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Criterion Collection: Kagemusha [Blu-ray] [1980] [US Import]

Tatsuya Nakadai , Tsutomu Yamazaki , Akira Kurosawa    Blu-ray
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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Region 1 encoding (requires a North American or multi-region DVD player and NTSC compatible TV. More about DVD formats.)

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Product details

  • Actors: Tatsuya Nakadai, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Ken'ichi Hagiwara, Jinpachi Nezu, Hideji ‘taki
  • Directors: Akira Kurosawa
  • Writers: Akira Kurosawa, Masato Ide
  • Producers: Akira Kurosawa, Audie Bock, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Tomoyuki Tanaka
  • Format: Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Unrated (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: 18 Aug 2009
  • Run Time: 162 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002AFX52S
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 130,814 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



The 1970s were difficult years for the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. Having been unable to secure full Japanese backing for his epic project Kagemusha, the 70-year-old master found American support from George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola, who served as co-executive producers (through 20th Century Fox) for this magnificent 1980 production--to that date the most expensive film in Japanese history. Set in the late-16th century, Kagemusha centres on the Takeda clan, one of three warlord clans battling for control of Japan at the end of the feudal period. When their leader Lord Shingen (Tatsuya Nakadai) is mortally wounded in battle, he orders that his death be kept secret and that his "kagemusha"--or "shadow warrior"--take his place for a period of three years to prevent clan disruption and enemy takeover. The identical double is a petty thief (also played by Nakadai) spared from execution due to his uncanny resemblance to Lord Shingen--but his true identity cannot prevent the tides of fate from rising over the Takeda clan in a climactic scene of battlefield devastation. Through stunning visuals and meticulous attention to every physical and stylistic detail, Kurosawa made a film that restored his status as Japan's greatest filmmaker, and the success of Kagemusha enabled the director to make his 1985 masterpiece, Ran. --Jeff Shannon

Product Description

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
111 of 117 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great film, average DVD 9 Nov 2002
By A Customer
Kurosawa’s 1980 samurai epic is much more than a dry run for his Shakespearean epic “Ran”. In its own right it is filmmaking on a vast canvas, documenting the downfall of the Takeda clan in 16th century Japan. The title refers to the double who takes the place of the warlord Takeda Shingen when the latter dies. The film then becomes concerned with the nature of identity, as the double learns to adapt to the role of the warlord, and reality and illusion merge.
Fans of the kinetic energy of Kurosawa’s classic black-and-white pictures must have been surprised by the opening shot – the camera doesn’t move once for the whole six-minute scene. In fact, the mostly static camera is a feature of Kurosawa’s mature style: detached, fatalistic, his characters now trapped by destiny and unable to change its course. “Kagemusha” is a pessimistic work, one which offers no hope of action. Kurosawa had begun to delineate the way things fall apart, and the atmosphere is one of melancholy and, ultimately, despair.
I have heard it remarked that this film (and “Ran”) suffers from the absence of Toshiro Mifune. While I agree that the break-up of Kurosawa and Mifune made cinema a poorer place, it must be said that Tatsuya Nakadai (a stage actor who had previously played villains in “Yojimbo” and “Sanjuro”) does an excellent job in a role originally intended for the comic actor Shinaro Katsu. However, the true greatness lies, as always, in Kurosawa’s direction. Like “Ran,” “Kagemusha” was meticulously planned, mapped out first in the form of drawings and diagrams, a result of Kurosawa’s inability to secure financial backing for the film for several years.
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60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Superlative film - diabolical dvd! 5 Jan 2004
As another reviewer has already observed, surely this masterpiece deserves the best possible remastering for DVD? Apart from the awful editing and cutting, the picture quality is very poor and the sound is a disgrace. Kurosawa San and Kagemusha should be afforded the proper respect and until that happens I strongly advise would be viewers to see this magnificent film in all its' glory on the big screen.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Kagemusha" on BLU RAY - Which Version To Buy 26 Feb 2014
As you've probably gathered most of the reviews for the mighty Kurosawa epic “Kagemusha” are for the 'DVD' version (which had questionable picture quality). And the first BLU RAY reissue is available in a number of territories – including the UK and EUROPE. But which release do you buy?

