Distributor: Arrow Video (UK)
Author: John Mathews
Movie: 4.5/ 5
Branded to kill is a 1967 Japanese film by Seijun Suzuki, being familiar with the directors other works; ‘Branded to Kill’ was truly a turning (or ending) point of his career. It is a film that was drastically ahead of its time, there is no way an audience in 1967 could have comprehended it, infact even modern day audiences may have trouble getting their head around it. Having seen this film many years ago in bits and pieces, seeing it again gave a fresh perspective. If you have no knowledge of this directors style, you are going to be in for a treat. Surreal imagery, a jazzy soundtrack, erotica and intense action; this film stands in a league of its own.
The film focuses on Goro Hanada, the number 3 hitman in Japan. He is met by Kasuga, who used to be a hitman but is now a taxi driver. Kasuga wants to get back into the business and asks Goro is he can be his assistant.. Hanada agrees and they meet his boss Michihiko, he instructs the men to escort a client in the back of a car. The two men travel across the countryside where Suzuki really does show of his beautiful cinematography, the focus of the car and the background come across looking stunning. The men suddenly get ambushed and a shootout occurs, the shooting scene really is something that was unseen back in 1967, slick camera work and suspense is something you see nearly in every modern action film. There is so much more, but its something you will need to see. Goro comes close to Sakura, the second ranked hitman and there is a final showdown. These are honestly some of the best shootout action scenes I have ever seen, they leave you on the edge of your seat, supporting Goro the anti hero. On the way back from his shootout his car breaks down and he is picked up by Misako, a woman who collects dead insects.
The relationship between Goro and his wife is a kinky one, they always have rough sex in various places of the house. Another aspect of this film is the nudity and sexual content, which was boundary breaking in the late 60’s. We began to see the emergence of such content with films like ‘Onibaba’, but Branded to Kill has no holding back. Goro is given more assassination tasks from his boss and these hits are incredibly stylised and impressive. He is given an important assassination task by the mysterious woman Misako, she has planned it that all Goro needs to do is snipe the man in heat. Goro fails to assassinate him, the assassins code is if you fail to kill a target you must die. The number 1 hitman is now coming after Goro, he wants his head; but who is this number 1 'phantom' assassin. With that summary alone it's just scraping the surface, it is so much more complex than that, with a numbers of unexpected twists and also Goros descent into madness.
Shot in black and white in monochrome, Arrow presents Branded to Kill in its original aspect ratio: 2.35:1, in a full HD resolution of 1080p. Black levels come off very strong with excellent contrast levels, this is a film that has appear in washed out prints for years. This restored version has natural accurate lightening, scenes are not too dark or too bright. A common issues with Japanese movies from the 1960's is the fuji film stock, film prints from this era generally come across green when transferred to home video; thankfully arrow keeps it a strong natural black and white. There is natural film grain in the print and clarity and detail found in scenes, overall this is a very strong transfer.
Audio: 4.5/ 5
Released in it's original mono soundtrack, Branded to Kill sounds great. The dialogue has been mastered to prevent any peaking during scenes of intense dialogue. Everything comes off clear sounding great. The music is a big attraction, the jazzy score sounds is a highlight, with the cool bass rocking the sound system.
Arrow bring us an array of extras for this film; some exclusive to this release.
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation
Yes we get both a blu-ray and DVD, it's. Dual format which is very handy if you have DVD player lying around.
Newly translated English subtitles for both films
These subtitles are up to date, giving an accurate translation.
Interview with director Seijun Suzuki
A rather interesting television interview with the director, be discusses the re writing of the script and the challenges he faced with the studio.
Interview with star Jo Shishido by critic and author Koshi Ueno
A look at the star and how he got involved with the project, plus many other aspects.
Trapped in Lust [Aiyoku no wana] (1973) – A delirious roman porno re-imagining of Branded to Kill from Atsushi Yamatoya, one of Branded to Kill’s screenwriters and Suzuki’s regular collaborators
Ok this is rather interesting, it's exactly what you think it is. A soft core porn remake of branded to kill; this is probably the best extra on the disc. Bravo to arrow tracking down this rare film and including it.
Original Trailers for Branded to Kill and Trap of Lust
Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Ian MacEwan
This is stunning artwork that has to be seen to be believed, check our packaging shots below.
Booklet by Japanese film expert Jasper Sharp, illustrated with original stills and new artwork by Ian MacEwan
Very informative booklet covering the films history and cultural impact.
Overall Branded to Kill is a unique experience you cannot miss. To Australian Readers this has never been available on any format in the Australian of home video.
This is your chance to see it, Arrow ship to Australia from their site and charge only charge £3.50 for shipping.
You can use your PayPal account, and they have no international charges.
DIRECT FROM ARROW FILMS