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Gate of Hell (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

4.4 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

A winner of Academy Awards for best foreign-language film and best costume design, GATE OF HELL is a visually sumptuous, psychologically penetrating work from Teinosuke Kinugasa (A Page of Madness). In the midst of epic, violent intrigue in twelfth-century Japan, an imperial warrior falls for a lady-in-waiting; even after he discovers she is married, he goes to extreme lengths to win her love. Kinugasa's film is an unforgettable, tragic story of obsession and unrequited passion that was an early triumph of color cinematography in Japan.

Special Features

  • New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film historian Stephen Prince

  • Product Details

    • Actors: Kazuo Hasegawa, Machiko Kyo, Yataro Kurokawa
    • Directors: Teinosuke Kinugasa
    • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
    • Language: Japanese
    • Subtitles: English, Japanese
    • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
    • Number of discs: 1
    • Rated:
      Unrated
      Not Rated
    • Studio: Criterion Collection
    • DVD Release Date: April 9, 2013
    • Run Time: 89 minutes
    • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
    • ASIN: B00B2BYXWM
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,657 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

    Customer Reviews

    Top Customer Reviews

    By M. Hart on November 30, 2003
    Format: VHS Tape
    In 1953, Teinosuke Kinugasa (1896-1982) directed and co-adapted the historical play entitled "Jigokumon" (English transliteration of the Japanese title), which was written by Kan Kikuchi (1888-1948). The film's name (the same as the play) translates into English as "Gate of Hell", and was released theatrically in the U.S. in 1954. The story takes place in 12th-century Japan during the Heian period and at the start of a revolt. During the confusion and fear running rampant through the royal palace in Kyoto, a lady of the court, Lady Kesa (Machiko Kyô), is rescued by a soldier named Moritoh (Kazuo Hasegawa, 1908-1984). After the revolt fails, Moritoh is told that he can have anything that he wants, and what he wants is Lady Kesa to be his wife. He is quickly told, however, that she is already married to Wataru Watanabe (Isao Yamagata, 1915-1996). Rather than seek something different, Moritoh becomes dangerously obsessed with Lady Kesa.
    Filmed in beautiful & vibrant color (probably one of the first color films from Japan), the cinematography in "Gate of Hell" is exquisite. The story is by no means dated, though it does become somewhat predictable. Still, it is both compelling and engaging and the acting is superb, especially Machiko Kyô. Memorable scenes in the film include the confusion at the royal palace, Laky Kesa hiding from traitorous soldiers, Moritoh meeting Lady Kesa and her aunt after the revolt, Moritoh given the choice of his heart's desire, the horse races, Moritoh at the home of Lady Kesa's aunt, and the ending scenes. The makeup used on Moritoh could have been better.
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    Format: Blu-ray
    This film wowed the critics when it first came out in the 1950's. The extraordinary medieval costumes and exquisite color compositions dazzled the audiences. Today, even Martin Scorsese ranks the movie among his top 10 of foreign films. It must have influenced so many Japanese directors when they attempted to create their own epics.

    Obviously, I prefer the masterpieces of Kurosawa or Kobayashi or Mizoguchi. This is a very good film rather than a great one. Nevertheless...this movie grows on you. Other reviewers discuss the basic plot: Moritoh, a warrior who quashes a revolt, is to be rewarded for his bravery by the emperor's regent. He is asked to choose any gift from the emperor. During the revolt, he encounters the beautiful Lady Kesa, who is kind to him. Like a fool, he demands that he be given Lady Kesa as a wife, even though she is already married to a lord of higher class. Everyone asks him to desist.. but pride, madness, and desire prevent him from doing so. He vows to destroy anyone who stands in his path and goes so far as to kidnap his prize. On the other side of the wall, rather than defend his wife from such outrageous conduct, Lady Kesa's intellectual husband takes no violent action to protect her.

    The scenes are enhanced by the exaggerated dramatic, strong movements of Moritoh against the delicate movements of Kesa. Notwithstanding, she is just as strong a character as he is. I give this movie 5 stars because I felt this was Machiko Kyo's best performance. Every gesture of hers can be studied for meaning.

    The ending of the film grabs me so much because it is pregnant with so much significance. Don't rush to judgment - think about it. There are secrets to the ending.

    Postcript: The Blu-Ray quality is marvelous - don't even think about seeing the movie in any other format. I also love the glorious poster artwork on the cover of this Criterion Edition.
    Comment 19 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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    Format: VHS Tape
    I first saw this at a revival in the early eighties and couldn't believe how beautiful it was. Then I got this video and was suprized that it wasn't nearlly as beautiful as I remembered. The reason wasn't a bad memory, but the original prints used for showings have rotted in film vaults, and have become blurry, faded, and scrathy. I was very disappointed that Home Vision didn't present this digitally remastered and restored with new computer subtitles (the subtitles are quite crude). That's the reason I didn't give this five stars other than that, this is one of Japan's greatest masterpieces. The ending is pretty sad but has a beautiful ending. The degree that Moritoh will go to get Kesa is trully horrifying and Moritoh transforms from a herioc samurai warrior and hero of the film to a maniacal barbarian and villian. Recommended, but maybe the more picky film viewer who has an outburst everytime a scratch line goes down a film should perhaps wait until this is restored to the experiance it once was.
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    Format: DVD Verified Purchase
    The self-anointed 'dean' of Western critics of Japanese film, Donald Richie, famously said that GATE OF HELL (Japanese JIGOKUMON) was a "limp film with flaccid performances by Hasegawa Kazuo and Kyo Machiko" (he inverts the names of the actors as they do in Japanese -- think similarly Bartok Bela in the Hungarian usage). I don't know if he was having a bad day when he saw the film or if he was coming down from one of his benders when he wrote his critique, but he could not have been more wrong. I refer you to M. Hart's review for a précis of the storyline. I want to concentrate on the quality of the film itself.

    If anything Hasegawa's performance as the samurai Moritoh is anything but flaccid. Indeed his style is rather overripe for many Western viewers but I believe the director Teinosuke Kinugasa wanted to contrast his behavior with that of the sad-faced Lord Wataru, wonderfully underplayed by Isao Yamagata (I am not inverting Japanese names in this review). Moritoh is all snarling fury and barely suppressed rage while Wataru is all reasonableness and dignity. The object of their devotion, Lady Kesa, is stunningly played by Machiko Kyo who gives perhaps her greatest performance or at least one of her greatest. Having seen this film something like eight times, I find that I am ever more riveted by the subtlety of her every gesture and expression. Indeed I watched this film a couple of days ago and I discovered an ambiguity in her reaction to the blandishments of Moritoh that I had never caught before. Multiple viewings of this film will similarly reward you.
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