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THE 1:33:1 ASPECT RATIO ON THIS DVD IS CORRECT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Lawrance M. Bernabo | 12/26/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Lest anyone be dissuaded from purchasing this masterpiece because they believe it is not presented in its original aspect ratio, it should be known that THE 1:33:1 ASPECT RATIO ON THIS DVD IS CORRECT. Akira Kurosawa did not begin working with the widescreen format until later in the 1950s. Anyone who asserts otherwise is mistaken.This is a true 5 star films that ANYONE will enjoy. It's particulary recommended to those who would never dream of watching a movie with subtitles. Anyone looking for a great action movie should take a chance on this. Unlike that copy of Armageddon you watched once and is now collecting dust on your shelf, this is something you'll watch again and again. For those who love John Ford-type westerns, The Seven Samurai puts a marvelous spin on that classic genre. Even if you don't like action movies, you'll respond to this movie. It offers genuine human drama with an insight into a different culture and time that becomes increasingly fascinating with repeated viewings. Of course, it's also recommended to those who already know and love this film. The picture on this DVD is much sharper and crisper than the one you're used to seeing on that worn-out VHS tape. As a bonus, it has a very insightful secondary audio track with commentary from a Japanese film historian that will help you develop a new appreciation for one of your old favorites."
Thinking about upgrading?
tron77 | Chicago | 09/13/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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 the best sound, the crispest picture, or the excess of supplemental materials in order to enjoy a film and have it affect you. In all my years collecting music CD's (particularly jazz) and DVDs, I think I've upgraded no more than three items from my collections.
I had been hearing for a while now about a new version of Seven Samurai coming out on Criterion that was supposed to have a brand new transfer from a recently discovered source that was to be greatly improved from any other previous edition. Being one of the most beloved films of all time (and one of mine as well), this has been creating alot of excitement in the world of film lovers. Being perfectly satisfied with my version of the Seven Samurai DVD from 1998, I had no plans to upgrade, but a side by side comparison on an internet site peaked my curiosity. And yesterday, being at a local retailer, I saw it on the shelf and decided to spring for it.
Let me tell you....if ANY of you are on the fence about this one, particularly those of you who are big fans of this amazing film, I advise you to go for it. The difference between this edition and the previous edition is so drastic that I could not believe my eyes and ears. I have never had this experience with a DVD before, but the improvements in picture and sound quality are SO great that I actually felt like I was watching Seven Samurai for the first time. The clarity of the picture is absolutely amazing. The glorious black and white tones are much richer, but what's most impressive is how nearly all the imperfections, scratches, and blemishes that were so prevalent on the previous edition have been removed. You can tell why this edition took so long to get released....Criterion obviously took alot of time with this one. Their efforts paid off. Also, the sound has been greatly improved as well. Not only have they cleaned up the original mono soundtrack, but they've added a stereo surround track as well. Normally, I cringe at these "new and improved" soundtracks on old films, but this track does not sound artificial at all, but rather more like an enhanced version of the mono track. The stereo surround track together with the gorgeous new picture made for a unique experience watching the film. You are still watching the great Kurosawa classic that you know and love, but at the same time it seems that even more life has been breathed into it. Didn't think that was possible for such a perfect film, but Criterion proved any doubter wrong.
Please keep in mind that I haven't even gotten to the bonus materials, the commentary tracks, nor the very attractive book yet. And there isn't much more that I can say about this amazing film that hasn't already been said. Just based on the presentation of the film itself in this new package from Criterion, I would highly recommend to everybody who loves this film and is thinking about upgrading their version of the film, that you do so. Its beautiful. And remember, this is coming from someone who doesn't generaly care for "upgrades". "
Take a second look at one of the greatest films ever made
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 01/19/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Akira Kurosawa made "Seven Samurai" because he wanted to make a real "jidai-geki," a real period-film that would present the past as meaningful, while also being an entertaining film. Kurosawa considered "Rashomon," the film rightfully credited with making the West aware of the Japanese cinema, with being neither. But in his attempt to make a truly "realistic" film, Kurosawa redefined the conflict at the heart of Japanese films. Before "Seven Samurai" this conflict was that of love versus duty, where the central character is compelled by fate to sacrifice what he loves in the name of duty. In "Seven Samurai" the focus remains on duty, yet the conflict is now between the real and the pretended. Calling yourself a samurai does not make you one, something proven time and time again in the film, from the test of skill turned deadly between Kyuzo (Seiji Miyaguchi) and the tall samurai to the first appearance of Kikuchiyo (Toshirô Mifune), with his stolen pedigree. Like Katshushiro (Ko Kimura), the youngster who wants to learn from the master, Kambei (Takashi Shimura), the audience is educated as to the true nature of the samurai.
For me this film deals with the heroic, albeit in realistic terms. I have shown the film in World Literature classes, after students have read Homer's "Iliad" and as they begin reading Cervantes' "Don Quixote." Within that context, compared to the brutal arrogance of Achilles and the gentle insanity of Quixote, the heroic qualities of the seven samurai become clear. Their inspiration extends to some of the villagers. Manzo (Kamatari Fujiwara) is crazed with fear over the virtue of his daughter, Shino (Keiko Tsushima), and Rikichi (Yoshio Tsuchiya) fights to avenge the disgrace of his wife and his precipitating the death of Heihachi (Minoru Chiaki), but it is the comic Yohei (Bokuzen Hidari), who finds within himself the ability to fight, a die a tragic death, who is the true barometer for what the samurai mean to the village. But the greatest tragedy is that despite this most noble effort and the bodies buried in honor at the top of the village cemetery, this has been but a temporary union between the villagers and the samurai. When Kambei declares, "We have lost again," he redefines the battles: it was not to kill all the bandits, it was to find a true place in the world. Yet we should have already known this, for the painful truth was driven home when Kyuzo, the master swordsman, is gunned down from behind. No better proof is needed in this film of the bitter truth that the world is not fair.
