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Home Vision Entertainment presents

Bloody Territories (Arakure) (1969)

“We’ve always been ready to die for our territory.”- Yuji (Akira Kobayashi)

Stars: Akira Kobayashi, Tatsuya Fuji, Ryoji Hayama, Tadao Nakamaru, Yuriko Hime, Yoshi Kato, Takamaru Sasaki, Bontaro Miake
Director: Yasuharu Hasebe

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, sexual situations, some language)
Run Time: 01h:27m:45s
Release Date: 2004-06-22
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ CB-B D+


DVD Review

Touted as key inspirations for Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill films, Home Vision, in association with the American Cinematheque, is releasing a pair of Japanese films from director Hasuharu Hasebe that characterize the kind material Tarantino so heavily borrowed. Actually, I find his two volumes owe more to the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone than Japanese crime films, but the importance of this genre on his filmmaking is unmistakable. As a result, Kill Bill (specifically Vol. 1) tends to suffer from the same problems as much its source material: dripping in style, thirsting for substance.

Bloody Territories is your typical yakuza film, but it falls short compared to other titles, including some also released by Home Vision (see Suzuki's Kanto Wanderer). It follows a standard plot line: A large crime organization is being dissolved in the wake of police pressure to legitimize. The Onogi clan, however, does not want to leave the way of the yakuza behind. Led by the aging, tradition-bound Boss Onogi, his cohorts, Yuji (icon Akira Kobayashi) and Seiichi are loyal to death. When the Kansai Association tries to take hold of the territories abandoned by Onogi's former allies, death seeps in and a war seems inevitable.

After Yuji's close friend Sabu is brutally murdered, he craves revenge. However, Onogi realizes their precarious position, and attempts to negotiate to avoid war. In the process of making amends through ritual and gambling, Onogi goes into deep debt. From here on out, it is a race against time to protect the Onogi's property and satisfy debt, revenge, and the thirst for power. Jinno, a higher up with the Kansai, sees opportunity in this struggle. He has been after the Onogi for years. Before the bloodbath is over, many parties will vie for power in a world where yakuza are becoming antiquated.

Through a haze of swift daggers to the abdomen and crimson arterial spray, the characters depicted here are pretty flat and lifeless. I never really cared about these people, aside from the fact that I didn't want to see them speared like kabobs out of an innate concern for fellow human beings. The villains and the so-called "good" guys just seem to be going through the motions, hoping for the paycheck and to move on to the next cheap caper. Director Hasebe seems to have the same attitude, hurting the film's stylistic potential. Clearly this was a rushed production, rife with clumsy telephoto camera moves, zooms, and poorly staged fights. The lighting and visuals are impressive at times, made dazzling by the dripping neon of late 1960s Tokyo.

Despite the thoroughly mediocre nature of this yakuza entry, there are glimmers of possibility. Set during a time of transition, the film begins to explore the problems inherent in any kind of major socioeconomic change. The yakuza system is breaking down, and many former criminals are now becoming legitimate businessmen. Some are embracing this new opportunity. Others, like the Onogi, do not wish to abandon their familiarity. When these issues, and some potential relationships begin to add some meat to the violent, misshapen plot, we cut back to forced sex scenes and the flash of a dagger. Too bad. As Kill Bill: Vol. 2 can attest, these kinds of genre films can be good when paired with solid characters and plot. With the last few frames, the piece suddenly turns into a cautionary tale, but it's not enough salvation from what crimes previously transpired.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Home Vision's transfer is somewhat of a disappointment. The anamorphic picture shows rich color, but is very soft, muting detail throughout. Some minor motion "jaggies" do crop up. Grain is also evident, but not as noticeable as the image’s overall haziness. This could be a problem with the source print.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The monaural audio is adequate, showcasing clear dialogue. The brassy score is preserved, as well. There is very minor hiss, but overall, this is a clean soundtrack.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Zatoichi series trailer
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The disc contains the film's theatrical trailer, a trailer for HVe's well-produced Zatoichi series, and a Hasebe filmography. There is also an insert with liner notes by Japanese film expert Chris D. His comments place the film in proper cinematic context, commenting on relevant Japanese history and the nature of the yakuza, avoiding commenting on the quality of the film. For a change of pace, the cover of the insert is a fine reproduction of the film's original poster.

Extras Grade: D+

Final Comments

Hasebe's mediocre yakuza film is heavy on the violence, sex and light on what matters. Home Vision's disc is adequate, but not up to the standard set by their previous efforts. Recommeded for die-hard yakuza fans only.

Matt Peterson 2004-06-20