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481 of 496 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thinking about upgrading?
As a huge fan of older films and music, I am very aware of the many attempts of studios and record companies to reissue and re-market a previously released product in a new and improved format. While many of these reissues are often superior to their previously released counterparts, I have never been one to buy into the "upgrades". I feel that you don't need to have...
Published on September 13, 2006 by elect Tron

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33 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars DVD was a slight let-down
I bought this DVD with the idea that The Criterion Collection produces very high quality DVDs. Though I understand this is an old film, I was very surprised to find that the quality of the print was inferior to the DVD of the same film published in the UK by the British Film Institute (available on amazon's UK site). The UK release was transferred from a new and seemingly...
Published on January 11, 2002 by Webster Forrest


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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Generally wonderful, December 3, 1999
What can one say about this movie that hasn't already been said? It's an amazing, classic work that holds one's attention consistently, regardless of its length. The picture is as crisp and clear as it can be, given the well-known dearth of good prints of the film. So, I'll reserve my main comments to the supplementary material.
First, the trailer included on the DVD is short, sweet, and a good peek into the world of 1950s Japanese trailers. I'd never seen a trailer for a Japanese film of that era before, and this was a nice treat. Nothing spectacular, but I'm glad it's on the DVD.
Second, the commentary. It was, by and large, interesting, but too often distracting. Many of Michael Jeck's comments on Kurosawa's family history, the Japanese studio system, and Kurosawa's marriage are of incidental interest to the movie at hand and probably should have been consigned to a second interview with Jeck (or a booklet contained with the DVD). Yes, Jeck's comments about specific shots are fascinating to anyone with more than a passing interest in how films are constructed, but his choices for scenes to comment on seem somewhat haphazardly chosen. Why, for instance, is so much of the last third (the most action-packed, visually stunning third!) of the movie accompanied by commentary that has nothing to do with what's on the screen? Jeck has an enormous knowledge of Kurosawa and Japanese cinema, but his comments for this particular DVD should have been more directed to what we were seeing on screen.
Additionally, a personal quibble: Jeck makes a big deal about almost everything the wonderful Toshiro Mifune does on screen, but very little about the (arguably) equally-wonderful Takashi Shimura. Jeck treats the film as though it's all Toshiro's show, and I think that's a disservice to the fine Mr. Shimura.
Overall, this is the crown jewel of my personal DVD collection. Minor disagreements with Jeck's commentary aside, it's a real treat for any lover of Kurosawa's work or movies in general.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THINK YOU DON'T LIKE SAMURAI MOVIES? THINK AGAIN!, July 4, 2000
I'm technically not a samurai movie fan. The topic always seemed much too foreign for me to understand, and I've always had no desire whatsoever of seeing such a movie. But after reading all the superlative reviews about this film on this site and elsewhere, I decided to plunk down $30 and buy myself a samurai movie. And am I ever glad I did! Seven Samurai absolutely blew me away with its wonderful imagery and its lively story-telling. Despite clocking in at a lengthy 207 minutes, the story never drags and there's never a dull moment (there is an intermission halfway through, so plan your bathroom break for then...you *really* won't want to miss anything). The story is simple but told with such grace and perfection. It has all the necessary elements of a great classic movie: drama, violence, romance, and even comedy! Director Akira Kurosawa really brings forth a ton of emotion with this movie, and it's absolutely unforgettable. The battle scenes will have you on the edge of your seat without all the graphic gore that's too common in today's films. But the movie is actually much more than battles: it's about the sacrifices some people make for others and how life isn't always fair. There's a lot of psychology in this film. Before you know it, you can't help but love and admire these seven samurai. This purchase was also my first Criterion Collection DVD, with which I'm also very impressed. The restoration was marvelously executed and the resulting print is crisp and clear; other than for being in black and white, you'd never guess it was made in 1954. The optional English subtitles are easy to read and benefit from a modern vocabulary and phraseology. The audio commentary from Japanese film expert Michael Jeck is extremely enlightening and informative. Not only does he explain Kurosawa's direction and scene/angle/lighting selections, but he also provides some historical background that helps "flesh" out the story for those of us who are unfamiliar with samurai films and Japanese history. A very worthy purchase. Get this one before it goes out of print!
