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Yojimbo & Sanjuro: Two Films By Akira Kurosawa (The Criterion Collection)

83 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Two classic samurai films from master Japanese director Akira Kurosawa: "Yojimbo" became the inspiration for Sergio Leone's "A Fistful Of Dollars," as well as "Last Man Standing." The sequel, "Sanjuro," is also one of Kurosawa's best loved films. Following on the heels of Criterion's critically acclaimed restoration of "The Seven Samurai," these two films should do very well with foreign film buffs.

After Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo was released in 1961, the samurai film would never be the same. It's difficult for latter-day Western audiences to fully appreciate just how revolutionary Kurosawa's film was in its time; it had the same kind of popular impact that Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction had 33 years later, which is to say, it completely revolutionized its genre, and its influence continues to this day. With an emphasis on dark, delicious comedy, Kurosawa deliberately set out to overturn the conventions of chambara--or swordplay film--and he began by casting the great Toshiro Mifune in the role that would define his career. Unlike the samurai of previous films (including Kurosawa's own masterpiece, Seven Samurai), Sanjuro was an unkempt, down-and-out drifter, a masterless ronin and with time on his hands and nowhere to go. When he chances upon a corrupt, terror-stricken village where clashing merchants are engaged in a ruthless range war, Sanjuro amuses himself by playing both ends against the middle, offering his services as yojimbo (bodyguard) to both sides, then standing back to watch all hell break loose. It's a perfect game of wily deception, hugely popular with Japanese moviegoers as Mifune's performance gained iconic status. Yojimbo's international success was no less impressive; it eventually inspired two noteworthy remakes (Sergio Leone's spaghetti Western A Fistful of Dollars in 1964, and Walter Hill's mobster interpretation, Last Man Standing, in 1996), and remains one of Kurosawa's most popular classics.

A sequel was inevitable, and Kurosawa responded to public demand as only a true artist would, with the equally impressive Sanjuro, quite different from Yojimbo while allowing Mifune to reprise his signature role with a lighter comedic touch. This time, Sanjuro is recruited by a group of young, idealistic samurai to eliminate corruption in their clan, and in the process he completely subverts their overly reverent notions of "proper" samurai behavior. And while both Yojimbo and Sanjuro were milestones in movie violence (featuring the spurting geysers of arterial blood that would become a staple of chambara from this point forward), the calmer, more comically subdued Sanjuro actually boasts a higher body count, and both films rank among the finest examples of Kurosawa's peerless mastery of action.

The Criterion Collection's double-disc set is a must-have for any serious cinephile. Both films (also available separately) are presented with all-new, fully restored high-definition digital transfers, representing (as in the case of Seven Samurai) a significant improvement over Criterion's previous DVD releases. Both films feature full-length commentaries by Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince (with eloquent emphasis on camera movement and composition) in addition to retrospective documentaries culled from the priceless Japanese Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create, featuring illuminating interviews with many of Kurosawa's closest collaborators. Theatrical trailers and behind-the-scenes photo galleries are also included, along with new-and-improved subtitles, insightful booklet essays by critics Michael Sragow and Alexander Sesonske, and rarely seen production notes by Kurosawa and members of his casts & crew. With this two-disc reissue, Criterion's previous releases of Yojimbo and Sanjuro should now be considered officially obsolete. --Jeff Shannon

Special Features

  • All-new, restored high-definition digital transfers.
  • Audio commentaries by film historian and Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince
  • Documentaries on the making of Yojimbo and Sanjuro, created as part of the Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It is Wonderful to Create
  • Theatrical trailers and teasers
  • Stills galleries
  • New and Improved English subtitle translations
  • Booklets featuring essays by Alexander Sesonske and Michael Sragow and notes and statements from Kurosawa and his cast and crew.  

Product Details

  • Actors: Toshirô Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Keiju Kobayashi, Yûnosuke Itô, Eijirô Tôno
  • Directors: Akira Kurosawa
  • Writers: Akira Kurosawa, Ryûzô Kikushima, Hideo Oguni, Shûgorô Yamamoto
  • Producers: Akira Kurosawa, Ryûzô Kikushima, Tomoyuki Tanaka
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Japanese (Dolby Digital 1.0), Japanese (Dolby Digital 3.0)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: January 23, 2007
  • Run Time: 206 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000K0YM0Y
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,943 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Yojimbo & Sanjuro: Two Films By Akira Kurosawa (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

90 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Peter J. Ward VINE VOICE on November 27, 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Yojimbo and Sanjuro are great movies for diverse reasons.

