Japan, an imperial warrior falls for a lady-in-waiting; even after he discovers she is married, he goes to extreme lengths to win her love. Kinugasa's film is an unforgettable, tragic story of obsession and unrequited passion that was an early triumph of color cinematography in Japan.

    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars A Tragic Obsession in 12th-Century Japan November 30, 2003
    By M. Hart
    Format:VHS Tape
    In 1953, Teinosuke Kinugasa (1896-1982) directed and co-adapted the historical play entitled "Jigokumon" (English transliteration of the Japanese title), which was written by Kan Kikuchi (1888-1948). The film's name (the same as the play) translates into English as "Gate of Hell", and was released theatrically in the U.S. in 1954. The story takes place in 12th-century Japan during the Heian period and at the start of a revolt. During the confusion and fear running rampant through the royal palace in Kyoto, a lady of the court, Lady Kesa (Machiko Kyô), is rescued by a soldier named Moritoh (Kazuo Hasegawa, 1908-1984). After the revolt fails, Moritoh is told that he can have anything that he wants, and what he wants is Lady Kesa to be his wife. He is quickly told, however, that she is already married to Wataru Watanabe (Isao Yamagata, 1915-1996). Rather than seek something different, Moritoh becomes dangerously obsessed with Lady Kesa.
    Filmed in beautiful & vibrant color (probably one of the first color films from Japan), the cinematography in "Gate of Hell" is exquisite. The story is by no means dated, though it does become somewhat predictable. Still, it is both compelling and engaging and the acting is superb, especially Machiko Kyô. Memorable scenes in the film include the confusion at the royal palace, Laky Kesa hiding from traitorous soldiers, Moritoh meeting Lady Kesa and her aunt after the revolt, Moritoh given the choice of his heart's desire, the horse races, Moritoh at the home of Lady Kesa's aunt, and the ending scenes. The makeup used on Moritoh could have been better.
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    16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Meditate....on the Ending of the Film February 15, 2013
    Format:Blu-ray
    This film wowed the critics when it first came out in the 1950's. The extraordinary medieval costumes and exquisite color compositions dazzled the audiences. Today, even Martin Scorsese ranks the movie among his top 10 of foreign films. It must have influenced so many Japanese directors when they attempted to create their own epics.

    Obviously, I prefer the masterpieces of Kurosawa or Kobayashi or Mizoguchi. This is a very good film rather than a great one. Nevertheless...this movie grows on you. Other reviewers discuss the basic plot: Moritoh, a warrior who quashes a revolt, is to be rewarded for his bravery by the emperor's regent. He is asked to choose any gift from the emperor. During the revolt, he encounters the beautiful Lady Kesa, who is kind to him. Like a fool, he demands that he be given Lady Kesa as a wife, even though she is already married to a lord of higher class. Everyone asks him to desist.. but pride, madness, and desire prevent him from doing so. He vows to destroy anyone who stands in his path and goes so far as to kidnap his prize. On the other side of the wall, rather than defend his wife from such outrageous conduct, Lady Kesa's intellectual husband takes no violent action to protect her.

    The scenes are enhanced by the exaggerated dramatic, strong movements of Moritoh against the delicate movements of Kesa. Notwithstanding, she is just as strong a character as he is. I give this movie 5 stars because I felt this was Machiko Kyo's best performance. Every gesture of hers can be studied for meaning.

    The ending of the film grabs me so much because it is pregnant with so much significance. Don't rush to judgment - think about it. There are secrets to the ending.

    Postcript: The Blu-Ray quality is marvelous - don't even think about seeing the movie in any other format. I also love the glorious poster artwork on the cover of this Criterion Edition.
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    20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars Great film, but desperatly needs restoration. December 30, 1999
    Format:VHS Tape
    I first saw this at a revival in the early eighties and couldn't believe how beautiful it was. Then I got this video and was suprized that it wasn't nearlly as beautiful as I remembered. The reason wasn't a bad memory, but the original prints used for showings have rotted in film vaults, and have become blurry, faded, and scrathy. I was very disappointed that Home Vision didn't present this digitally remastered and restored with new computer subtitles (the subtitles are quite crude). That's the reason I didn't give this five stars other than that, this is one of Japan's greatest masterpieces. The ending is pretty sad but has a beautiful ending. The degree that Moritoh will go to get Kesa is trully horrifying and Moritoh transforms from a herioc samurai warrior and hero of the film to a maniacal barbarian and villian. Recommended, but maybe the more picky film viewer who has an outburst everytime a scratch line goes down a film should perhaps wait until this is restored to the experiance it once was.
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    12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars Rushed and premature, but still good. January 3, 2008
    Format:VHS Tape
    Gate of Hell (Teinosuke Kinugasa, 1953)

    The 1950s in Japan were a great time for costume dramas. Witness Gate of Hell (Jigokumon), Teinosuke Kinugasa's multi-Western-award-winning (Oscar: Best Foreign Film and Best Costume Design, New York Film Critics' Circle: Best Foreign Film, BAFTA Best Film, Cannes Grand Prize) flick about obsessive love and its inevitable end.

