I first watched Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood (1957) six years ago. It was only the third film from Kurosawa I'd seen and I actually wrote a piece (which was really nothing more than an extended synopsis) after my first viewing right here, which is a rather interesting read six years removed.
I remember not entirely enjoying Throne of Blood, when I first watched it and reading the piece linked above I see I found it largely interesting due to the fact it's an adaptation of Shakespeare's "Macbeth" while I also take issue with the length of some scenes, a complaint I read now and realize how much my taste has changed since writing that post.
If you were to ask what I remembered of Throne of Blood before rewatching Criterion's newest Blu-ray upgrade, I'd say it would be 1.) the ghostly white spirits in Spiders' Web forest; 2.) the smoke-filled visuals of the trees that "moved" and 3.) the film's astonishing climax (watch below) that could be looked at as inspiration for everything from the death of Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde to Sonny Corleone in The Godfather.
Watching it again six years later I feel my appreciation for it has only grown, with any complaints I may have had about it previously washed away entirely. Speaking of which, it's funny to read a sentence I wrote back then saying, "While I don't believe Throne of Blood is all that great of a film when compared to other Kurosawa features, it is certainly worthy of mention." As I mentioned, this was only the third Kurosawa film I'd actually seen (the other two being Seven Samurai and Rashomon) and yet I felt it was appropriate to say it wasn't all the great when compare to other Kurosawa features.
While I'd probably rank films such as Seven Samurai, Ran, Rashomon, High and Low, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, Kagemusha, Ikiru and Dersu Uzala above Throne of Blood, at least I can say that now having seen more than just three of his films, while adding, Throne of Blood is quite good and Criterion's upgraded Blu-ray is a treat for any fans of the director and the film itself.
This Blu-ray upgrade doesn't deliver any differences in terms of included supplemental material as it brings everything over from the previously released DVD edition including the standard excerpt from the Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create discussing the making of the film, the trailer and the 2002 audio commentary featuring Japanese-film expert Michael Jeck, which serves as an excellent accompaniment to the Masterworks piece.
The most important takeaway from the supplemental material is Kurosawa's visual approach to the film in that he wanted to dramatize the narrative in the traditional style of the Japanese musical drama known as Noh. It explains a lot of the film's blocking as well as the facial expressions worn most prominently by Toshirô Mifune and Isuzu Yamada. This understanding alone gives me a greater respect for the film as well as Kurosawa, not to mention Mifune and Yamada's performances, though if Mifune has ever been prone to overacting I'd say this is one of his greatest examples, specifically the classic "Macbeth" scene where Yamada, as Lady Asaji, struggles to wash blood only she can see from her hands.
As with most all of Criterion's new releases, this includes both a DVD and Blu-ray edition of the film, as well as an included booklet featuring an essay titled Throne of Blood: Shakespeare Transposed by film historian Stephen Prince and notes on the inclusion of two different English subtitles available on the disc, one by Japanese-film translator Linda Hoaglund and another by Richie.
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Returning to watch Throne of Blood after six years was not only a treat due to Criterion's excellent Blu-ray upgrade, but also a reminder how our cinematic tastes continue to change over time. What I thought was slow when I first saw Throne of Blood only added to the narrative this time around as my patience for drama has certainly improved over years, especially in the comfortable hands of a director I can trust. It goes without saying Kurosawa is one such director.
You can pick up a copy of Throne of Blood on Criterion Blu-ray for yourself by clicking here.