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential film for aspiring directors and cameramen, October 31, 1999
By 
Trey Harrell (Jacksonville, FL) - See all my reviews
Those complaining about the aspect ratio apparently aren't seeing the film with a film buff's eyes. The 4:3 format is what it was shot in originally, and it's evident from the absolute perfection of the framing of each and every shot.
As a director myself, I continually find myself slackjawed at how masterful the camerawork is... the three survivors at the base of the burial mound... lingering on the peasant/ronin's bare feet after he breaks down and reveals his past... I could go on and on.
I must say that I'm much happier with the (albeit expensive) Criterion version of the film than the VHS version. The sound holds up much, much better and the picture is as pristine as an almost 50-year old film is likely to be.
Those expecting non-stop action are likely to be disapointed, but as a story, a character study and a very profound commentary on class struggles it's one of the finest films ever made, bar none.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Of The Greatest Movies of All Time, December 3, 2000
By 
M. Scagnelli (Brandon, Florida) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Seven Samurai [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai is, in my opinion, on of the top three films of all time. I believe that this movie is Kurosawa's greatest achievement. Akira Kurosawa is one of the, if not the greatest director of all time. Not aonly is a great director, but he produced, edited and wrote the screenplays to a number of his movies. He has influenced countless other film directors. Many of his movies are among the greatest of all time, including Rashomon, Yojimbo, and Ran, but I think that Seven Samurai tops them all. The movie has everything a great movie should have. First of all, the story is simple, but brilliant. The plot of this movie has directly influenced many movies, including The Magnificent Seven and the recnt Disney movie A Bug's Life. The acting is also brilliant. Toshiro Mifune is the standout, but Takashi Shimura and Ko Kimura are also great. In fact, all of the samurai and the villagers are impressive. If you're an action fan, the battle sequences in this movie are stunning. If you are a romance fan, there is even an aspect of romance here. If you are uneasy about seeing an almost four hour Japanese movie, don't worry. It is immensely entertaining and the subtitles are easy to follow. You could probably follow the story without the subtitles. The Seven Samurai is and always will be one of the greatest movies of all time. Check this one out and Kurosawa's other movies as well.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A definitive classic., December 7, 1999
By 
James Schoonmaker (Centreville, Virginia USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I can hardly decide what to say about this film. I grew up fascinated by samurai, and I'd heard great things about The Seven Samurai. I expected to appreciate but not really enjoy it. Well, I was half-right. The film is beautiful, and underscores time and time again why Kurasawa is considered the greatest Japanese filmmaker that ever lived. But I loved this film. The story is simple-- a small village is terrorized by bandits and hires sevin ronin (masterless samurai) to defend them. This simple story (despite a few twists I won't tell you about) doesn't detract at all, though: it allows Kurasawa to explore each character's (not just the samurai) motivation and personality and to create tension. What's even more surprising, I laughed. I had expected to laugh over bad translations and poor dubbing, but it wasn't there. What I did laugh at were, simply, Kurasawa's intentional jokes-- "I thought it was a mouse!" Though it was a rather long movie, I sat spellbound throughout it, and was surprised it was over so quickly. This film is reason enough to mourn Kurasawa's death.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easily One of the Finest Films of the 20th Century, March 3, 2004
Clocking in at just under four hours with not a scrap of filler, Kurosawa's THE SEVEN SAMURAI is every bit as legendary at its enthusiasts would have you believe.
The basic story is extremely simple. In a period of social chaos, a small farming village learns it will once more be attacked by a band of thirty bandits after the harvest. At first the farmers despair, but village elder Gisaku (Kokuten Kodo) recalls that in his childhood a similar village met a similar situation by hiring Samurai to defend them. The villagers accordingly send representatives to the city, where they are able to convince Samurai Kambei Shimada (Takashi Shimura) to undertake the defense.
If the plot sounds familiar, it should: Hollywood would translate it into the extremely popular 1960 western THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN--but fine though that film is, it pales beside THE SEVEN SAMURAI, which effectively turns an action film premise into a character study of the first order and endows the story with both tremendous simplicity and artistry. Much of this is due an extraordinary ensemble cast, which includes the celebrated Toshiro Mifune (who would later appear in Kurosawa's THRONE OF BLOOD and YOJIMBO); above this, however, is Kurosawa's remarkable vision that draws upon the visual motif of the circle.
