Customer Reviews: The Samurai Trilogy (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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on April 27, 2006
The content has been summarized by others. For the person who has not seen these films, the summary cannot convey the content of these 3 films.

In short, the story of perhaps the greatest master of Japanese sword skill ever, a historical/almost mythical figure from 1600 feudal Japan.

The 3 movies tell of his evolution from a young hot head with exceptional ability, to a master of both his martial art and of life from a Japanese Shinto perspective.

These films are full of Japanese culture and mentality.

The actors are spell binding.

The fight sceens are believable and of the highest standard. (No, the actors cannot walk up walls!!! and fly through the air!!!).

The story for me, was and is deeply moving.

Do not misunderstand, my insight and identification does not parallel that of the main character, but it is a story which has become part of me.

I do not know if this will appeal to every one.

It is in Japanese with subtitles.

Some parts of the film become slow.

Nonetheless, for me, this is a masterpiece and one of my all time favorites.

It is timeless.
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on June 24, 2012
Blu-ray picture is simply amazing, especially considering this film is almost 60 yrs old. Many scenes are so crystal-clear and detailed you truly feel like you're actually there as an observer instead of watching a film. Detail is razor-sharp; you can see intricate fabric textures and very fine face details in closeup shots. In carefully-lit interior scenes, color is rich but not over-saturated; outdoor scenes are good but not quite as vibrant. Insert says "These new high-definition digital transfers were created on a Spirit Datacine from 35mm low-contrast prints struck from the original camera negatives." Also color fluctuations, scratches, splices, jitter, flicker, etc. were corrected.

Highly recommended - definitely a big step up from the DVD version.
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on June 4, 2005
I do not wish to compare these films to the works of Kurosawa as others have done (of course they aren't as modern or innovative) but to assess their impact as a trilogy and as a great realized vision of a historical figures' spiritual development. Their are not too many trilogies that hold together this well - maybe 'Star Wars' gives us this sort of vision as well. Toshiro Mifune, of course steals the show, and is very convincing in this kind of role. The cinematography is quite nice (especially in the first and last film) and we get to see a lot of beautiful natural images throughout the film - I am reminded of the Japanese love for nature that has been written so much about (read D.T. Suzuki's 'Zen and Japanese Culture' as another fine example). Overall, I am satisfied with this purchase. I think it has the power to inspire.
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on June 26, 2012
The main thing missing is the much anticipated commentary track. I got so used to Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, and others that I got spoiled with. I know this is not a Kurosawa masterpiece but it's still a masterpiece on its own. Wish they had a commentary track with Stephen Prince. Anyways...for each of the 3 films, William Wilson, gives the historical info on the real Musashi Miyamoto and how it relates to the film where many parts are fictitious for entertainment purposes and you'll find them in the "supplements" section.

They put the 2 bluray discs on one spindle which is divided top and bottom and the booklet on the left side on a single bluray case. I have a slight gripe about this set up. First, the films can't be sold separately because 2 movies are on 1 50gb bluray dual layer and the 3rd movie is on the 2nd bluray 25gb single layer. So, wanting a collector's item goes right out the door due to not having individualized packaging just like Yojimbo and Sanjuro.

The films are in it's original 1.33:1 aspect ratio at 1080p HD and amazon's listing at 1.77:1 is incorrect. When viewing on your widescreen TV, you'll see 2 black bars to the sides just like Seven Samurai. The picture quality is definitely leaps and bounds superior to that of the 2004 criterion DVD release. The colors are vibrant and the contrast is maxed out. Almost feels like I'm watching something new entirely. Some might be turned off by the heavy grain quality but keep in mind this film is old. In todays standards with recent films, the grainy quality would be unacceptable. Audio has been improved as well with a noticeable higher Mhz monaural. If you're watching on a 120Hz or 240Hz refresh rate TV, go ahead and turn them off, it gets distracting with the blurriness of movements.

