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Belladonna of Sadness - Collector's Edition [Blu-ray]
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One of the great lost masterpieces of Japanese animation, and the last film in the adult-themed Animerama trilogy produced by the godfather of Japanese anime & manga, Osamu Tezuka and directed by his long-time collaborator Eiichi Yamamoto (ASTRO BOY and KIMBA THE WHITE LION), BELLADONNA unfolds as a series of spectacular still watercolor paintings that bleed and twist together. An innocent young woman, Jeanne is raped by the local lord on her wedding night. To take revenge, she makes a pact with the Devil himself who appears as an erotic sprite and transforms her into a black-robed vision of madness and desire.
Contains the film on Blu-Ray in Japanese with English subtitles, presented in collectors packaging.
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But this review is less about the film itself, which many will either love of hate and more about the new Blu-ray and for those interested in investing in this extraordinary film. The film of course is set in France in the middle ages, and the characters have very European features, not the doe eyed anime characters we associate with anime now, but the dialogue is Japanese and of course for this release has subtitles in English. Good news is the subs are removable. There are no other subtitle options and no English dub. The dialogue sound, and its jazz / progressive rock based soundtrack, is very fine in Japanese DTS 5.1
The Blu-ray transfer is in the original 1.33:1 frame and the print is very clean and visually dynamic with no flaws. Specks do appear, but they are from the original cell animation and are not marks on the print, but they are very few, certainly less than those seen on any Ralph Bakshi animation, especially Lord of the Rings.
The extras on this Blu-ray are unfortunately very limited as material in archive would be non existent for this production, certainly no 'making of ' featurettes available, but it does have interviews with principle players in the production who talk about their lives, memories and influences making this film. The interviews are from Director Eiichi Yamamoto (27 minutes 20 seconds) Art Director Kuni Kukai whom I found the most interesting talking about his dislike as a child for people, especially after the Second World War (16.51) and Music Composer Mashahiko Satoh (27.19)
Other three extras are promotional trailers, two produced in 2016, called Red band (2.35) and green band (1.30) and finally the original Japanese trailer from 1973 which gives a better idea of the films story line.
The collectors Edition I have also contains the 20 page illustrated( by Amazon on this product page) booklet with information and history about the film which features some very fine colour stills from the animation. Six colour art cards with images from the film are also part of the collectors edition. Finally the whole set is packaged in a very sturdy cardboard box with different artwork on the front but the same artwork on the back as the actual Blu-ray.
So for a collector this is a worthy addition to anyone's film / Blu-ray library, and highly recommended .
BELLADONA of Sadness (1973) 1.33 : 1 aspect Ratio DTS 5.1 Japanese soundtrack English subtitles 1 hour 27 minute 18 seconds running time.
However, one large question remains - this is part of a trilogy, so where are the other 2 films (Cleopatra & 1001 nights animes) ?
I do hope the producers of this blu ray decide to release the other 2 films or better yet issue a box set of all 3 films. I'm sure other collectors of Anime would agree with me & most of us fans are completists so finding just 1 part of a trilogy is mildly irritating for a collector. Please - the other 2 films asap.
A quick footnote: Translated literally, “belladonna” means “beautiful woman.” The word rolls off your tongue, implying something dangerous, seductive, delicious. So the fact that “belladonna” is also the alternate name of the deadly nightshade plant tells you a whole lot about historic attitudes toward beautiful women. The film when released initially in Japan was considered to be not Hentai but actually a story of Women's liberation.
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