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Tokyo Drifter (The Criterion Collection)


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Product Details

  • Actors: Tetsuya Watari, Chieko Matsubara, Tamio Kawaji, Hideaki Nitani, Eiji Gô
  • Directors: Seijun Suzuki
  • Writers: Kôhan 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 (22 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0780022041
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #249,034 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.

Amazon.com

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

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See all 22 customer reviews
Great and intense moment!
Daniel S.
A stylish gangsta piece of work by the great late Seijun Suzuki.
Yoshi
And the best editing of a film that I've ever seen.
Michael A. Duvernois

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Lance Swanson on July 8, 2000
Format: DVD
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 By Yoshi on August 21, 2007
Format: DVD
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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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ted VINE VOICE on 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 By A Customer on May 14, 2002
Format: DVD
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 By Daniel S. on April 19, 2000
Format: DVD
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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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful By "kobe_yakuza" on November 25, 2000
Format: DVD
A brilliant shabu (crystal meth) induced film about the Yakuza. The actual name of the film is Tokyo Nagaremono, and a true treat for the Yakuza obsessed (such as myself). I very much enjoy the plot, I don't like films that beat the story into your head. American cinema is designed for the mass amounts of idiots that make up this country, and if you find the plot hard to follow, you're an idiot...sorry, face it.
If you found mission impossible difficult to grasp, look elswhere for entertainment. If not, this is right up your alley. Brilliant, and I mean brilliant, lighting effects cascade across this widescreen masterpiece. It's cheesball overtones are met with a drive to push cinema farther, I wish modern directors were allowed to push like this.
It's occasionally comical, well photographed, story is a joy when you have time to spare, and some Pocky (available in the asian department at Safeway and Albertsons) to munch on. It is not fast paced, so enjoy on a rainy day. The character develpment is typical Japanese style, and cliche.
The theme song will stick, along with the vivid color changing effects (never done like this). Watch the giant donut looking thing change from yellow to red at the end, enjoy the not so subtle red illumination on the blinds when the gangs secretary is shot.
Most of all, enjoy the taste of Japan in the 60's, Yakuza style.
Highly recommended for the discerning viewer. One of few films to recieve a 9of 10 rating from myself.
Yakuza no michi!
P.S. Look out for NonStop by Sabu, a rare treat.
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