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on 13 April 2009
As a fan of some of the cult Asian cinema that has really started to find it's way to DVD in recent years such as Sex and Fury, Bohachi Bushido, Female Prisoner Scorpion, and Blind Woman's Curse, this set is absolutely a must have. The films are very violent, yet have lots of dark humor to keep the mood from being too serious. They are cult classics in every sense of the word and if you enjoyed any of the films I listed above, then you will no doubt love these films too.

The set comes in a very sturdy box and each film has it's own regular DVD case with the original and very beautiful theatrical poster art for the covers. Each film has a booklet with notes and info about the films inside their cases. The transfers are relatively crisp and don't appear to be NTSC to PAL conversions from the US set, and the English subtitles are very easy to follow. The only extras on each disc appears to be a trailer for each film, but the films are easily worth the cost of the set.

If you like Asian exploitation films pick up this set. If you dislike violence, can't stand bloodshed, are insulted by nudity, then don't get these films. These films are a bag of rice humping good time. ;)
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on 16 April 2009
Hanzo(Shintaro Katsu)is a fiercely independent,anti-authoritarian Samurai officer who dispenses justice equally to poor or rich alike with a particularly persuasive interrogation technique for the ladies.
Eureka have put together the three Hanzo films with excellent transfers and informative booklets at a bargain price.
The first in the series - Sword of Justice(now there is a double meaning if ever I saw one)is the pick of the bunch with excellent direction from the celebrated Kenji Misumi - director of three of the epic Lone Wolf series amongst others,with an excellent story and performances.
In fact all three films have excellent production values and even though they are catagorised as exploitation films(part of the pink revolution that took place in Japan from the late 50's until the late 70's,Confessions of a Window Cleaner they are not.
The violence is fairly tepid by today's standards(too many modern reviewers play up the violence when it is not that gruesome- the aforementioned Lone Wolf is far more bloodthirsty)and the sex is alternately bawdy,lurid and parodies itself at every oppourtunity but some may be offended.
Hanzo only ran to three films and you can see why - his "interrogation"technique can only be shown so many times before it loses it's impact but they are all very well done and the first Sword Of Justice is a very good film in anyone's language.
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Who's the Edo Police constable who's a sex machine to all the chicks? Hanzo the Razor - Sword of Justice - can you dig it? With his funky theme tune and angry strut, he's the cop who takes no bribes and no excrement from the brass either, firmly on the side of the poor over the big rich who can buy their way out of trouble. He does things his way, whether that means torturing himself to find out how much pain a suspect can take, blackmailing his boss to stay on the force, beating his oversized penis with a wooden club or using it to secure confessions or information from female suspects. Yes, you did read that last bit right. Shintaro Katsu may bear an unfortunate resemblance to Stratford Johns but he's also not pounding a 20th century Tokyo city beat but a 17th century one, and this Police Constable is anything but PC. Even Harry was never this dirty...

Following the Zatoichi and Lone Wolf and Cub/Baby Cart series, Kenji Misumi's film should be deeply offensive or at best a smutty sex comedy - aside from Hanzo's interrogation technique, one female suspect is identified by her lack of pubic hair, observed under particularly perverse circumstances. Yet somehow, through a combination of cynical disillusion with all the old myths of honour in the samurai genre that are roundly condemned in no uncertain terms and some surprising stylisation (how many sex scenes are shot from inside a woman's vagina?), it somehow manages to come out as genuinely subversive and occasionally exhilarating rather than just exploitative. No doubt about it, this is an exploitation film, but a surprisingly classy one that's well aware of the inherent absurdity of grafting the John Shaft or James Bond aesthetic, complete with gadgets, onto a period swordplay film, yet still playing it absolutely straight. Even the plotting is anarchic, with Hanzo spending much of the film unravelling a plot that costs several lowlives their low lives to uncover a conspiracy that is at heart so trivial it goes nowhere, and rather than a showdown with the Man it ends with a surprising assisted suicide sequence that owes nothing to notions of honorable sepuku and more to do with the mercy killing of a complete stranger.

The result is a bonkers-on-paper movie with a surprising integrity, and a remarkable closing shot that promises great things to come, but unfortunately, Misumi didn't return for the second film in the series, Hanzo the Razor - The Snare, and it shows. Where Misumi used a pulp format to attack the pomposity of the genre and the false values they peddled, Yasuzo Masumura just makes a straight out sleazy exploitation film with added nudity, violence and S&M, very little of it especially interesting. The plot is considerably more lurid, with illegal abortions, a convent filled with nympho nuns being used as a brothel and a rapist/thief who, unlike Hanzo, doesn't leave his victims wanting more but in a pool of their own blood, but the execution is uninspired. It's not that Masumura has a poor visual sense, more that he lacks the imagination to lift the film out of the ordinary - no stylistic flourishes this time and despite an okay final twist the plotting is pretty perfunctory this time round. Social commentary is limited to the state diluting gold so they can siphon more of it into their own pockets, in the process devaluing the currency, forcing prices up and leading to a crime wave as the poor try to survive any way they can, but where his predecessor might have used the plot as a means of drawing attention to corruption and hypocrisy, Masumura just uses it as a plot Maguffin.

