Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I remember fondly those days before cable TV and VCRs, before the complete media saturation we enjoy today with on-demand and Netflix and easily downloadable porn. Here in Baltimore County if we wanted to watch movies we had to watch what was on the broadcast channels: Channel 45, Channel 5, Channel 20, and Channel 11 would show the same rotation of films over and over, and typically Kelly's Heroes, Patton, Phantasm, Let's Scare Jessica to Death, or one of Sergio Leone's Clint Eastwood vehicles was on. One of the films I saw about a billion times was A Fistful of Dollars. Sergio Leone based that particular spaghetti western on Kurasawa's Yojimbo, and it's interesting to see the source material for a film I know inside-out.

Despite its reputation, I must admit Yojimbo was disappointing. It's certainly not bad, but compared to Hidden Fortress or Ran or Rashomon or any of a half-dozen other Kurasawa greats it's a quirky novelty, half Western, half French New Wave, half samurai pic. Yojimbo is a samurai with no master--he shows up in a run-down town beset by gangs competing for supremacy and decides to cash in using his skills as a swordsman. "I can make money killing here," he tells the innkeeper. "And this town is full of people who deserve to die." He plays both sides for cash, ends up doing the noble thing a couple times contrary to his fiscal benefit, and almost everybody gets whacked.

Most unusual are the presence of severe scratches at many points. Criterion did a reasonably good job with their DVD, but not the full monty digital repair.


Nick said...

I'll have to check the copy I just got over in Salt Lake to see if it has the scratches as well. Criterion is usually tops so they probably did the best they could.

Speaking if which, I recently went Kuro-azy (sorry) at the new FYEs that opened over there in Utah. Why is Balt. so disappointing when it comes to retail--J0e T00bin all told had more film variety on his bedroom shelf than the FYEs out here--out in Salt Lake? Their USED section was almost the same size as their vast regular section. A regular section which also included a Criterion category and I found Criterion discs used--Red Beard and Throne of Blood $15! Add grand opening sale of 25% off all used dvds and NEW box sets, slap 10% shoppers card discount on top of that and I was very happy!! I got the Kurosawa Samurai box set Seven Samurai / The Hidden Fortress / Yojimbo / Sanjuro for like $40 the price of Seven Samurai by itself (of course new improved three disc 7 samurai Criterion edition due out soon)

I hope Yojimbo isn't too shoddy for me, I haven't seen a boring Kurosawa film yet. How many of his modern day films have you seen--like Stray Dog, Ikiru, Bad Sleep Well etc.?

geoff said...

Saw Ikiru, and have Stray Dog on the way from Netflix in the next couple weeks. Ikiru rules.

Don't know about retail here vs. Utah. Seems weird--liberal east coast urban intelligentsia vs. reactionary conservative close-minded red-staters (of course I'm using BS stereotyping) one would think there'd be street vendors hawking Criterion discs here on every corner and that the only DVD avail there would be Osmonds and Passion of Christ.

One note: my bro Pork Heaven has purchased many Criterion DVDs used and in excellent condition (likely stolen new from Borders--ha) at that used CD store in Fell's Point called Soundgarden.

$40 for that boxed set is a MAJOR SCORE.

geoff said...

Oh, and I don't think Yojimbo is boring at all. It's really good, but not as towering an edifice as the others I've seen.

Nick said...

Hey--thanks for the soundgarden tip. I have not been down there in many years but maybe I'll check it out. They do like the hot mech tho--a good friend used to work there and gave me the news.

Man, this is perfect weather for Stray Dog--you will see what I mean! Young Mifune with Shimura.

I also doubled my Carpenter collection--12 films now, ten left. Of course that's supposing that they rerelease Body Bags and put Elvis and Someone's Watching Me on DVD. Yeah, right. Got my own copy of Dawn Of The Dead--we need to hook up so you can get yours back!

Have you ever heard Crazy Horses by the Osmonds?? Heh heh

Anonymous said...

In reference to your blog you CAN NOT go without the mention of the Jerry Lewis/Dean Martin movies that were on every Sunday afternoon AND the endliess godzilla flicks that we had Japenese! OH and what about BEN HER that was on every fucking weekend and Bridge Over the River Kwai. You can't even find any of that shit now on 150 channels of cable. (For some of that I am thankful!)
Lil Sis

geoff said...

Yeah, Jerry Lewis solo catastrophes like Hook, Line, and Sinker, and Don Knotts movies like Hot to Frame a Fig.

And Pink Panther.

We had it worse than most because we had no cable in Millers or Red Lion--into the early '90s. Gave us more time to read books instead of watching MTV like everybody else.

geoff said...

That should say HOW to Frame a Fig! Hot to Frame a Fig was an entirely different film.