Toshiro Mifune: The Ultimate Collection

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Toshiro Mifune is one of the most acclaimed Japanese talents to American audiences, thanks to his collaborative works with cinematic master Akira Kurosawa. While his performances in those films will surely be his most remembered works, Mifune’s career was vast and stretched far beyond those famous pictures. In this five disc collection, some of his other work has been brought together to help showcase his immense talents. In two of the films, Mifune revisits the Yojimbo character, including his final turn in the role, while we also see him embrace his comedic side. But we also have Mifune in perhaps his best known role, that of a samurai with sword in hand, so a nice cross section of his resume is found here. Whether you’re a seasoned fan or a newcomer to Mifune’s work, this five film release is a great place to see more of his movies.

1. Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo- Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu) is on the run from the authorities, thanks to crossing the wrong person in the wrong circumstances. Now he needs to seek refuge and lay low, so he returns to a town he visited many years ago, a village he left in peace. Now however, things have changed and two groups vie to control the locals. The result of the conflict is violence in the streets and innocent people in danger. A drunk, but bold samurai named Sassa (Toshiro Mifune) takes an interest in Zatochi, thanks in no small part to the generous bounty on the blind man’s head. As the two pursue their own interests, the tension builds and sooner or later, violence is sure to erupt. But what are Sassa’s intentions and who does he work for, and can Zatoichi stay one step ahead, regardless?

2. Incident at Blood Pass- A man known as Yojimbo (Toshiro Mifune) has been given a mysterious assignment, tasked to venture to an isolated mountain pass. Once he has arrived at the pass, he is told to stay put and wait, as if the rest will be revealed. He makes his way to the mountain pass and once there, he visits a small teahouse and there, the pieces start to fall into place. But he still has little to go on, since he was told next to nothing about the assignment. The teahouse provides him with information about others in the area, from a Shogunate officer to a disgraced doctor to a band of thieves. Not to mention a convoy of Shogunate gold, the kind of shipment that is sure to catch someone’s attention. What is the real purpose that Yojimbo has been sent to this pass and once he finds out, can he carry out his intended assignment?

3. Samurai Banners- Kansuke Yamamoto (Toshiro Mifune) is a ronin, a samurai with no master, but he has plans that extend beyond his current lot in life. When he crosses paths with the Kai Lord, Takeda Shingen (Kinnosuke Nakamura), at first it seems like happenstance, but soon even Takeda realizes the truth. Takeda recognizes the ambition within Kansuke, but he also sees the positive side of his presence. After all, his life has already been saved once by Kansuke, or so he is told. Then when his daughter was on the brink of suicide, Kansuke once again averted a crisis. A strained relationship soon follows between the two sides, but what are Kansuke’s true intentions?

4. Red Lion- The feudal system known as Shogunate has been part of the culture for centuries, but now threats have risen and that system rule could be at its end. A group known as the Imperial Restoration Force has taken up the cause to restore power to an emperior, even giving out false promises to the peasants. The hope of reduced taxes and forgiven debts is enough to win over the peasants, despite the dubious nature of the promises. A peasant named Gonzo (Toshiro Mifune) marches with the group and when his home village is approached, he asks to lead the group into town. His presence (and red wig) starts off a chain of events that has him held up as a hero, but how long will Gonzo’s reign last?

5. Samurai Assassin- Tsurochiyo Niiro (Toshiro Mifune) has lived a life of hardship, one which began even in his earliest days in this world. He was born out of wedlock, conceived during a lapse in judgment from his young mother, so he never knew his father. His emotions took another massive blow when his true love was lost and in the process, he was forced into a life of poverty. Now with nothing else to live for, he is dedicated to his sword and redeeming his honor. So he wishes to join one of the samurai houses, to live a life of honor and service. When he learns of an assassination plot against a powerful Shogunate official, he sees it as his chance to shine, but will the plan unfold as he foresees?

Video: How does it look?

All five films are presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The transfers run the full spectrum here, from downright terrible to mediocre to excellent, so quite an inconsistent lot. The worst of the bunch is Samurai Assassin, taken from a video source that dooms the image. On large screens, this looks like a second generation VHS transfer, not good news. Incident at Blood Pass isn’t much better, but Red Lion looks good and so does Samurai Banners. Not high end transfers by any means, but solid visuals and more than watchable. The best if Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo, which looks superb here and should delight fans. So not a great turnout, transfer wise, but most of the movies look good here.

Audio: How does it sound?

All five films have the original Japanese language preserved, presented in mono soundtracks. I have no real complaints to lodge here, especially given the age of the material, but the audio just isn’t that memorable. But the basic elements come across well, which is what counts, so I guess we shouldn’t complain much. The dialogue is clean and crisp, while music and sound effects also sound good. I didn’t detect much in the way of age related flaws, but a few minor defects pop up here and there. Not the kind of soundtracks to rave about, but they’re all solid. All five films also feature optional English subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The discs include still photos, character profiles, cast filmographies, and all five films’ theatrical trailers.

Disc Scores