The Warped World of Koreyoshi Kurahara
Over the course of his varied career, Koreyoshi Kurahara made meticulous noirs, jazzy juvenile-delinquency pictures, and even nature films. His free-form approach to moviemaking was perfectly suited to the radical spirit of the 1960s, when he was one of the biggest hit makers working at the razzle-dazzle, youth-oriented Nikkatsu studios. The five films collected here hail from that era of the Japanese New Wave, and encompass breathless teen escapades, cruel crime stories, a Yukio Mishima adaptation, and even a Hollywood-inspired romantic comedy.
Criterion’s aptly named Eclipse set, The Warped World of Koreyoshi Kurahara, the 28th set in the series, presents five of the director’s films including Intimidation, The Warped Ones, I Hate But Love, Black Sun, and Thirst for Love over five single-layer discs. The aspect ratios all vary and are respectively in 2.20:1, 2.35:1, 2.35:1, 2.25:1, and 2.45:1, with all being enhanced for widescreen televisions. I Hate But Love has slim back bars on either side of the frame for reasons unknown to m, but the rest fill out the left and right ends of the screen.
The problems vary between all five films but none of them look particularly great. Intimidation, a black and white film, is in the roughest condition print wise with many blemishes and defects, including obvious and continuous splices. Scratches are also consistent and other minor blemishes are always present. The digital transfer, though, may be one of the better ones. Contrast leaves a bit to be desired, and blacks look very washed out (a problem across all of the films unfortunately) but the transfer is the more stable one and the least noisy.
The other black and white films, starting with The Warped Ones and Thirst for Love both look a little blown out, where whites overpower the image and can bleed in to everything. Admittedly this could be intentional but it does look odd. Black Sun can get a little too dark but contrast appears a bit better. Unfortunately blacks across all three again look washed to varying degrees, details can get lost in them. Noise is noticeable throughout the three, as are minor halos. The prints also show general wear and tear and some fairly big scratches, but these aren’t as constant as they are in Intimidation.
I Hate But Love, the sole colour film in the set, also has a very washed look, delivering incredibly dull colours and no depth at all. The image is never super sharp here, always looking a little soft with details disappearing into the background, especially in longer shots. I also found jagged edges to be a very noticeable problem here.
Overall none of the films look particularly good but all have their own good aspects and their own bad aspects. Though all are watchable it doesn’t look like a lot has gone into them.
Each film provides a Japanese Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track. None of these are particularly great, all of them sounding tinny to differing degrees (Intimidation may be the worst in this regard) and they also sound muffled. Music can be edgy and background noise is noticeable. None of them are horrendous but again it sounds like very little has gone into these.
As with most Eclipse sets there are no disc supplements but Chuck Stephens provides some great liner notes for each film, providing some context and history.
For me this is one of the more middling Eclipse releases I’ve come across. The films are all energetic and fun, even slightly warped (hence the title of the set I guess) but the presentations are one of the more lackluster ones in the ones I’ve seen. Still for the films alone I do give it a recommendation.