Yojimbo (The Bodyguard) is a samurai movie based in the detective novels of Dashiell Hammett - particularly Red Harvest. Akira Kurosawa wanted to bring the best of literature and interpret it into Japanese cinema. Its interesting that the two main influences in this process were Hammett's hard-boiled detective fiction and William Shakespeare (Ran, Throne of Blood). The always-excellent Toshiro Mifune plays the nameless title character who schemes and plots of take down an entire town of gamblers and gansters. I won't recap the story, suffice to say that his plans lead into several battles and some beautifully choreographed sword fights. Yojimbo was later made (nearly scene-for-scene) into A Fistfull of Dollars by Sergio Leone with Clint Eastwood as "The Man with No Name." Bruce Willis brought the character back to it's ganster/detective roots with the not-so-good "Last Man Standing." Yojimbo is awash with cinematic violence, but the charm infused into the movie by the cynical, yet obstinately principled, hero surprised me when I first saw it. The performances of the supporting cast, as usual with Kurosawa's films, add depth and wit to each scene. For what its worth, Yojimbo has gradually become one of my favorite movies.

If you end up enjoying Yojimbo, check out The Seven Samurai, Sword of Doom, Miller's Crossing, The Maltese Falcon, and The Thin Man.

The sequel, Sanjuro, is a departure of sorts from Yojimbo. Kurosawa and Mifune return as we find our nameless hero assisting some naive samurai who have been backed into a corner by corrupt officials in their clan.
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Kaya Savas VINE VOICE on January 31, 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase


When you talk about an Akira Kurosawa film there is very little to say because his films speak way more than what any reviewer can write. Any filmmaker or film enthusiast can tell you that Kurosawa is one of the greatest directors to have ever made films. Not only is he able to tell grand and epic stories but he is able to keep his characters intimate with the audience. He is probably the single most influential director to have ever lived. Now the good folks over at Criterion have blessed us with remastered editions of Yojimbo and Sanjuro, two classic samurai masterpieces by the great director. Criterion wowed us last year with their remastered release of Seven Samurai, which was my favorite DVD of the year. This release, while not as extensive as the Seven Samurai three disc set, is still something to jump over. Since Sergio Leone is my favorite director you can assume that Akira Kurosawa is close behind in my taste in film, especially these two films. The two films can be purchased separately, but I highly recommend buying this box set as it will not only save you money but save you shame when you tell people that you own one but not the other.


The thing that surprises me the most about Yojimbo was that it was a film that was inspired by American westerns yet was even a bigger inspiration for the genre after it was made. The story is about a masterless samurai who wanders into an old town looking for food and shelter, maybe a job if he can find one. He notices that the entire town is deserted and the first thing he sees is a small dog happily trotting down the dirt street with a severed human hand in its mouth. That image right there sets the entire tone for this fun adventure film with a slight comedic side to it.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By zeb on March 22, 2010
Format: Blu-ray
Got my pre-order a day early!

The HD treatment on these classics can be described in one word...WOW! Exceeded my expectations in every way! Great contrast and lighting with a 3 dimensional pop. Facial detail and expressions are thrilling to watch. Criterion's previous re-release was an excellent DVD translation but this blu-ray version is phenomenal. 99% of the film is gorgeous but there are a few scenes where detail seems low rez. It doesn't feel like a movie made nearly 50 yrs ago but one filmed recently due to the HD restoration.

I have both a 1080p screen and a 720p screen and I honestly can't tell which has better picture quality. There are 2 audio options, the original mono and a new HD DTS 3.0 perspecta and both are very good but I prefer the original. I've watched these films many times and this is the first time I'm noticing details I've not seen before such as fine details on actor's faces, clothes, props, and actor's facial expressions and backgrounds.

The extra features are slim and is probably the only thing that's lacking. Kurosawa's "It is wonderful to create" featurettes as well as an excellent commentary by Stephen Prince is very informative yet his tonal quality can be dry at times.

The set comes in a box exactly like the DVD version but smaller in size and included booklets of 19 pages.

I found Yojimbo to have better picture quality than Sanjuro which has an overall softer look.

I commend Criterion for an excellent job on these films and can't wait for Seven Samurai on blu-ray which was supposed to be ready in march but will be delayed till end of this year due to the magnitude of the HD treatment.

Even if you have the DVD version, this HD version seems like a whole new experience. Must have!

Blu-ray restoration wish list:
All Kurosawa films
The Sword of Doom
Samurai Rebellion
Samurai Trilogy Musashi Miyamoto
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Topic From this Discussion
Reissue or new cover
With anything Criterion puts out, it's all new, new subtitling, new transfer, it's going to be beautiful.
Dec 6, 2006 by C. Traeger |  See all 8 posts
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