What's new

Three Outlaw Samurai Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Matt Hough

Senior HTF Member
Apr 24, 2006
Charlotte, NC
Real Name
Matt Hough

When one hears the phrase “Japanese samurai movie,” naturally one’s thoughts immediately go to Akira Kurosawa who directed some of the finest ones ever made. But Hideo Gosha’s Three Outlaw Samurai can hold its head high alongside the Kurosawa classics. Not generally known in the West, Hideo Gosha specialized in samurai and yakuza films, and this movie, his first feature, shows him off to a sterling start in a story that’s alive with fierce action and some thoughtful passages on the nature of pride and loyalty.

Three Outlaw Samurai (Blu-ray)
Directed by Hideo Gosha

Studio: Criterion
Year: 1964
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1   1080p   AVC codec
Running Time: 95 minutes
Rating: NR
Audio: PCM 1.0 Japanese
Subtitles: English

Region: A
MSRP: $ 29.99

Release Date: February 14, 2012

Review Date: February 9, 2012

The Film


Samurai Sakon Shira (Tetsuro Tamba) stumbles onto a dispute between downtrodden peasants and the corrupt local magistrate (Tatsuya Ishiguro). In their desperation for their petition to be heard, the peasants have kidnapped the magistrate’s daughter Aya (Miyuki Kuwano), and the angry magistrate has sent a gang of thugs posing as samurai to get her back. Two legitimate samurai housed with the magistrate, Sakura (Isamu Nagato) and Kikyo (Mikijiro Hira), have hung back from the pack, but Sakura, seeing the thugs ganging up on the outnumbered peasants, switches sides and kills the gang. From then on, negotiations and alliances are made and broken regularly in attempting to get Aya back home to her father, but when Aya realizes how ruthless and unfair her father has been in making promises and then breaking them, she begins to reconsider her own values and begins to feel sympathy especially for the samurai warriors who have been dragged into a fight that really isn’t theirs.

Unlike many of Kurosawa’s samurai films which paint very clear differences between good and evil, Gosha’s movie is much cloudier in its morals and ethics, and the tone is definitely less noble and much more ironically downbeat. The script by Gosha, Keiichi Abe, and Eizaburo Shiba doesn’t give the peasants much moral high ground, and the ending goes beyond bittersweet to something closer to nihilism. Gosha’s direction tends to dwell quite a bit on close-ups of faces, most effective even when things are particularly violent, and the action set pieces are spread pretty uniformly throughout the movie. (One in a bamboo forest is particularly exhilarating, and Shira’s beating sequence is the film’s most breathtaking scene: shot with impressive use of montage and brutal sound effects.) The script does try to shoehorn a couple of love stories into the scenario, but they just don’t fit and are admirably dropped without much elaboration. More problematic is the development of Aya’s character whose support of her father ebbs and flows without much practical reasoning. It’s the weakest element in the development of the characters which otherwise holds the attention quite well.

Tetsuro Tamba was the biggest star in the film at the time, and his performance here only added to his allure. He’s mesmerizing as a stoic samurai risking life and limb for a cause not his own. He doesn’t need to say a word or move a muscle to completely dominate any film frame, and he emerges at the end as the movie’s only truly triumphant character, as thankless and unappreciated as he is. Isamu Nagato seems to have been studying Toshiro Mifune’s various samurais as his Sakura scratches and plays the fool on occasion in a very enjoyable performance. As the samurai who enjoys a life of leisure while coasting on his deadly reputation, Mikijiro Hira’s Kikyo offers a definite counterpoint to the film’s other two warriors and does well by doing little. The women are less interesting: Miyuki Kuwano’s Aya and Toshie Kimura’s Oine do a great deal of whimpering, but they both do rise to the occasion when they declare themselves to their various superiors.

Video Quality


The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Sharpness is astonishing throughout the presentation, and there is much detail to be seen in faces, clothes, and sets. The grayscale offers a crisp picture downgraded just a bit by black levels which don’t reach the ultimate points of depth. Shadow detail, however, is marvelously realized. The white subtitles are very easy to read. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.

Audio Quality


The PCM 1.0 (1.1 Mbps) sound mix makes a strong case for itself despite its decades of age. There is some slight hiss and one sequence where flutter is especially prominent. Otherwise, dialogue has been nicely recorded, sound effects are well balanced in the mix (though there’s one spot where something added to the mix sounds very awkwardly placed), and the sparse music by Toshiaki Tsushima never intrudes on the scenes.

Special Features


The film’s theatrical trailer is presented in 1080p and runs for 2 ½ minutes.

The enclosed 15-page booklet features cast and crew lists, illustrations of the film’s stars, and an important essay by film critic Bilge Ebiri which offers background information on the director’s career and an analysis of the film in this package.

The Criterion Blu-rays include a maneuvering tool called “Timeline” which can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc and the title of the chapter you’re now in. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.

In Conclusion

4/5 (not an average)

Three Outlaw Samurai should whet Westerners’ appetites for more of Hideo Gosha’s cinematic output. Though this release is barren of the extensive bonus materials that usually accompany Criterion’s releases, the film looks and sounds splendid. Recommended!

Matt Hough

Charlotte, NC


Users who are viewing this thread

Sign up for our newsletter

and receive essential news, curated deals, and much more

You will only receive emails from us. We will never sell or distribute your email address to third party companies at any time.

Similar Threads

Forum statistics

Latest member
Recent bookmarks
SVS Outlet Sale