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Gate of Hell 1953 NR

4.5 out of 5 stars (44) IMDb 7.2/10

In the midst of epic, violent intrigue in twelfth-century Japan, an imperial warrior falls for a lady-in-waiting; after he discovers she is married, he becomes frenzied in his attempts to win her love.

Starring:
Kazuo Hasegawa, Machiko Kyô
Runtime:
1 hour, 30 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Drama, Romance
Director Teinosuke Kinugasa
Starring Kazuo Hasegawa, Machiko Kyô
Supporting actors Isao Yamagata, Yataro Kurokawa, Kôtarô Bandô, Jun Tazaki, Koreya Senda, Masao Shimizu, Tatsuya Ishiguro, Kenjiro Uemura, Gen Shimizu, Michiko Araki, Yoshie Minami, Kikue Môri, Ryôsuke Kagawa, Shinobu Araki, Kunitarô Sawamura, Kanji Koshiba, Fujio Harumoto, Taiji Tonoyama
Studio The Criterion Collection
MPAA rating NR (Not Rated)
Purchase rights Stream instantly and download to 2 locations Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video and digital download)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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 Kyō), 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 Kyō. 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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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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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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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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