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Tokyo Drifter (The Criterion Collection) (1966)

Tetsuya Watari , Chieko Matsubara , Seijun Suzuki  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Tetsuya Watari, Chieko Matsubara, Tamio Kawaji, Hideaki Nitani, Eiji G˘
  • Directors: Seijun Suzuki
  • Writers: K˘han Kawauchi
  • Producers: Tetsuro Nakagawa
  • Format: Black & White, Color, Letterboxed, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: Japanese (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: February 23, 1999
  • Run Time: 82 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0780022041
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #98,138 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Tokyo Drifter (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Rare interview with director Seijun Suzuki

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

In this free-jazz gangster film, reformed killer "Phoenix" Tetsu drifts around Japan, awaiting his own execution until he's called back to Tokyo to help battle a rival gang. Seijun Suzuki's "barrage of aestheticised violence, visual gags, [and] mind-warping color effects" got him in more trouble with Nikkatsu studio heads, who had ordered him to "play it straight this time." Instead he gave them equal parts Russ Meyer, Samuel Fuller, and Nagisa Oshima. Criterion presents the DVD premiere of Tokyo Drifter in a lush color transfer from the original, glorious Nikkatsu-scope master.

Seijun Suzuki transforms the yakuza genre into a pop-art James Bond cartoon as directed by Jean-Luc Godard. The near-incomprehensible plot is almost negligible: hitman "Phoenix" Tetsu (Tetsuya Watari), a cool killer in dark shades who whistles his own theme song, discovers his own mob has betrayed his code of ethics and hits the road like a questing warrior, with not one but two mobs hot on his trail. In a world of shifting loyalties Tetsu is the last honorable man, a character who might have stepped out of a Jean-Pierre Melville film and into a delirious, color-soaked landscape of a Vincent Minnelli musical turned gangster war zone. The twisting narrative takes Tetsu from deliriously gaudy nightclubs, where killers hide behind every pillar, to the beautiful snowy plains of Northern Japan and back again, leaving a trail of corpses in his wake. Suzuki opens the widescreen production in stark, high-contrast black and white with isolated eruptions of color that finally explode in a screen that glows in oversaturated hues, like a comic book come to life. His extreme stylization, jarring narrative leaps, and wild plot devices combine to create a pulp fiction on acid, equal parts gangster parody and post-modern deconstruction. Andrew Sarris described Sam Fuller's films as works that "have to be seen to be understood," a characterization that applies even more in this case. Mere description cannot capture the visceral effect of Suzuki's surreal cinematic fireworks. --Sean Axmaker

