• Brutal Tales Of Chivalry

    Released by: Twilight Time Releasing
    Released on: May 16th, 2017.
    Director: Kiyoshi Saeki
    Cast: Ken Takakura, Ryô Ikebe, Yoshiko Mita, Shinjirô Ehara
    Year: 1965
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    The Movie:

    A film that would launch eight sequels, 1965’s Toei production Brutal Tales Of Chivalry, directed by Kiyoshi Saeki, is set shortly after the end of the Second World War. Japan has obviously been reduced to a shadow of it once was in terms of its military, but in amongst the ruins of parts of Tokyo there are still people very much trying to figure out their existence.

    The members of the Kozu-gumi yakuza clan are doing what they can to keep the grain coming in but a rival clan, a younger group known as the Shinsei-kai, are intent on putting a wrench in the works. This comes to a head when the aged leader of the Kozu-gumi is shot dead by the young upstart who leads the Shinsei-kai. Before the old man passes, he names Seiji Terajima (Ken Takakura) as his successor, ordering him not to use violence against the Shinsei-kai.

    Seiji takes on the new mantle of leader but runs into trouble when the rest of his clan wants to pay the Shinsei-kai back in kind. Regardless of the strife this cause him, he keeps his word. Meanwhile, the woman he loves, Aya (Yoshiko Mita)¸has been married off to a well to do politically connected man named Kiyo (Shinjirô Ehara).While this is going on, a yakuza from the next district over, Kazama (Ryo Ikebe), observes Seiji’s conundrum and admires dedication, but as the Shinsei-kai becomes increasingly aggressive and even more violent, Seiji finds he may have no choice but to fight back.

    Almost a polar opposite to the hard hitting and more realistic yakuza films that would be made popular only a few years later by the likes of Kinji Fuksaku and his Battles Without Honor And Humanity series, Brutal Tale Of Chivalry is no less engaging or effective. It really serves as a film of stark contrast, with Seiji’s clan adhering to old traditions dictated by a sense of nobility and honor and the Shinsei-kai out only for themselves. The ending might seem a bit predictable by the time you get there, but so too is it inevitable and wholly appropriate given the character development and buildup that takes us through the story. The film very much deals in the rituals and traditions of the yakuza, clearly presenting the Kozu-gumi as the good guys in the film. Yes, these men operate on the black market and work outside the law but their strict moral code, the very one to which Seiji himself adheres, might not be the most realistic of plot devices, but Kiyoshi Saeki makes it work.

    The film is very well shot. The cinematography early on shows us a Tokyo that has clearly seen better days. The city is suffering from post war problems and it makes sense that gangs would emerge out of this the way that they do. Production values impress, with some great camerawork helping to amp up the tension and simultaneously conjure up some interesting compositions. The film’s score also works quite well in the context of the picture’s tone.

    As to the performances, the supporting players all do fine work but leading man Ken Takakura steals the show here (just as he’d go on to do in many other yakuza films over the course of his career). His Seiji is both sympathetic and dangerous and as the walls start closing in on him it’s fascinating to watch the actor let his character evolve accordingly.


    Twilight Time brings Brutal Tales Of Chivalry to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed properly in the film’s original 2.35.1 widescreen aspect ratio on a 25GB disc. Generally the picture quality here is quite good. Some softness inherent in the original photography is noticeable but there aren’t any issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement. If detail here isn’t reference quality, it’s quite good and there’s decent texture on display as well. Colors look good as well, even if they are a bit dark in a few spots.

    The Japanese language DTS-HD Mono mix is fine and free of any major problems. There's some shrillness in the high end in a couple of spots and one or two scenes that are a little on the flat side but that’s nitpicking. For the most part, the disc sounds just fine and while the mix isn't going to serve as home theater demo material but it sounds quite good.

    The only real extra on the disc is Brutal Tales Of Filmmaking, a fifteen minute long video interview with producer Toru Yoshida. In this piece he speaks about casting the picture, the importance of the two leads, working with director Kiyoshi Saeki and how he feels about his particular entry in the series compared to the later films that would follow in its wake.

    Aside from that we get menus and chapter selection. Inside the clear Blu-ray case is an insert booklet of liner notes written by Julie Kirgo that focus on Ken Takakura’s involvement in the picture and which makes some interesting observations about his character and the contrasts that exist between him and other people that populate the film in terms of honor, tradition and greed as well as the importance of the film’s post war climate. The booklet also contains some stills from the film as well as its original Japanese theatrical poster art alongside credits for the feature and the disc.

    The Final Word:

    More extras are always welcome but otherwise, no complaints. Twilight Time’s Blu-ray release of Brutal Tales Of Chivalry looks and sounds very good and the interview with the film’s producer is interesting. As to the movie itself, it’s not only an undeniably influential film but a well-made piece of riveting cinema deftly mixing character development, drama and tense action.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!