The circle is a powerful presence in SAMURAI. The village is presented as a roughly circular pattern of houses; the farmers meet in circles; in due time the Samurai enter the circle and stand at the center of the circle, directing the defense--and indeed the circle will become the defense, as Shimada works to find means to draw the bandits into the circle and to their doom. The motif will be elaborated: tied to the cycle of seed time, growth time, and harvest; tied to the cycle of life; and ultimately showing the quiet bitterness of life for those who operate outside the circular codes of community: the "Ronin," the Samurai who have no master and no community, and whose lives are not valued by the community except for aid at a moment of crisis.
Shot in simple black and white, as much (if not more) a detailed character and culture study as it is an action film, THE SEVEN SAMURAI is extremely simple and yet extremely subtle, and ultimately one of the most powerful films it has been my pleasure to review. The quality of the Criterion DVD transfer is very good, but by no means flawless--although it survives well, the film has not been digitally restored, and artifacts are frequent. There is little in the way of bonus material, but the commentary by Michael Jeck is quite fine. Strongly recommended.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the greatest film of all time, January 13, 2002
By A Customer
I had always heard about Seven Samurai, and what a great movie it is. For whatever reason, I never saw it until recently. The only word to describe it would be "masterpiece." It works on so many different levels, and explores so many different themes, that the viewer becomes completely absorbed throughout it's 3 and a half hour run time. Director Akira Kurosawa has long been hailed as a genious, and here's the proof. It's hard to find any fault anywhere in this picture. It's absolutely perfect from it's groundbreaking cinematography, to the ensemble acting, to the the intense action sequences. I love the way Kurwosawa uses the elements like wind and rain to intensify the power of a scene.
The story itself is classic, and is the basic storyline of many American westerns, including "The Magnifficent Seven," which is a remake of this film. In 16th century Japan, a poor farming village besieged by bandits, hire seven samurai warriors to protect them. For merely a handful of rice a day, the seven men agree to help the villagers. We meet each samurai one by one, and learn of their personality traits and their various reasons for joining up. As the leader of a stellar cast is the legendary Toshiro Mifune, who plays Kikuchiyo, an orphaned peasant pretending to be a samurai as he searches for revenge.
Some viewers might shy away from the movie because of the subtitles. The themes this film deals with, like comedy, trajedy, and action are all themes that transcend the language barrior, and this movie should not be missed because of it. Every scene counts, every battle more spectacular than the last, and every performance is right on target.
The DVD is an exceptional restored version of the 1956 epic, with pretty good sound. Also features a pretty interesting commentary by film expert Michael Jeck. Don't miss this one!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kurosawa's masterpiece, April 26, 2000
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This review is from: Seven Samurai [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Once in a while a movie comes along of such pure genius that it sets the standard for everything in its genre that comes after it; "The Seven Samurai" is one of them. The plot is simple enough; a small Japanese village in the 16th century is periodically pillaged by a roving gang of brigands and hires seven samurai for protection. If this seems similar to "The Magnificent Seven", it is; the "Mag Seven" was a direct [remake] of "The Seven Samurai", and a much inferior film. Kurosawa got everything right in this movie. The acting, the cinematography, and above all, the directing, are absolutely perfect. Toshiro Mifune was never better than in his portrayal of Kikuchiyo, the wannabe samurai who despises his farm roots. Takashi Shimura is strong and sympathetic as Kambei Shimada, the aging samurai who recruits the other six, Yoshio Tsuchiya is excellent as Rikichi, the village peasant who has his own reasons for wanting revenge on the brigands, and Seiji Miyaguchi gives a fascinating performance as Kyuzo, the expert swordsman whose one interest is perfecting his skill as a killing machine. The climactic battle, shot in a torrential downpour, is like nothing I have ever seen on film. The word "awesome" seems inadequate in attempting to describe the total experience of "The Seven Samurai". It's among the ten best films ever produced in any country in the history of film-making.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic tale even though it's decades old., August 1, 2002
I was simply amazed watching this film at how simple the tale was but at how masterfully crafted and told the story was written. This movie will seriously play upon your emotions and only a cold-hearted person, without emotion wouldn't be able to connect to this plot. Compassion, sadness, desperation, love and triumph are all prominent in this film. And the balance between these elements is impeccable.

