Unboxing and Review: Film Movement Brings Hideo Gosha’s SAMURAI WOLF 1 & 2 to Blu-ray

Isao Natsuyagi plays a conscientious but deadly ronin in Hideo Gosha’s late 60s samurai duology. His name is Kiba, but those who encounter him are more likely to call him by his nickname: Wolf.

He’s handsome, charming, stylish with a sword and quick to flash a roguish smile, but also beset by difficulties: unlucky in love and often forced by circumstances to fight.

It’s certainly not an uncommon observation that samurai films are often similar to westerns, but the thought is particularly apt with these titles and their plots. In the first film, Kiba is hired to protect a wagon bearing a shipment of gold. In the sequel, he establishes a shaky alliance with a desperate outlaw, against their common enemies.

In both films, the sword-fighting is particularly notable for both its stylization and violence. Gosha employs several techniques to make his sequences stand apart from genre fare and put the viewer off-balance: Dutch angles, slow motion, freeze frames, and even punctuations of silence in the audio. Critical hits are notably gory for the time; geysers of black blood spray out when a blade finds its mark.

Kiba maintains honor and integrity in a rough world where others won’t necessarily do the same, but it’s always interesting when he encounters a foe who does: maybe these guys would be friends if they weren’t on opposite sides of whatever is the current conflict. (In one memorable scene, Kiba asks a challenger to delay their battle so he can fulfill his contract in progress, protecting a convoy. The challenger, trusting him to honor the fight, agrees).

Compared to its contemporaries, the Samurai Wolf saga isn’t as fun as Zatoichi, nor as masterful as Kurosawa, but it does have a certain unique flavor, steeped in tragedy and violence and featuring an appealing hard-luck hero.

The Package / Unboxing

Film Movement’s Blu-ray edition of Samurai Wolf 1 & 2 is a single disc volume with both films with extras. Putting all the content on one disc might sound bad, but being black and white films, they’re not as huge as typical full color movie files. I had no problems with the quality of this product or its one-disc format.

The Blu-ray disc is housed in a clear case and includes a slipcover. On my copy the slipcover was a bit wide for the case, causing it to sit very loosely.

Also included is a 20-page booklet with notes by author Robin Gatto.

Special Features and Extras

Outlaw Director: Hideo Gosha (15:38)
Interview with the director’s daughter, Tomoe Gosha.

Audio Commentary with author Chris Poggiali

Hideo Gosha Trailers
HD Trailers for all three titles in Film Movement’s new Hideo Gosha release lineup. These appear to be newly cut trailers for these restorations, featuring Film Movement logos and updated titles.
Samurai Wolf (1:31)
Samurai Wolf 2: Hell Cut (1:24)
Violent Streets (1:31)

Film Movement Ad (1:26)

A/V Out.

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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.

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