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on November 13, 2004
While I don't think these films are quite up to the level of the other great Japanese samurai films of the 1950s (such as Sansho the Bailiff & Seven Samurai), the really great things about the Samurai Trilogy for me were in the marvelous use of natural surroundings, the attractive Japanese leading ladies, and above all being able to see Toshiro Mifune starring in color.

Regarding the DVD transfer, let me first say that I am a frugal guy who does not think that any DVD, however good the transfer, is ever worth 30 bucks. That said, I don't know what all the fuss is about over the image quality on these disks. The film was not released in widescreen so the full-screen image is correct. The only scenes which are perhaps too dark are in the end of the second film, because it was filmed that way originally! The VHS is even darker as far as I could tell. I have 20/40 vision, yet I had absolutely no problem reading the subtitles ever in any of the three films. The image quality in general is not Jeanne d'Arc but it certainly never came close to impairing my ability to enjoy the films. Finally, there are no special features beyond theatrical trailers on any of the DVDs, but the three-pack is also priced cheaper than any other Criterion issues (less than $20/disc) so why complain!
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While many viewers from the west are familiar with Akira Kurosawa and his samurai films, there was another filmmaker known in Japan for his samurai films and also working with actor Toshiro Mifune.

The filmmaker is Hiroshi Inagaki. A stage actor who joined Nikkatsu back in 1922 but wanted to become a director in 1928. And within the next 20 years, Inagaki would direct several films including "Muhomatsu no Issho", a film that was selected as the 8th best Japanese film of all time according to a 1989 poll with Japanese film critics and filmmakers.

In America, Hiroshi Inagaki is best known for the "Samurai Trilogy" which included the following films: "Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto" (1954), "Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple" (1955) and "Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island" (1956). The first film in the trilogy, would earn Hiroshi Inagaki an honorary Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

All three films revolve around the Japanese swordsman known as Shinmen Takezo or Miyamoto Musashi. Musashi is the founder of the Hyoho Niten Ichi-ryu swordsmanship and the author of "The Book of Five Rings" and is considered in Japan as one of the greatest warriors of all time.

Part of the popularity about Musashi is that unlike samurai's who serve a master, Musashi was a warrior who was not interested in that. All that mattered was becoming the best swordsman. And there are many legendary stories of how Musashi took on the greatest swordsmen in Japan and also taking out an army.

And with every decade, there are fictional stories about Musashi, may it be for anime, manga or video games.

But if there was one fictional storyline that have inspired the stories, it would be from Hiroshi Inagaki's three films.

Back in 1999, "The Samurai Trilogy" would be released in America on DVD courtesy of The Criterion Collection.

In June 2012, The Criterion Collection has released "The Samurai Trilogy" on Blu-ray featuring a new high-definition digital restoration of all three films with uncompressed monaural soundtracks and three interviews for each film with translator and historian William Scott Wilson about the real-life Musashi Miyamoto.


"The Samurai Trilogy" is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1). As a previous owner of the original 1999 DVD set, for many Criterion Collection fans back then, there were many who felt the quality was not up to par with other Criterion Collection DVD's and many have wished for a remaster using newer technology. While the Criterion Collection did remaster many of their earlier releases, "The Samurai Trilogy" was an unknown situation because who knows how bad the original negative source was in order to make a brand new digital transfer.

This time around, Criterion Collection went back and gave a new high definition transfer of the three films. Not only are thinks much lighter, colorful and showcase much clarity, one of the biggest problems of the DVD is how murky and blurry it looked. There color flickering and unevenness with the old DVD's but on Blu-ray, this is no longer the case.

The new version has a fine layer of grain, colors and scenes look much better than ever before. While not pristine, as the film does have scenes with a few white specks, the Blu-ray release of "The Samurai Trilogy" is so much better than the original DVD's. Even during the darker moments of the film, where the DVD looked too murky and blurry...not anymore. Even the third film which uses vignettes, no longer is the video too dark.

There is greater clarity on Blu-ray, colors are consistent and you can tell that the Criterion Collection put a lot of time into fixing the video of these three films for the 2012 Blu-ray release. It's not perfect but definitely an improvement over the older DVD picture quality.