The cinematography is masterful. There is an intense attention to detail. Every shot is masterfully done. The atmosphere will pull you right in. The acting is top notch and there absolutely no room for improvement in the script. It's just hard to say something bad about it. Even being a foreign film, Japanese too -[and you know Japanese and Chinese movies have a lot of mythology involved that is hard for us Americans to understand.]- but the plot is truly one that is worth high praise. Seven Samurai is a roller coaster of emotions and it gives an in depth view into the mind and soul of the warrior spirit. Seven Samurai is the best movie I've seen in a long time and definitely one of the greatest movies of all time. I'd gladly recommend this movie to anyone. 5 glowing stars. 10 if they were possible.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars About Collector's Box Set, September 8, 2006
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Just as pictured above, the collector's boxset comes in a black box containing 2 items. The first item is a supplemental booklet containing film pictorials and literature about the history of Samurai, Japanese movie making, etc. It's informative and interesting, however, a one-time read. The second item is a foldout case film pictorial with 3 DVDs that resemble umbrellas from top view with their own distinct colors to distinguish their content. Overall design style gives one the mood of the film in mind.

The 1st disc contains the first half of the film up to the intermission and the picture quality compared to the 1998 Criterion is undeniably superior. The film itself is in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio with slight borders around the frame inorder for better viewing with most monitors. This edition contains the original mono sound track as well as a new stereo sound track, however, I prefer the original mono due to being an enthusiast. There are also two commentary selections. One is the original 1988 commentary of Michael Jeck from the 1998 Criterion, which is fantastic! The second commentary is comprised of 5 film scholars, and each are given roughly 40 minutes of commentary spotlight in various parts of the film, which is also fantastic! Listening to both commentaries gives you a greater understanding of this superb film.

The first disc also contains some production photos from the film as well as some posters of the film from several countries. The second disc contains the second half of the film right after the intermission with the continuation of the audio tracks. This second disc contains an extra feature called "It Is Wonderful To Create", which is a 55 minute documentary of Akira Kurosawa's films with his collaborators.

The third disc contains a two hour interview with Akira Kurosawa as well as origins and influences of how this film came to fruition. I really wanted to see more interviews from the stars themselves, especially the great Toshiro Mifune. The third disc will probably be a one-time view. I believe, Criterion could've contained the film in its entirety on one disc and included all the extra features on the second disc inorder to streamline this otherwise great release.

Overall, an extremely satisfying new release of Seven Samurai that should definitely be included in any fans dvd collection. I have watched this film over a dozen times with great joy and satisfaction and now I can enjoy it even more with this wonderful collector's edition!
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Seven Samurai (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
Seven Samurai (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] by Akira Kurosawa (Blu-ray - 2010)
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