Mifune is the maniacal spirit of this film, as the faux-samurai Kikuchiyo, the dancing whirlwind whose emotions overwhelm everything including himself. But it is Shimura as Kambei, who embodies the mentor mentality with a minimum of effort, evoking more by rubbing his hand over his shaved head or giving a single piercing look than by any spoken dialogue. Even in a strong ensemble these performances stand out, for clearly different reasons. To fully appreciate Kurosawa's mastery in "Seven Samurai" you need to watch the film several times to better appreciate the way he constructs scenes, using contrasting images, evocative music and varying the length of cuts to affect tempo. For example, look carefully at how the early scene of the farmers searching the streets for samurai and the later sequence where Katsushiro watches Kyuzo and Kikuchiyo waiting for the bandit scouts to return to their horses. Both of these scenes are superb primers to Kurosawa's style.
For years we had to put with the 160-minute version of the film that was made for export, which was actually called "The Magnificent Seven" until John Strugis's Western remake. Fortunately, "Seven Samurai" has been restored to full 208-minute glory, saved from being a lamentable cinematic tragedy on a par with "Greed," "The Magnificent Ambersons," and "Ivan the Terrible." There is a sense in which "Seven Samurai" is truly my favorite film, because it was the one that instilled in me a love of cinema, of the craft and art of movie making, of compelling me to understand intellectually how Kurosawa was skillfully manipulating my emotions. The final battle sequences, fought and filmed in a torrent of rain, exhausting characters and audience alike with its increasingly relentless tempo, is given its potency because of the human elements that have been established in all that has taken place before hand. "Seven Samurai" is a magnificent film against which the vast majority of epics pale in comparison. Not even Kurosawa scaled these heights ever again."
A breath taking masterpiece of Japanese film making....
P. Ferrigno | Melbourne, Victoria Australia | 11/01/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After many years of only seeing this timeless work on VHS tape, to finally have and to own " The Seven Samurai " on DVD presented in 1:33:1 format, presented by the reknowned Criterion Collection...it is indeed a true pleasure for this film fan. Plus the bonus of the additional audio commentary by the Japanese film historian, Michael Jeck, provides a much deeper insight into the history of the production, it's messages and themes, Akira Kurosawa's directorial style, and the attitudes of Japanese film making in the early 1950's.From the very first time I watched this film I was spellbound by it's power and glory....Kurosawa painstakingly assembled a team of actors with wonderful synergy and expression that are at the core of this unforgettable tale of hopes & dreams, death & revenge and honor & trust. Kurosawa's explosive and dynamic battle sequences, some filmed in driving rain, are equally balanced within the films context by the sadness and emotion of the heartfelt scenes, such as where Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune) reveals his upbringings to the rest of the Samurai.This moving, provacative and challenging film is an epic that still stands head and shoulders over many others nearly 50 years after it's initial release...and a film that you can watch time and time again, and uncover another gem within it's rich tapestry upon each repeated viewing. I've shown this movie to many friends who were either not interested in older black and white productions...or not keen on subtitled movies...and they have all enjoyed it and remarked how they never knew that they could relish a 50 year old movie so much !!This film truly belongs in any persons movie collection who considers themselves a true afficiando of cinema...an experience in emotion, energy and vision that will not be forgotten by those who view this wonderful work."
A Masterpiece Made Better With DVD
P. Ferrigno | 07/12/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This may be one of the most entertaining and ground breaking movies ever made.As a film, Seven Samurai excels on so many levels it's hard to know where to begin. The story's message of honor and self-sacrifice is so simple and timeless, it crosses all cultures and mindsets. While the scenes themselves are not necessarily quick (the movie runs over 3 hours), the overall pacing is brilliant. Every moment blends effortlessly from relaxed humor to tense excitement to somber introspection. Regardless of the context, the audience always feels as if the film is moving forward towards it's dramatic conclusion. And as if substance weren't enough, Kurosawa took the meaty screenplay and devised some creative camera work to enhance each scene. Kurosawa's use of slo-mo, for example, has influenced such directors as Peckinpah and Leone. No angle, tracking shot, remote, or still is wasted. The performances of the actors also deserve special mention. From the clever stage business of Takahashi Shimura's Kambei, to Toshiro Mifune's enthusiastic and spirited performance as black sheep Kikuchiyo, the audience can easily find an character to identify with and follow through the course of the movie. It's not hard to imagine those watching for the first time sitting on the edge of their seats, hoping their favorite samurai will survive the film's final act. My personal fave was the subdued, bad-ass fencer, Kyuzo (played with detatched machismo by Seiji Miyaguchi).DVD-wise, this film is what most enthusiasts would expect from a Criterion release. Although the extensively restored footage still contains some artifacts and minor flaws, and the dated soundtrack will not bomb your home theater system like a "Dark City" or "Fifth Element" disc will, this is without a doubt the best version of Seven Samurai available and worthy addtion to any film buff's collection.Highly Recommended"