According to the Criterion Collection, these new high-definition digital transfers were created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35 mm low-contrast prints struck from the original camera negatives. Criterion also corrected the occasional color fluctuations inherent in the decades-old Eastmancolor stock on which these films were originally shot. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, spices and warps were manually removed using MTI's DRS and Pixel Farm's PFClean, while Image Systems' Phoenix and PF Clean were used for small dirt, grain, noise reduction, jitter and flicker.


"The Samurai Trilogy" is presented in monaural. Dialogue is crystal clear and I heard no pops, clicks or any audio problems during my viewing of the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, the original monaural soundtracks were remastered at 24-bit from the 35 mm optical positives. Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation.

Subtitles are in English.


"The Samurai Trilogy" on Blu-ray comes with the following special features:

On Musashi Miyamoto Part I - (8:37) Translator and historian Wilson (author of "The Lone Samurai") discusses"Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto" and similarities and differences of the first film to the real life of Musashi Miyamoto.
On Musashi Miyamoto Part II - (7:13) Translator and historian Wilson (author of "The Lone Samurai") discusses "Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple" and similarities and differences of the first film to the real life of Musashi Miyamoto.
On Musashi Miyamoto Part III - (7:13) Translator and historian Wilson (author of "The Lone Samurai") discusses "Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island" and similarities and differences of the first film to the real life of Musashi Miyamoto
Trailer I - (2:51) The original theatrical trailer for "Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto".
Trailer II - (3:46) The original theatrical trailer for "Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple".
Trailer III - (3:12) The original theatrical trailer for "Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island".


Included is a 28-page booklet featuring the essay "Musashi Mifune" by Stephen Prince and "The Book of Five Rings" by William Scott Wilson.


A path of self discovery. A path to become the greatest warrior. This is the journey of Takezo/Musashi. A swordsman who follows the sword, not a master nor a woman.

Hiroshi Inagaki's "The Samurai Trilogy" plays out like poetry. Unlike other samurai films, the story of legendary swordsman/warrior Miyamoto Musashi is exciting for people in Japan and also those interested in samurai culture. Having been portrayed in a variety of media in so many different forms, may it be video games, anime or manga, because there is not one perfect way to describe Musashi's life, because information that far long ago is scarce, one must go through Musashi's own book or historical documents.

We know that Hiroshi Inagaki's version of the character of Musashi is fictionalized, but when it comes to capturing the elements of that era and also elements of Musashi's life and battles, there is no doubt that "The Samurai Trilogy" has been looked at as a primary source for people to gain information of the famous swordsman.

The film has inspired many storylines, especially of a soldier or a fighter who chooses a life of loneliness in order to pursue their goal of becoming the greatest warrior. We can see how Musashi's character has permeated to Japanese modern entertainment in different forms such as Ryu of the "Street Fighter" video games to other samurai film adaptations.

Musashi represents man in search of himself, his true inner power, his happiness and fulfillment. The first film "Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto" deals with one man wanting fame and having been educated through books and adopting a new name. The second film "Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple" deals with one man's quest to become the great swordsman, but also torn by his emotions of whether he should be in love or pursue a life of loneliness and continue to follow the sword.

The third and final film features a much more wiser Musashi who has accomplished a lot in life. Understanding the value of life but also knowing that his greatest rival is waiting for a battle. While this wiser Musashi has changed from the more unruly Takezo (as seen in the first film), we see how much he has matured by the third film and also considering love but knowing that his search for finding the greatest warrior, will probably come to an end, whether he lives or dies when he battles Kojiro Sasaki.

And while the film is about a man's journey to self-discovery, we also see how life is for the two women who have fallen for Musashi. For Otsu and Akemi, these two women have gone through tremendous burden and have traveled long and far to be with him.Will Musashi end his swordfighting days to finally marry a woman and have a family? Who knows.

But the story is quite poetic as like the four seasons, we see the maturation and change within Musashi in each film.

