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Issue #116a HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES July 15th, 2002

Samurai Fiction
(1998; Pony Canyon / Jungle / Digital Garage / Future Pirates / Peacedelic Studio / Buena Vista Home Entertainment / Rentrak Japan Co. / Nikko Edomura Satsueisyo)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Vintage samurai films are the target of this handsome satire, which is set in 1696 and aptly unfolds in black and white. Dishonorable swordsman Rannosuke Kazamatsuri (Tomoyasu Hotei) has stolen a sacred sword bestowed upon the Nagashima clan by the Shogun. Against the wishes of his father, impetuous (and not very bright) samurai-in-training Heishiro Inukai (Mitsuro Fukikoshi) and his bumbling friends, Kurosawa (Ken Osawa) and Shintaro (Naoyuki Fujii), set out after Kazamatsuri. They eventually catch up with him and, naturally, are no match. Tadesuke soon lies dead, while the injured Heishiro is nursed back to health by pacifist Hanbei Mizoguchi (Morio Kazama) and his beautiful, outspoken daughter, Koharu (Tamaki Ogawa; click here for still). Kazamatsuri is also being tracked by ninjas Falcon (Ryoichi Yuki) and Red Shadow (Akiko Monou), who report that Heishiro's father has fallen ill, a desperate ruse to get the bumbling youth to go back home before he gets killed. When that fails, Mizoguchi (who, not surprisingly, is actually a kendo master seeking a life of solitude) tries to send the brash youth down another path but Kazamatsuri kidnaps Koharu to force her father into accepting a duel.

Those expecting a rollicking, AIRPLANE-style farce will be disappointed to learn that the humor is droll and low-key, with only a few broad and/or scatological bits. Instead, the entertainment comes from the recreation of classic situations, characters, and codes, mixed with just a pinch of absurdity (like a flustered Mizoguchi advising the hopeless Heishiro to try and best Kazamatsuri by throwing stones and then walloping him with a big stick!) and an anachronistic score. The film does start to meander after a while, but its heart is in the right place and the result ends up being more of a valentine to the genre than the expected poke in the eye. On a trivial note, this may be the first film where the person running the tie-in website is credited right along with the production crew!

Cover art courtesy Daum Media.

Morio Kazama (left) and Mitsuro Fukikoshi. Image courtesy Daum Media.
Daum Media #DAD-144 (South Korean label)

Dolby Digital 2.0

Sync Sound Japanese Language

Optional Subtitles In English and Korean

8 Chapters Illustrated In the Menu With (Tiny) Clips

Enhanced for 16:9 Displays

Letterboxed (1.84:1)

Coded for ALL Regions

111 Minutes

Contains mild violence and mildly off-color humor

DVD menu courtesy Daum Media.


Finland: S
Singapore: PG
South Korea: 12

The majority of SAMURAI FICTION is presented in black and white, save for a few isolated instances, which are used for effect (eg. when someone is killed, the screen often turns red for a few seconds). The anamorphic B & W image is not always as pure and vivid as one might hope, but it still looks very good, and director Hiroyuki Nakano's attempts to recreate the classic tableau are successful. The stereo mix is effective, with the score coming across well. There is an awkward layer change at 1:03:23. A number of extras are available in the "Special Items" section. In addition to the expected theatrical trailer and bios (in Korean only), color versions of two scenes are included, along with a brief outtakes section and an 18 minute "Video Preview." The latter (available with optional Korean subs only) is actually a behind-the-scenes doc that includes some brief interviews. The keep case comes in a cardboard slipcover. There is also a Japanese DVD (coded for Regions 1 and 2) but it is much more expensive, making this all-region South Korean release the best choice for most consumers.

is available at Poker Industries.

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