Unfortunately the uber-desirable USA Criterion version is REGION-A LOCKED although it doesn't say so on Amazon.
So it WILL NOT PLAY on most UK BLU RAY players unless they're chipped to play 'all' regions (which the vast majority aren't).
Don’t confuse BLU RAY players that have multi-region capability on the 'DVD' front – that won’t help.

Luckily there’s a new March 2014 20th Century Fox BLU RAY (with involvement from Scorsese and Coppola) that promises the same restored elements and will play on UK machines.

Check you’re purchasing the right version before purchase...
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars layer cake of delight 2 Feb 2006
I saw this film 25 years ago & found it visually stunning, gruesomely beautiful, a rich yet dark experience. But you know how it can sometimes be, with books or films you've read or seen a long time ago - more often than not a series of disappointments - & you can end up half-despising the younger self who so naively thought this wonderful... Not this time, though: Kagemusha is a brilliant cinematic achievement.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Trevor Willsmer HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
After years in the wilderness ended only when Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas persuaded 20th Century Fox to invest some of the money they'd made from Star Wars in his financially stalled epic, Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha was one of those real life fairy tales that you feel bad for not liking more. It's a film with good things in it and the odd great moment, but despite having a good story to tell and the budget to do it justice it never really comes to life. The tale of a thief whose uncanny resemblance to a warlord leads to him assuming his role after his death to prevent his kingdom falling apart and slowly gaining both the admiration and unease of those who use him over his alternately inspired or disastrous improvisation in the role itself tends to feel like a convincing imitation rather than the genuine article. A big part of the reason is that the characters never come to life thanks to a script that's thin on character and a performance by Tatsuya Nakadai that's more than competent but feels like it's had the life directed out of it. Kurosawa originally cast Shintaro Katsu, the larger than life star of the Lone Wolf and Cub and Hanzo the Razor films, only to fire him in rehearsals over what he saw as a lack of respect and, as Coppola suggests on one of the interviews on Criterion's DVD and Blu-ray, that was probably what the part needed instead of Nakadai's quieter, more contained but all too often near-anonymous performance. Throughout he seems kept at arm's length, observing events but never allowed to take centre stage until near the end of the film.

The film's other big problem is it's pacing.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars but I really enjoyed this film among many others of that ilk
Yes it has faults, spoken Japanese with subtitles always are, but I really enjoyed this film among many others of that ilk. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Inquisio
4.0 out of 5 stars Akira Kurosawa at his best in a setting that draws you in not as ...
Akira Kurosawa at his best in a setting that draws you in not as good as Seven Samurai but still a good film if a little long, and you have to admire the scale of the battle scenes... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mr. craiders
2.0 out of 5 stars What is it about?
I, too would of thought that this film would be excellent. what a boring of a film. it just seem to drag on and on. oh! yea, there are battle scenes towards the end of the film. Read more
Published 3 months ago by John Moore
5.0 out of 5 stars ariived very quickly
The movie is one of my fav's so i was delighted when it arrived very quickly, and the dvd was immaculate. I'm very happy with both the product and the seller.
Published 10 months ago by Jay Hennigan
5.0 out of 5 stars S-P-L-E-N-D-I-D! A film fast as the wind but silent as the forest,...
This is an extraordinary film combining great scenario and incredible visual effects, made by THE great master of Japanese cinema Akira Kurosawa. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Maciej
4.0 out of 5 stars Top rate DVD of second rate Kurosawa
I'm writing this primarily to clear up the confusion among other reviews here of Kagemusha. Reviews complaining about the quality of the DVD transfer would appear to be of the... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Film Buff
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This is classic Kirasawa: set in feudal Japan it tells of a look-alike who is taken on to impersonate the Lord when the former is fatally wounded. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Peter Gray
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the best...
Kagemusha is a fantastic film, one of my favourites in fact, unfortunately the transfer here is at best adaquate. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Mark A. Streets
5.0 out of 5 stars Kagemusha
I remember seeing this film back in the 1980's and how stunning it was, my opinion has not changed, both the story and the backdrops are still alive. Read more
Published on 15 April 2012 by Tonyham
1.0 out of 5 stars Badly remastered DVD
I wouldn't mind the quality of the footage - that I can understand but the sound! It's just poor! This DVD is going back as it fails to deliver quality I would expect from this... Read more
Published on 26 Oct 2011 by Mr. S. Cmakal
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