As for the fighting, this is another major plus for "The Samurai Trilogy" as the fighting choreography is absolutely excellent, well-planned and well-executed. It does help to have the talented Toshiro Mifune, who has worked closely with both Hiroshi Inagaki and Akira Kurosawa, but the commitment to capturing the action during that time was well-done. If there is any fault to these films is that the realism of showing blood or disembowelment or loss limbs is not prevalent until years later in Japan. But still, "The Samurai Trilogy" did work remarkably well.

And as for the Blu-ray release, as mentioned earlier, having owned the original Criterion Collection DVD's, the video quality has been a sore spot for owners when it was first released. The video looked dark, murky and colors were often inconsistent. But still, many hoped for the next decade for a re-release of "The Samurai Trilogy" and to tell you the truth, I wasn't sure if it would happen or could happen because of the original source where the transfer was made from before.

But the Criterion Collection really pulled out the stops for this Blu-ray releae of "The Samurai Trilogy". All the problems that I had with the original DVD are non-existent with this Blu-ray release. Better colors, better video, lossless soundtrack and special features. Also, as a major plus for fans, no need to purchase all three films separately. All three films are included in the Blu-ray release of "The Samurai Trilogy".

So, yes...Hiroshi Inagaki has quite a few masterpieces in his filmmaking oeuvre, but "The Samurai Trilogy" are three films that will be forever remembered. Wonderful storyline, the set design and costume design were excellent. The acting performance by Toshiro Mifune was fantastic but also the acting by the two women of the film, Kaoru Yachigusa (Otsu) and Mariko Okada (Akemi).

Overall, for those who have watched and enjoyed plethora of samurai films in their lifetime, "The Samurai Trilogy" are three films that one must watch in their lifetime. And for Criterion Collection or samurai film enthusiasts, "The Samurai Trilogy" on Blu-ray is definitely worth owning! Highly recommended!
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on May 22, 2001
This trilogy is the finest ever made. It is a must see. It is the story of development of a man from raging, meanspirited and selfish beast to sainthood. Musashi starts out as the most immature and insufferable of brutes. But, through education and help from a priest who sees something special in him, Musashi obtains polish and humility. He goes on through life, learning earthshaking lessons about the treachery and the beauty of man along the way. In the course of polishing and refining his swordsmanship, Musashi also polishes and refines his soul. In the final scene, which is the most beautiful ever filmed, Musashi faces his nemesis, the gifted Sasaki Kojiro, in a battle royale. Shot with haunting effect on the beach at dawn before a blood red rising sun, both warriors reach absolute spiritual perfection at the same instant thanks to the supreme quality of their opponent. This movie is a guidebook on how a man should live his life on earth with honor and dignity and self-sacrifice. Watching this movie in proper sequence (I to III), I was greatly affected. I learned that the biggest indicators of greatness in this life are education, polish and humility. I never saw a better trilogy than this one.
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on July 26, 2012
My favorite film of all time is "Seven Samurai". However, The Samurai Trilogy is arguably just as good as that masterpiece. For those who don't know, The Samurai Trilogy is a sprawling three-film saga based on the life and exploits of a renowned swordsman by the name of Musashi Miyamoto. The films are "Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto", "Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple", and Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island". The films in the Samurai Trilogy provide an interesting contrast to "Seven Samurai", even if they are barely related except for their historical subject matter; although they share a star in Toshiro Mifune, "Seven" is a bit more freewheeling and ragged (and all the better for it), whereas the Mushasi Miyamoto films are more formally structured and beautiful in a classical way. Together, the three pictures which comprise The Samurai Trilogy (and the novel on which they were based) have often been referred to as Japan's "Gone With the Wind", with their historical focus, lush cinematography, larger-than-life characters, romance and epically staged scenes. Truly, the three Samurai films can stand toe to toe with the best of Old Hollywood.

