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Kwaidan - Masters of Cinema series [DVD] [1964]

Price: £9.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Product details

  • Actors: Rentaro Mikuni, Katsuo Nakamura
  • Directors: Masaki Kobayashi
  • Format: Anamorphic, PAL, Subtitled
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Eureka Entertainment Ltd
  • DVD Release Date: 29 May 2006
  • Run Time: 183 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000F4LBPO
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,868 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Product Description

Portmanteau of four classic traditional ghost stories from director Masaki Kobayashi, presented for the first time in the complete original cut. In these stories, mortals find themselves caught up with strange supernatural forces beyond their comprehension. The individual stories are: 'Black Hair', 'The Snow Maiden', 'Hoichi the Earless' and 'In a Cup of Tea'.


Lafcadio Hearn, the Greek-Irish-American author turned Japanese citizen, was one of the most singular writers of the 19th century, and from his collection of traditional Japanese ghost stories the director Masaki Kobayashi fashioned one of the most eerily beautiful films ever made. Kwaidan was Kobayashi's first film in colour; spurning realism and aiming for "the ultimate in stylised film method", he shot the whole movie inside a huge disused hangar, painting all the sets himself. The film comprises four stories: in "Black Hair" a man returns to seek the wife he abandoned; "The Woman of the Snows" is a chilly, beautiful spirit who preys on lone travellers; "Hoichi the Earless" tells of a young monk compelled each night by ghostly warriors to recount the saga of a famous sea battle (when he tries to evade them, they exact a horrible revenge); and the luckless protagonist of "In a Cup of Tea" discovers someone's soul grinning at him out of his beverage. Each story sustains its own distinct mood, but all four share an unsettling, dreamlike sense of otherworldliness. To enhance the overall weirdness, Kobayashi worked closely with the composer Toru Takemitsu to create an offbeat score, rejecting conventional instruments in favour of sonic effects such as wood being split and pebbles being struck together. There has never been another ghost film quite like this. --Philip Kemp --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Dylan T. Hayden on 16 May 2001
Format: VHS Tape
This is quite simply one of the most exquisite films ever made, a marvel of aesthetic refinement in every way, and a unique work of art. There are not enough superlatives to describe the manifold wonders of Kwaidan: the fine acting, gorgeous sets, subtle direction, and especially the extraordinary musique concrete score by Takemitsu, all combined by the obsessive artistry of Kobayashi to realize a rare and beautiful cinematic vision. This film is beyond praise.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 12 Nov 2000
Format: VHS Tape
The film tells the story of four tales drawn from Lafcadio Hearn's turn-of the century book of the same name (Kwaidan means "weird tales" and is a collection of Japanese and Chinese "fairy" tales). The result is a magnificient vision of death and the strange, often cruel but devoid of what could be called Gothic morbidity. One is taken into the fantastic world of the Japanese mediaeval period, or rather how an American of Irish-Greek descent, fleeing late XIXth Century modernism, saw it. The film itself has respected Hearn's delicate and sensual approach to ghosts and ghouls - which probably wasn't difficult since Hearn became more Japanese than the Japanese themselves. It shows that in some ways, ghosts and evil spirits are also human. To illustrate that last statement, I will refer the reader / viewer to the wonderful tale of the blind bhuddist novice told to play his biwa to an extraordinary audience. The build up is wilfully slow, the intention being always to suck in the audience, to amaze it rather than shock it. The sound tract, like the visuals is haunting and when this film came out on the big screen in the late sixties it received huge interest from people who at that time, already, thought that the world (as it was) was not enough...
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By MRAM on 19 Dec 2011
Format: DVD
Masaki Kobayashi's extraordinary masterpiece Kwaidan, consists of four haunting ghost tales, well known in Japanese mythology, adapted from Lafcadio Hearn's classic interpretations from his book Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things.

The first tale "Black Hair", sends a moral message about appreciating what you have and not to seek fortune for reasons such as vanity and greed. The opening sequence is hypnotic, as the camera pans slowly over the gate of an old and dilapidated house. It goes through the garden into the house, with the sound of wood slapping together. This is a brilliant start to an eerie story and sets the mood perfectly. It cleverly uses dark colours, which does not prepare you for the astoundingly vivid colours of the next tale.

"The Woman of the Snow" features the popular folkloric creature Yuki-Onna, who controls the snow. This segment starts of with a stormy, snow covered forest with a green and blue background. On the background is swirling eyes beautifully painted, like glass marbles. As the storm calms down, a small red flag is fluttering in the vast amounts of pearly white snow. When the cold weather has ended, there are warm, rich reds, yellows and oranges all blending in together. Throughout the story, there are eyes across the sky, either shut or open, which creates a beautiful mixture of Expressionism and Japanese imagery.

The most interesting and brilliant story is "Hoachi the Earless". It opens with a breathtaking scene depicting the true story of The Battle of Dan-no-ura, with a haunting voice performing the most famous part of the epic war poem "The Tale of the Heike", which is accompanied by an instrument called the Biwa. All of the stories in Kwaidan have exquisite imagery and a poetic elegance to them.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tim Kidner TOP 500 REVIEWER on 19 Mar 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
If a picture paints a thousand words, I'd need a million words to describe Kwaidan.

Totally unlike anything I'd ever seen and so different from many Japanese films, I absorbed all four stories, 3 hours worth in one sitting. Mesmerised, intoxicated.

Like a series of the most lavish theatrical sets and the most imaginative theatrical direction and using theatrical lighting, paintings as huge as skies are backdrops. Vivid, muted. Both.

The stories themselves have been described by other reviewers - suffice to say, I preferred the 2nd to the generally more popular 3rd. They were all so different, in approach, style and culmination, yet were consistent in their stillness; a stillness that crept up on you and just when you least expected it, the unexpected and those scared me stiff.

The music was sparse but chillingly suited, using traditional, acoustic instruments, superbly. They conveyed a huge range of moods and sound effects. I knew nothing of Japanese folklore, aside of Kurosawa's samurai films - I believe now that I still probably don't but that there's a feast more out there, waiting for me.

I'm still trembling with slight excitement and numbness after seeing something that I'll never forget and now wish to lend this excellent DVD to every single friend I know!
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By D. Kadi on 2 July 2006
Format: DVD
This film is incredibly impressive. It has some of the finest, most colourful cinematography ever filmed. It is a movie in four parts, each one telling a new ghost story. Each story has varying levels of intensity and involvement, but my favourite of them is Yuki Onna, which tells of a peasant who falls under the spell of a sorceress, marries a gorgeous woman, and after living with her for many years, discovers an onimous secret about her. It is one of the greatest twists in cinema history - certainly more shocking than the twist of The Sixth Sense movie. It is direction of the highest order, just using fantastic lighting and massive set designs. The director, Masaki Kobayahi, has created a brilliant cinematic masterpiece here. It is essential viewing for any would-be director or lover of superb asian cinema. It is right up there with the best of Kurasawa, without any doubt whatsoever. It is quite hard to believe this was made in the 60s. It has the best use of widescreen and colour ever seen! Buy it if you like movies!
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