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Criterion Collection: Gate of Hell [Blu-ray] [1953] [US Import]

4.7 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Rent Gate Of Hell on Blu-ray from LOVEFiLM By Post
£20.91 Only 2 left in stock - order soon. Dispatched from and sold by Moref Designs.

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Product details

  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English, Japanese
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.37:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00B2BYXWM
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 201,077 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
In 1953 Teinosuke Kinugasa's Gate of Hell aka Jigokumon was one of the breakthrough Japanese films on the international market, winning the Grand Prix at Cannes and two Oscars (though, shockingly, neither was for Kôhei Sugiyama's remarkable photography) but received a rather more muted reception in its homeland. That's perhaps understandable since the execution is much more impressive than the not always convincing plot, particularly a crucial development in the third act that rather strains credibility and leaves you wanting to shout "Just tell him!" at the screen. The first third of the film is rather deceptive too, beginning as a vividly stylised saga of dynastic struggle as a proud rural samurai plays a crucial role in thwarting a coup during the Heiji War. Asked to name his own reward, he asks to marry the court lady in waiting who acted as a decoy for the Emperor's sister, and refuses to take no for an answer when he learns that she is already married to the head of the Imperial Guard. The condescending amusement of the court and rival samurai and the decency of the woman's husband only fuel his desire further until tragedy is inevitable...

It's a film that occasionally manages to wrongfoot the viewer, not least in the final scene, but as drama it's never quite as compelling or convincing as it could be. Kasuo Hasegawa's intransigent would-be husband and Isao Yamagata's kindly husband offer an effective study in contrasts, the former tightly wound, the other blinded to the danger by his own unselfishness but, surprisingly, Machiko Kyo is more problematic as the woman caught between them, all too obviously hitting her marks and striking poses at times while the rest of the cast seem more unforced.
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By Luc REYNAERT TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 20 Aug. 2013
Format: Blu-ray
`Gate of Hell' is a story about loyalties. All those who transgress their loyalties, and are beaten or unmasked, are sent to `Hell' through its `Gate'.
In this movie, the loyalty operates at the social (clan) as well as at the personal level. Rival subjects of the emperor break loyalties by fighting each other for a privileged position at the court. On the other hand, unrestrained passion and sexual harassment of wives of other clan members are also considered as an unacceptable conduct. One of the participants of the yearly `ceremony of conciliation' among the clans is simply thrown out of the ceremony for his aggressive behavior. Finally, there is also the loyalty of a wife to her husband.

Teinosuke Kinugasa's movie shines through its magical mix of color and light, with dark scenes for unrestrained passion and light ones for beauty and self-sacrifice: every frame of every shot is simply a formidable Japanese print. It shines also through the masterful directing and the restraint acting of its main female character. Ultimately, it shines through its treatment of such almighty important themes as the battle between `good and evil' / `war and peace' resulting in `life or death' for its protagonists.

While Carl Theodor Dreyer's `The Passion of Joan of Arc' was a pioneering feature film because of its camera movements and bold focalizing, while Dziga Vertov's `Man with a Movie Camera' was a pioneering movie because of its brilliant shooting angles, its split screens and its rhythmic `one by one frame' editing, Teinosuke Kinugasa's `Gate of Hell' is a pioneering movie because of his magnificent play with light and color, turning it into a grandiose spectacle.
He shot an eternal masterpiece. A must see.
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
I have eagerly awaited the DVD release of Gate of Hell for a long time ever since I developed an enthusiasm for Japanese Samurai Films and although I cannot say the the film reached my expectations it is nevertheless a beautifully directed, acted and well crafted story of one man's relentless obsession. The film boast eye-catching visuals and sumptuous costumes and set design reminiscent of Masaki Kobayashi's "Kwaidan" (also on DVD from Eureka). The film opens grippingly with people running right, left and centre as an attempted coup is imminent: costumes fly, curtains and disorder ensue, in order to avoid the capture of the lord's wife a decoy palanquin is sent out containing a servant girl escorted by guards. Moritoh Enda is a guard who escorts her to safety only to fall into a fixation with her; the coup is averted and as those who remained loyal are given rewards. Enda requests the servant but finds out she is married; but that does not stop him as he pursues her with a relentless obsession. The first two acts are dynamite they establish the history, plot and themes all in only a gripping 1hr only in the third act composed of 30 minutes as the film builds to a climax does the film weaken with strange and unbelievable psychological motivations of the characters and an anti-climax which delivers zero excitement and wavers from the expectant ending. A much better ending could have been formulated, but although I was greatly disappointed by the ending it's merits drown out it's problems: Kazuo Hasegawa is brilliant as the obsessive samurai his face is expressive and acting is believable, the plot is very good up to a point and the film must be seen for Teinosuke Kinugasa's direction which boasts arresting visuals, backgrounds, colour and costumes. Eureka keep these samurai classics coming, if you liked Gate of Hell be sure to watch Eureka's Japanese horror titles (Onibaba, Kwaidan and Kuroneko) and Samurai films (Harakiri) which are all excellent films.
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