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Fantoma Films presents
Red Angel (1966)

"There are so many things that I'd like to forget."
- Nurse Sakura Nishi (Ayako Wakao)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga  
Published: October 17, 2006

Stars: Ayako Wakao
Other Stars: Shinsuke Ashida, Yusuke Kawazu
Director: Yasuzo Masumura

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (graphic violence)
Run Time: 01h:34m:44s
Release Date: October 17, 2006
UPC: 695026704720
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ A-B+B- D+

DVD Review

The war film has been mined to the far depths, generating as many classics as clunkers. The nearly forgotten 1966 classic, Red Angel, directed by Yasuzo Masumura (best known for the off-the-wall 1969 horror film, Moju), seems like a typical war film on the surface. However, much new ground is broken, as far as depicting post-battle medical care and establishing a new frontier for gore.

This bleak depiction of the Sino-Japanese War in 1939 focuses on a gorgeous nurse named Sakura Nishi (Ayako Wakao). She works on the front lines, where countless wounded soldiers are treated. Unfortunately, said treatment often results in arm and/or leg amputations, leaving these poor souls wishing they were dead. After being cornered and raped by a group of patients, Nishi finds herself feeling sorry for the ringleader, whom she learns is later killed in the war. She then cares for an armless trooper (Yusuke Kawazu), who asks her to pleasure him. Nishi obliges the soldier, giving him happiness he never thought he would ever feel again.

Nishi endures a few post transfers, but winds up back working with Dr. Okabe (Shinsuke Ashida). Despite their age difference and his morphine addiction, Nishi and Okabe fall in love. Seeing an opportunity to save him as well, Nishi offers to give herself unconditionally to Okabe if he will stop using morphine. His decision and her undying love just might be enough for this couple to overcome the inherent boundaries of war.

Director Yasuzo Masumura is way ahead of his time in his depiction of blood and guts on the silver screen. At times, he approaches Dawn of the Dead levels, especially during the numerous operating table sequences, where the number of amputees grows exponentially. Sure, the black and white limits the experience to some degree, but with buckets of limbs on display and the sounds of flesh and bone being separated from bodies, the audience more than gets the picture of this pain and suffering. We don't hear Masumura's name tossed around much when it comes to modern horror filmmakers citing their influences, but I'm sure anyone that's seen this or any of his other works, has come away with some brilliant ideas for their own projects.

The tail end, involving the doctor's violent morphine withdrawal, is even more harrowing, truly highlighting the brilliance of Ayako Wakao's performance. This undeniable beauty is a Masumura regular, but she gives her best turn her. Also serving as our narrator, Wakao is charming, tugging at our heartstrings with each sacrifice she makes to help these wounded soldiers. The movie would not be the same without her, despite Masumura's brilliance, and this performance will have you seeking out her other projects on DVD.

This is the ultimate tale of healing, as Nurse Nishi, after overcoming a series of patient deaths, saves the life of her true love in a unique way. With all of the carnage, amputations, and death surrounding her, Nishi still manages to change the lives of nearly everyone she touches. In times of such brutal war and disease, Nishi rarely can actually save these soldiers' and doctors' lives, but she thrives on saving their souls.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This brand new, 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer has Red Angel looking better than ever. The pristine grays and deep blacks enhance the images remarkably, which are sharp and more detailed than a 40-year-old movie should be. There are a few inherent specks of dirt and grain, but eliminating all of those is a tall order.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The mono audio is nothing to show off your home theater with, but it still does a solid job. The dialogue is crystal clear, as it blends in quite well with the nice score. There are a few combat scenes, but the sounds of war are held back by the standard restrictions of a mono track.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: The small extras collection consists of a biography and filmography for director Yasuzo Masumura, a photo gallery, and the theatrical trailer.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Rarely seen, let alone known among mainstream moviegoers, Yasuzo Masumura's Red Angel is a groundbreaking, harrowing look at wartime in Japan. Powered by Ayako Wakao's wonderful performance, the film reaches DVD via Fantoma and features excellent audio and video, but not much in the way of extras.


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