Despite recycling many ideas from the first film with considerably less panache, it has its moments (Hanzo gets into the convent by getting buried in its grounds and escaping from his grave, while there's a striking overhead shot of a duel on a bridge), but Hanzo spends an inordinate amount of time in the closet (literally) in this one and there's little in the way of originality in the by-the-numbers writing. Too much of the film feels like one of the lazier Dirty Harry sequels when they'd said all they had to say in the first film and from then on it was just about making money.

Curiously the trailer includes what is either a brief deleted scene or, as was fairly common in Japanese trailers, a specially shot scene of Hanzo and the Treasurer's bodyguard preparing to duel.

Worse was to come with Hanzo the Razor - Who's Got the Gold?, the third and not surprisingly last of a series that only took two sequels to run completely out of steam. Directed by former assistant director Yoshio Inoue, it cuts back on the gratuitous sex and violence but doesn't find anything more to replace it than a standard and rather drawn-out plot to replace it involving Treasury gold hidden in bamboo spears, a fake ghost, a blind priest lending stolen cash to impoverished samurai at high interest to fund his drug-fuelled orgies, a dying doctor trying to persuade the local elder to adopt western ways to avoid Japan becoming a foreign colony and the usual corrupt officials on the take. The odd original idea is thrown away and the film shows little enthusiasm even for the character's trademarks, which are given a perfunctory once over as if purely by contractual obligation. They really can't think of anything to do with the main character anymore and he just becomes another clichéd swordsman: the best it can manage is a joke about him possibly turning gay. At times it feels like Hanzo has just clumsily been grafted on to an existing run of the mill script for another period movie. The action scenes are nothing to write home about either. Even at 84 minutes, this tired effort drags its heels terribly, feeling like nothing so much as a film made by people who were bored with their job.

Extras are limited to the original trailer and a booklet for each film. All boast excellent 2.35:1 widescreen transfers with English subtitles, but bear in mind due to negative damage there are a few frames missing from one shot in the first film - very noticeable because a character suddenly disappears from the frame.
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on 22 February 2014
I bought this having read about it in a magazine article. 3 DVD's telling basically the same story of an Edo- period 'policeman' with the usual contempt for authority or the 'rules' in a land where duty and etiquette crash against bribery and corruption. Think "Dirty Harry" mixed with "Shaft" (including the wah-wah guitar); add-in a policeman with a unique and novel method of interrogating female witnesses - for which his preparation of his special-tool is something that Inspector Morse wouldn't try in a million years - and you have a completely barmy but strangely engrossing set of films. A fair bit of female nudity (upper body only) and some scenes of sexual activity (including a special harness that needs two people to operate as well as the two participants). Stupid but good for a giggle.
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on 24 May 2013
Awesome to have all 3 Hanzo movies uncut on dvd. Am very happy and enjoy all 3 films. Sadly my "box set" was not as advertised with the dvds in individual cases with reversable sleeves containing the Japanese cover on each. I had a bog standard 3 disc holding dvd case set in a decent card container with a great booklet,but no Japanese covers as the dvds were in one container together,which was a bit of a let down.However the films are great and so is the booklet. As a fan of Japanese movies like this I was happy with the films and the transfer too which is awesome so thats where my 5 out of 5 goes.
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on 26 February 2010
Although at the time of writing I've just watched the first of the trilogy box set I feel compelled to let potential buyers know that Eureka have done the film proud by releasing one of the sharpest and most beautifully authored dvd transfers I've seen in a while - one that exceeds most major studio productions. Exquisite 2.35:1 image that perfectly captures fine detail and colour balance/tones. Really remarkable even on a big 55 inch LCD screen. If only all dvd transfers were as good as this - Blu Ray would be feeling uncomforatble!
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on 1 December 2012
Elements of Dirty Harry with the maverick incorruptible "cop" The influences on Tarantino can be easily seen. It works in an odd way as you watch a Samurai movie whilst listening to a soundtrack reminiscent of Bullitt. Enjoyable for Tarantino fans and those who enjoyed the exploitation movies of the 1970s.
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on 10 February 2013
disk1 is best, the others are very good too.
All stories are similar in nature, with Edo Policeman Hanzo refusing to kow tow to authority, and all include references to the Japanese martial arts in relation to Hanzo's colossal Johnson.
Typically Japanese, in the sense that it is not corrupted by religious sentiment.The middle Eastern religions that have infected us for centuries make westerners take a hypocritical moral stance on every aspect of life. The Japanese are so refreshingly free of that bilge and can make funny crazy films that would not be tolerated here. ...
OK ..."sexy battle girls" next!....things can only get better!
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on 14 September 2014
Bizare is perhaps the first word that comes to mind when viewing this. But don,t let the kincy stuff scare you a way. These films are highly entertaining, have some great action set pieces, and also a strong Message about moral and corruption.
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on 8 March 2014
Three discs in one keep case with a informative book. The second film, "The Snare" (1973) directed by Yasuzo Masumura is better than the first. The story, also by Masumura, is incredibly strong and suspenceful. The music is just brilliant. The Snare is a more dark and atmospheric film. It's a cult masterpiece. Great transfers by Eureka.
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