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  • Onibaba [Masters of Cinema] [DVD] [1964]
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Onibaba [Masters of Cinema] [DVD] [1964]

33 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Kei Sato, Nobuko Otowa
  • Directors: Kaneto Shindo
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Eureka Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: 22 Aug. 2005
  • Run Time: 100 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009N8HQW
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 46,074 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Product Description

Kaneto Shindo, one of Japan's most prolific directors, received his biggest international success with the release of Onibaba in 1964. Its depiction of violence and graphic sexuality was unprecedented at the time of release. Shindo managed — through his own production company Kindai Eiga Kyokai — to bypass the strict, self-regulated Japanese film industry and pave the way for such films as Yasuzo Masumura's Mojuu (1969) and Nagisa Oshima's Ai no corrida (1976).


If Hammer Studios had ever set up a Japanese franchise, the outcome might have looked rather like this. Kaneto Shindo's film has something of the lurid, full-throated relish for the horror of Hammer at its best, plus a visual elegance all its own. The story is based on a folk tale, set in Japan's war-torn 14th century. The action takes place almost entirely in a riverside marshland overgrown with tall swaying reeds. A woman and her daughter-in-law living in a hut prey on wounded samurai warriors fleeing from a nearby battlefield, killing them and selling their armour for handfuls of rice. When the younger woman falls for a handsome young deserter, the mother decides to put a stop to the affair. But the method she chooses demands a terrible price. Shooting in lustrous widescreen black-and-white, Shindo creates an eerie, atmospheric world haunted by the ceaseless dry whisperings of the reeds. None of the characters is loveable, or even likeable, but the thorough rapacity of the women, and the raw sexuality of the lovers, convey a fierce determination to survive even at the lowest scavenging edge of a violent society. --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 Bob Salter TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 6 July 2011
Format: DVD
Never has a film been more a prisoner of its own environment than this film, which is shot entirely amongst the beautiful swaying susuki grass. Hiroshi Teshigahara's "Woman of the Dunes" was a similar captive to the all pervading sands it was filmed in. It is as if the characters of the film are marooned on an isolated island, where they scavenge off the flotsam that comes their way. In this instance it happens to be the hapless half dead soldiers of 14th century feudal Japan who fall victims to an old woman and her daughter in law. These unfortunate victims are polished off in brutal fashion by the women and then robbed of all their armour. The bodies are then dumped unceremoniously down a sinister black hole. They then sell their ill gotten gains for much needed food and then wait like spiders for the next juicy flies to fall into their web. Just when things seem to be going so well a man enters their lives to turn their cloistered existence upside down.

The film was a financial success which is unsurprising given the heavy marketing of the strong sexual content. Strong for the time I should hasten to add! Apart from a few bare breasts and some simulated sex there is only enough naughty content to upset a prudish granny. It all seems a bit tame by todays standards! The film was initially refused a certificate in the UK. It is beautifully shot amongst the grass with some memorable scenes, none better than the young woman running breathlessly through the swaying sea of grass to her lover, the grass seeming to possess a life of its own. The repressed emotions are beautifully conveyed by Nobuko Otawa as the older woman, with mere glances and expressions. Otawa also happened to be the wife and muse of the director Kaneto Shindo.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Maciej TOP 500 REVIEWER on 6 May 2014
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I liked this 1964 ground-breaking drama about two women trying to survive in the middle of merciless Nanbokucho Wars which devastated Japan during most of XIV century. Even if towards the very end there were some little things I enjoyed less, still, it is definitely an important, major film, a must for all amateurs of good cinema. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

Even if it is not absolutely necessary to enjoy this film, I believe that knowing a little bit about the Nanbokucho Wars and especially their quite consequent importance in Japanese national conscience through centuries helps to understand better this film - and also how much courage needed the director to make "Onibaba"...

1. The Nanbokucho Wars (1331-1392)

In XII century Emperors of Japan lost the real power, which was seized by their military commanders who were in the same time leaders of great families of noble land owners - and could count on the support of professional warriors (the samurai) who were their direct vassals. Simplifying the things a little, the XIV century Nanbokucho Wars were a long confrontation between the partisans of restoration of power of the Emperor and a coalition of noble samurai clans who were afraid of losing their power and wealth.

The first fraction, named the Southern Court, was led by the Emperor Go-Daigo and his successors - the other, named the Northern Court was headed by the Ashikaga family, whose leaders claimed from 1338 the title of shogun. Nanbokucho Wars means precisely "wars of Northern and Southern Courts". Ultimately the Ashikaga shoguns prevailed and Emperors became again powerless figureheads - until Meiji restoration in 1868.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 31 Dec. 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Japan during the feudal era relegated the peasants to the edge of extinction as they could no longer grow crops due to the incessant raiding and fighting of the Samurai classes. Clasping their bushido code, the samurai lopped off inferior heads with impunity as the law was replaced with disputed power. Knowing this leads us to the film where the Bushido "values" are turned upside down. Women on the margins have ripped up the rule book. The film focuses on two women, daughter in law and mother in law who wait for their son and husband to return after being dragged off to fight on one of the many sides of the era.

Two peasant women embark upon a "will to power" to avenge their plight as all the men have been plucked from the land to engage in the futile struggle of the men of power. Surviving they strike up a two woman team who prey upon the "vulnerable" Samurai who enter the swamp world they inhabit. Filmed in a stark black and white the film reaches into the primeval ooze of life to show how those cast out into the margins survive hand to mouth. Within this world a sexual frission and erotic desire cackles with an electric spark. Also within this bubble, supernatural elements arise, in the shape of a mask which entraps the wearer. Everyone as the film depicts wears a mask to the outside world.

Detailing the exploitation which takes place between the women and the Samurai and the women and those who prey upon them, the film resonates with an emotional quiver wrapped up within a cold austere mask. Very Japanese in its slow pace and filmic vision of how nature operates within a system of social collapse it deserves its masterpiece status. It is no gung ho, sex filled opus however.
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