    Moritoh (Genji Monogatari's Kazuo Hasegawa) helps put down a revolt, and is rewarded with anything he desires. What he desires is the beautiful Kesa (Ugikusa's Machiko Kyo), but he finds out that Kesa is already married to another samurai, Wataru (Isao Yamagata of The Seven Samurai). This knowledge doesn't faze Moritoh in the least; he sets about trying to win Kesa's love by proving himself a better warrior than her husband.

    It is a good film, but it could have been a better one. Midnight Eye's summary of the film says that "Kinugasa himself was fully aware of his picture's dramatic weaknesses, and blamed intervention from his producer, an under-developed script and a rushed working schedule due to a release date fixed in advance. Whilst impressive in its performances, and the ambition and scale of its production, with a little more attention to plotting, one gets the feeling that it could have been a truly great film." This is quite the case. While it is undeniably a stunning picture, even by today's standards-- the rather primitive film stock (this was Japan's first color film) does nothing to mask the intricacy of the set design, the brilliant, almost expressionist color scheme, or Kinugasa's excellent eye when it comes to action scenes-- the plot is presented in almost stop-motion fashion, with one excellently-acted scene after another, but nothing to tie them together.
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    Most Recent Customer Reviews
    3.0 out of 5 stars A Piece of History
    A Treasured Piece !!!!! They are not making movies with the flavor of BY-GONE DAYS. The era was depicted beautifully.
    Published 21 days ago by Stephanie Char
    5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting, beautiful film that packs a punch
    The self-anointed 'dean' of Western critics of Japanese film, Donald Richie, famously said that GATE OF HELL (Japanese JIGOKUMON) was a "limp film with flaccid performances by... Read more
    Published 2 months ago by David H. (Austin)
    5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT SUMPTUOUS COLOR
    10 minutes into this film and you will say you've never seen color like this in a film. i was worried about the restoration... Read more
    Published 2 months ago by milt
    5.0 out of 5 stars A classic
    A classic tale of loyalty, although whose, and to whom, you don't find out until the end.

    This is a "samurai" movie, but really doesn't have swordwork in it, it... Read more
    Published 2 months ago by G. Johnson
    2.0 out of 5 stars PRETTY (BUT) INSCRUTIBLE IN A SOAP OPERA WAY
    Very pretty colors, particularly for its time, with sumptuous silks of that ancient Japanese time are elegance personified. Read more
    Published 3 months ago by Roy Clark
    5.0 out of 5 stars Drop dead gorgeous in glorious Eastmancolor.
    This is a bare bones release from Criterion, but the image quality is absolutely superb — vibrant and pristine.

    And what images! Read more
    Published 4 months ago by Gryphon X
    5.0 out of 5 stars Extravagant tale of love and death
    Taken from Akutagawa's (Rashomon) tale "Kesa and Morito" starring Machiko Kyo (Rashomon, Ugetsu, and others), directed by Teinosuke Kinugasa, is a splendid color film made in 1953... Read more
    Published 7 months ago by See Em Gee
    5.0 out of 5 stars Loyalty
    `Gate of Hell' is a story about loyalties. All those who transgress their loyalties, and are beaten or unmasked, are sent to `Hell' through its `Gate'. Read more
    Published 7 months ago by Luc REYNAERT
    4.0 out of 5 stars As good as thay say.
    Well worth watching and yes the colors are preserved well. I bought the DVD which is fine. I don't know if the Bluray would be significantly better.
    Published 9 months ago by John
    4.0 out of 5 stars A tragic film about unrequited love and ones believe in love and...
    When it comes to filmmaker Teinosuke Kinugasa, his name may not be as familiar with Kurosawa, Ozu or Nagase to the Western world but his accomplishments have been noticed within... Read more
    Published 9 months ago by Dennis A. Amith (kndy)
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