I have had some luck passing along my affection for the Kurosawa-Mifune samurai pictures to my friends and family members. "Seven Samurai", "Yojimbo" and even "Sanjuro" have found footholds in some of their film libraries. But I haven't had as much luck transmitting the love for Hiroshi Inagaki's trilogy. Perhaps that wasn't a failing of the films but of the transfer on the previous DVD release, which was little better than VHS quality and an unusually terrible showing from Criterion. For films like these which derive much of their power from visual artistry, a bad transfer can be a real killer for a casual or novice viewer.

When I read that Criterion was updating the trilogy, I was pretty stoked, to say the least; a good remastering of these films was tops on my home video wish list. Well, Criterion surpassed my every expectation. Brace yourself for a cliché, but when I broke the seal and played the first film on the Blu Ray, my eyes nearly popped out of my head. I believe my first words were, "holy sh...!" The image upgrade is stunning. Maybe it's just because the old release was so bad, but I personally think it's one of the best restorations I've ever seen. For a great example, look no further than an early scene in which Takezo/Musashi (played by Mifune) and his comrade Matahachi dig a ditch on the battlefield in the pouring rain. Retreating soldiers stagger across the muddy plain while lightning streaks across the sky. It's beautiful. It's epic. And unlike the DVD version, it's actually clear. I could not be happier with this release, and now I can finally show my loved ones what I've been seeing through the muck all these years.

Now, if only they could do something about "The Quiet Man"... (hint, hint, Criterion!)
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on June 25, 2012
I just got Samurai Trilogy a day early because I pre-ordered it. I have to agree with Rider's review. This is a great blu ray transfer considering the movie is almost 60 years old. For those who bought the Criterion DVD collection, the contrast is like night and day. The dvd collection was junk and the price they were asking was robbery. You will be more than satisfied with this Bluray copy of Samurai Trilogy. t is a tremendous improvement over the last Criterion copy. Great job Criterion you finally got this one right.

I won't talk about the story, because you all probably know it, if you are considering buying it. Remember this bluray isn't going to be a 2012 bluray, with vivid color and crystal sharp textures. A vast improvement from what you have seen. You can't argue with a Toshiro Mifune movie, you can see the maturation of his acting skills, from a young actor to the veteran actor in some of Kurosawa's best movies. He is the John Wayne of Japanese samurai cinema, they both set the mark.
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on December 9, 2012
I've never been much of a Blu-ray convert. Some films just don't need an HD conversion in my opinion. However I can't deny some transfers ARE worthwhile and in the case of Hiroshi Inagaki's 'Samurai Trilogy' the HD actually improves the experience!

'The Samurai Trilogy' is a collection of three films: Musashi Miyamoto, Duel at Ichijoji Temple and Duel at Ganryu Island. The movies star Toshiro Mifune as the legendary figure Musashi Miyamoto and is loosely based on his life (particularly the novel written by Eiji Yoshikawa). Each film chronicles Miyamoto's growth from hot-headed soldier (birth name Takezo) to disciplined Samurai warrior as he fights duels and constantly perfects his swordsmanship and philosophy. Despite mostly being about Miyamoto's skill with a sword the films are more reflective than action-packed as Musashi struggles with his love for the woman Otsu. The performances of Toshiro Mifune, Kuroemon Onoe, Kaoru Yachigusa and Rentaro Mikuno go a long way towards selling the story but there's not denying each film has it's dragging moments.

While the drama in 'The Samurai Trilogy' is a bit outdated and Hiroshi Inagaki's story-telling doesn't have the universal appeal of the more prolific Japanese directors, his use of color and setting make this Blu-ray transfer a knock-out! The rainy battlefields, the duels at sunrise, and the colorful costumes really pop off the screen and made me forget I was watching a movie made over 60 years ago!

Normally I'd never call 'The Samurai Trilogy' "must-see" films but this Blu-ray clean-up is practically essential viewing! It may be hard to get wrapped up in the narrative and the lack of widescreen will take some getting used to but it's hard not to be impressed by the renewed emphasis on color and location. Hopefully this will encourage the Criterion Collection to clean-up Hiroshi Inagaki's (much better) 'Chushingura'.
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