Blu-Ray Rating: ****

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Read Anton Bitel's film review of Onibaba

After giving Onibaba its first UK release on DVD in 2005, Eureka! has now re-released it on Blu-ray, again as part of its estimable The Masters Of Cinema Series, in a new 1080p HD trasfer.

The Blu's disc extras are exactly the same as the DVD's. There is a six-minute video introduction by Alex Cox comparing and contrasting Onibaba with Shindo's earlier The Naked Island (1960). The full audio commentary (recorded in 2000, Japanese with English subtitles) by writer/director Kaneto Shindo and stars Kei Sato and Jitsuko Yoshimura discusses, among other things, the difficulty of finding - and filming in - a field of susuki grass, the superiority of black-and-white film for clarity and stirring the imagination, and Shindo's insistence that his small cast and crew lived and slept on set for the months of shooting.

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There is an extraordinary and important visual document to be found in the 40 minutes of Super-8 footage (part black-and-white, part colour) shot on location by Kei Sato, although the (understandable) absence of a commentary or 'packaging' ensures that these orphaned silent images are unlikely to keep the attention of anyone but cinephile completists.

The disc is made complete by the original trailer and a gallery of production stills and promotional art. Perhaps the biggest change is to the illustrated accompanying booklet, expanded from 24 to 36 pages. This features an analytic essay (from 2005) by Doug Cummings, a lengthy statement of intent from Shindo himself (written in 2004) and a more politicised interview with him conducted by Joan Mellen in 1972. There is also a translated version of the original Shin Buddhist fable (A Mask With Flesh Scared A Wife), not, in fact, set in wartime at all, which nonetheless inspired aspects of Shindo's screenplay.

Reviewed on: 25 Feb 2013
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An impoverished mother turns to murder as a method of survival at a time of civil war.
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Anton Bitel: DVD

Product Code: EKA70092

Region: B

Ratio: 2.35:1 OAR

Sound: Dolby digital, original mono

Extras: Commentary by writer/director Kaneto Shindo and actors Kei Sato and Jitsuko Yoshimura, introduction by Alex Cox, 8mm footage shot on location by Kei Sato, stills gallery, 36 page booklet

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