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
The only reason Seijun Suzuki's "Toky Drifter" is getting four stars instead of five is because the story gets hokey and hard to follow at times. But what a wallop the visual fireworks and rapid-fire, jump-cut editing pack! "Tokyo Drifter" is easy to understand after viewing it a few times, but initially the story takes a back seat to Suzuki's inventive, French-New-Wave style of creating the images, which are breathtaking. "Phoenix," a reformed killer for the Yakuza, dreamily walks around Tokyo after quitting the racket, expecting to be executed. But when he is called back into duty to help rid the city of a rival gang, the film "drifts" into a surreal mix of equal parts Luis Bunuel, Sam Fuller and Jean Luc Godard. The action never lets up, and the film is a wonderfully funny mix of comedy and violence. The performers even break out into song at unexpected times, although the film is certainly not a musical. You just never know what to expect, which is what makes this little-seen film so much fun. "Tokyo Drifter" is unlike any film you have ever seen. It's a true original and Criterion presents it in a widescreen version that is terrific. Contains a rare, insightful interview with Japanese director Seijun Suzuki. In Japanese with English subtitles.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stylish August 21, 2007
By Yoshi
A stylish gangsta piece of work by the great late Seijun Suzuki. If you've watched Kurosawa or Ozu then this is much different. More comparable to Kinju Fukasaki(BATTLE ROYALE). Not as good as BRANDED TO KILL but a fine Criterion piece none the less. A lonely soul gets pulled back into one last score to settle. Visually masterful and the score is brilliant. A little slow at times but the action is pretty much non stop throughout. Plus a big payoff at the end. I know you will be amazed with what you see. Quentin Tarantino may not admit this is one of his inspirations for RESOVOIR DOGS, but when you have the blue room, red room, white room, etc, it's hard not to believe there's some sort of connection there between Mr. White, Blond etc. A must see film if you're a lover of art and crime noir. One of Seijun's top 5 films.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Damn him and his singing...." January 28, 2012
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
While not as insane a Branded To Kill (Suzuki's masterful yakuza crazy-noir), this one is just enough off-center to be considered not quite normal. The colors are bright and fantastically tantalizing (at least on blu-ray), and the mono sound is ample- love that recurring theme song (sung by the lead character) and the general goofiness which makes this film a masterful must-have for those of you who like their films to make them think (about what I have no idea). Criterion does their usual fantastic job making this one worth an upgrade over their earlier weak effort on dvd. A couple of interviews for extra features round off this necessary addition to any great film library....even if you turn the sound off, the visuals are enough to keep one's interest....this is a very well done film with masterful editing and strange colors that sometimes make it look like an early James Bond film or a Batman episode....great stuff here....
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars another unusual gangster film April 13, 2004
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film.
This film follows a retired killer named Tetsu who continues to receive threats from people and is asked to help take out a rival gang.
This film is shot in full color and has some interesting tricks done with that. There are parts where the color changes and 'differentials' of color from one side of the screen to the next. It is very difficult to describe but you know what they say. "a picture is worth a thousand words" I would suggest you see it for yourself if you are interested.
The film also has an excellent theme song which reminded me of the songs by Kyu Sakamoto, best known for his song "Ue O Muite Arouko" and known outside of Japan as "Sukiyaki."
There is also a 20 minute interview with director Seijun Suzuki on the DVD as a special feature.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars that BLUE suit! May 14, 2002
By A Customer
Stylin' color, smooth story, catchy tune... and that blue suit with those white shoes! A thorough pleasure from start to finish. Also, fascinating interview with the director - gives a real insider view on the Japanese film studio business in the 50's.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars COLOURED SONGS April 19, 2000
TOKYO DRIFTER has the charm of the arty movies of the sixties and, sometimes, is terribly modern in the Quarantinesque sense of the term. Overall, it offers a good cocktail ! Furthermore, it has the charm inherent to japanese movies : the characters speak during ten seconds and you have to deal with a subtitle containing four words. At least, it develops your imagination...
TOKYO DRIFTER's prolog is shot in a black & white saturated to the maximum ; faces are black, the water and the sky white and you hardly will find a grey tone. The contrast with the colours appearing after the initial generic is explosive. Welcome to Tokyo by night with his bars and night-clubs whose shadows are pink and orange. It's BLOW UP in Japan and let's admit that it's very refreshing.
Some action scenes, the final duel for instance, are very " spaghetti westerns " like and other scenes could have been shot by a Quentin Tarantino, a Samuel Raimi or a Robert Rodriguez. Imagine a duel happening on a railroad while a train is approaching ! Great and intense moment!
Sound and audio OK for me. An interesting interview with director Suzuki as bonus feature.
A DVD for the curious ones.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Tokyo Drifter
Great Yakuza mobster movie. Love the tone and setting of this movie. Memorable characters and setpieces. Great production put in by Criterion as always.
Published 9 months ago by Khanh Phan
4.0 out of 5 stars A jazzy western/samurai/martial arts/gangster mash-up
Watching this as a straight-ahead movie is difficult. The plot starts and stops and veers into strange places. Read more
Published 14 months ago by marko a pyzyk
1.0 out of 5 stars Not interesting and will bore you to death!
No offense to the fans.

But just a warning if your expecting 007 Japanese style.

Think again!

This film if I had to put it? Read more
Published on July 28, 2012 by S. Greene
4.0 out of 5 stars Awesome movie
This is the psychedelic sixties at its most wild and most Japanese. It's hard to follow, emotionally hollow, manic, and wonderful. Read more
Published on May 29, 2012 by Jonathan
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, well-shot Japanese gangster film with unique touches
This reminded me of a lower-key Danger:Diabolik in some ways, of a twisted Kurosawa in others, and of a crazy Tokyo dream most of all. Read more
Published on August 12, 2010 by K. Swanson
1.0 out of 5 stars Incomprehensible
While visually interesting, Tokyo Drifter lacks a cohesive story or any character development. It seems as if the editor removed the most important scenes. Read more
Published on April 26, 2010 by DW
5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect sums of the 1960s
James Bond and the Yakuza. Goddard and Fuller. Might and Majesty. And the best editing of a film that I've ever seen. Read more
Published on December 11, 2009 by Michael A. Duvernois
1.0 out of 5 stars Please just drift back to Japan where this film was made....
A colorful explosion of boredom, complete with homosexual subplots between gangsters and their underlings. Read more
Published on October 18, 2005 by Nicholas Merchant
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Suzuki
Tokyo Drifter is the second film by director Seijun Suzuki to be released to the Criterion Collection on DVD. Read more
Published on April 9, 2005 by Jonathan Cook
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