High and Low

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Toshiro Mifune stars as a wealthy industrialist whose family becomes the target of a ruthless kidnapper in Akira Kurosawa's exemplary film noir. Based on Ed McBain's detective novel King's Ransom, High and Low is both a riveting thriller and a brilliant commentary on contemporary Japanese society. Criterion is proud to present High and Low in a luminous new Tohoscope transfer with new electronic subtitles.

Picture 5/10

This original release of High and Low is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this dual-layered disc. It has unfortunately not been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

This transfer is a bit of a mess. Sharpness and detail varies throughout, though I can't say the image is ever that sharp. Edge-enhancement is noticeable in places, and jaggies also show up. As well the print itself is in incredibly rough shape. Hairs, scratches, tears, and dirt make an appearance all throughout.

Black levels are always off, though not in the same way. Some sequences present blacks that are too deep, too dark, and then in others they come off as a darker gray. Contrast is all over the place, sometimes creating blindingly bright whites in some sequences, and then those off blacks in others, also leading to darker scenes that are near impossible to see.

With Criterion's recent track record their re-release will more than likely be a huge step up, which this film desperately needs. It's a disappointing transfer.

Audio 4/10

It's a below average mono track. Some background noise, some distortion, and some harsh moments, specifically in the score. Voices also sound a little distorted. Another disappointing aspect to this disc.

Extras 1/10

The biggest disappointment, though, would be the supplements: There are none. Priced at $39.95, a price usually reserved for Criterion's bigger, more loaded editions, this only makes the lack of supplements even more aggravating. The only item included is an essay on the film by Chuck Stephens, included as an insert. It's a decent read, but not worth the extra $10.


Thankfully Criterion is re-releasing this title as a 2-disc special edition, still priced at $39.95, making this one even more questionable. Combining price, the lack luster audio and video, and the non-existent supplements, this easily makes this disc one of their most disappointing releases. I only hope their next release does it right.

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Directed by: Akira Kurosawa
Year: 1963
Time: 143 min.
Series: The Criterion Collection
Edition #: 24
Licensor: Toho Co.
Release Date: October 13 1998
MSRP: $39.95
1 Disc | DVD-9
2.35:1 ratio
Japanese 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles: English
Regions 1/2/3/4/5/6
 Insert featuring an essay by Chuck Stephens