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The incomparable Toshiro Mifune stars in Akira Kurosawa's visually stunning and darkly comic Yojimbo (The Bodyguard). In order to rid a village of corruption, masterless samurai Sanjuro turns a range war between two evil clans to his own advantage. Remade both as A Fistful of Dollars and, more recently, Last Man Standing, this exhilarating gangster-Western remains one of the most influential and entertaining genre-twisters ever produced. Criterion is proud to present Yojimbo in a luminous Tohoscope transfer.

Picture 5/10

Criterion’s original DVD edition for Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo presents the film in the aspect ratio of about 2.35:1 on a single-layer disc. The image has not been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

Though not terrible we get a fairly uneventful non-anamorphic transfer. The image is a bit soft and fuzzy, lacking much in the way of definition. Contrast is okay, but can be too dark or too bright, almost blooming, in places, and the print used is still in poor shape, displaying scratches and nicks throughout the film. The digital transfer itself is not too bad, with some noise and artifacts present.

Greatly improved upon by Criterion’s new DVD and Blu-ray editions, this edition is pretty much a non-issue. But at the time it was still a fairly average non-anamorphic transfer.

Audio 4/10

The mono track sounds rough around the edges, with some damage still present (like scratches and pops) and some edginess, but dialogue sounds fairly natural and music could sound worse (not exactly a ringing endorsement I know.)

Extras 1/10

A theatrical trailer is the only notable feature on here. Alexander Sesonske also provides a brief but somewhat informative essay on the film in the included insert. The new DVD and Blu-ray editions add on a commentary and a documentary, clearly improving over this edition.


Disappointing original edition for the film with mediocre sound and video, and no supplements. Thankfully Criterion would revisit the film and improve upon this edition greatly.

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Directed by: Akira Kurosawa
Year: 1961
Time: 110 min.
Series: The Criterion Collection
Edition #: 52
Licensor: Toho Co.
Release Date: September 21 1999
MSRP: $29.95
1 Disc | DVD-5
2.35:1 ratio
Japanese 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles: English
Region 1
 Theatrical trailer   Insert featuring an essay by Alexander Sesonske