“Press Notes” is an ongoing collection of quotes and links to reviews of Criterion Collection releases from around the Internet.
Akira Kurosawa’s Throne Of Blood was my first real exposure to Kurosawa. I had probably heard the name, but was never shown any of his films until my high school teacher decided to show it to us while we were studying Shakespeare’s MacBeth. Throne Of Blood was the first Kurosawa that we discussed on the podcast, several years ago, and this remains one of my all time favorite movies, period. It also features one of my favorite Criterion Collection covers as well. This new Dual-Format release is a real treat, and I would highly recommend you add this to your list for your January home video grocery shopping.
The reviews have started going up, and I’ll be sure to update this post as I come across more of them.
“Recently restored in 2K, Throne of Blood looks very good in high-definition. Close-ups convey pleasing depth, while the large panoramic shots boast very good fluidity. (This is still the case even in the sequences with the prominent fog; see screencaptures #5 and 9). Contrast and sharpness levels remain stable throughout the entire film. Additionally, shadow definition is greatly improved and many of the darker sequences now look substantially stronger. The blacks, grays, and whites are also beautifully balanced. There are no traces of problematic degraning. Compromising sharpening adjustments also have not been applied. Predictably, from start to finish the film has a solid organic look. Finally, there are no serious stability issues. Some extremely minor scratches remain, more than likely because they could not be fully removed with current digital tools without affecting the integrity of the image, but there are absolutely no large cuts, damage marks, debris, or stains to report in this review.”
“Solid upgrade from the 10-year old Criterion DVD. Everything is visually superior in the 1080P transfer, more layered contrast, sharper, a hint of textured grain, more information in the frame etc. Audio goes linear PCM in original mono and Masaru Satô (The Lower Depths, Hidden Fortress, I Live in Fear etc.) score sounds excellent, if predictably flat. As with the DVD Criterion offer two different subtitle translations – Hoaglund and Richie’s. The former more classical and literal. It’s nice to have the choice as it’s akin to watching another film – the translations can be that different.”
“Image detail and textures are uniformly strong in most cases, while the film’s heavy use of fog doesn’t pose much of a problem. Black levels are fairly consistent, no flagrant digital imperfections were spotted and a pleasing layer of film grain is also visible from start to finish. The source material obviously wasn’t in perfect condition but fans should be quite pleased with Throne of Blood’s strong and stable appearance on Blu-ray, especially compared to Criterion’s 2003 standard definition release.”
“It was no real surprise that the Blu-ray’s presentation offers a [big] improvement over the original DVD, and it certainly does, but I was pretty surprised when I popped in the new DVD: the DVD is better as well, significantly so. Despite all of the strengths of the original DVD the transfer suffered from evident compression noise, which the Blu-ray nicely disposes of. Noise is also no longer as big a concern on the new DVD’s presentation as well and the image is far cleaner and more natural here. It isn’t as sharp as the Blu-ray’s transfer but upscaled it still manages to look very nice.”
“Featuring a new, restored 2K digital film transfer, Throne of Blood is a glorious sight. Though some print detritus remains, particularly noticeable in fades, the detail is strong and contrast superbly defined. Filmed using 35mm (1.37:1 aspect ratio – which is how it is presented here), there is pleasing depth throughout. The use of telephoto lenses – a common Kurosawa tool – expectedly flattens the image, but in close-ups and standard shots as the tensions rise in the Fort Castle, you will see a vivid image displaying of strong dimension.”
“Criterion works their magic again – Throne of Blood receives a marvelous high-def upgrade on this BD edition. Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the 1080p transfer here is revelatory: there may be rampant instances where the print utilized certainly looks its age, but one can’t fault Criterion for that. And the movie’s LPCM sound mix is also top-of-the-line. Every Kurosawa fan is going to need this one.”
The new digital transfer of Throne of Blood was created in 2K resolution on a DFT Scanity film scanner from the original 35mm fine-grain master positive; the film’s original negative no longer exists. MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean were employed to manually remove thousands of instances of dirt, scratches, debris, flicker, warps, cinch marks, and jitter, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used as well for a small amount of dirt, gain, and noise management. The ending result was encoded onto Blu-ray in AVC/MPEG-4 1080p in the film’s original 1.37:1 aspect ratio. While the image is not flawless, it is by far one of the best looking versions of Throne of Blood yet. It’s not a film that will probably ever look fantastic, given its smokey settings, but when the scenes allow, there is a lot of sharp detail and wide contrast extracted by Criterion’s efforts.