Written by: Michael Den Boer on September 29th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, February 15th, 1975
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Writers: Tatsuhiko Kamoi, Fumio Konami, Hiro Matsuda
Cast: Tetsuya Watari, Tatsuo Umemiya, Yumi Takigawa, Eiji Go
DVD Released: September 7th, 2004
Approximate Running Time: 93 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
DVD Release: Home Vision
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
“What a laugh, 30 years of Madness.” – Rikio Ishikawa
Graveyard of Honor is loosely based on the life of Rikio Ishikawa an infamous member of the Yakuza. The film takes place in post world war two in Japan and Ishikawa’s (Tetsuya Watari) violent outbursts leads to him going to jail. When he is released his gang banishes him to Osaka for a period of ten years in which he is not to return to Tokyo during this time. He quickly gets bored with Osaka and by this time he has developed a drug habit so he returns to Tokyo. To uncontrollable for his own good he betrays his boss once again which lead to him going back to prison.
Kinji Fukasaku ended the 1960’s as marginal B-film director and with the success of the Battle Without Honor or Humanity series he had moved to the top the pack gaining unheard of freedom from the studio system. Fukasaku hit his creative peak in the 1970’s as he helped reshape the Yakuza film in Japan. Over a six year period between 1970 and 1976 Fukasaku experience a burst in creativity. His films from this period are some of the most brutal and influential Japanese films to ever emerge from Japan. In 1976 Fukasaku would release Graveyard of Honor his most violent and chaotic film to date. Graveyard of Honor is the quintessential Japanese gangster film that obviously had a strong influence on American gangster films that followed it like Martin Scorsese’s Goddfella’s.
Tetsuya Watari who plays the lead Rikio Ishikawa is best known for his role as Tetsuya Hondo in Seijun Suzuki’s Tokyo Drifter. In Graveyard of Honor, Watari is one mean son of bitch. The scene when his boss is beating him to a bloody pulp with a stick when Ishikawa finely has had enough and he attacks his boss with a blade stabbing and slicing him several times. Ishikawa’s relationship with Chieko is beyond strange. He meets when his is hiding from a rival gang and he asks her to hide his gun and when he comes back from his gun he rapes her. The more sadistic he gets with her the more she cares for him. Kinji Fukasaku use of Sepia tone is nicely done and it adds to the films documentary style. The highlight of the film is the powerful performance Tetsuya Watari who embodies his characters insanity perfectly when Ishikawa eats Chieko’s ashes. Graveyard of Honor is an explosion of violence that perfectly captures the turmoil and essence of post war Japan.
Home Vision has given Graveyard of Honor a new anamorphic transfer that retains the films original 2:35:1 aspect ratio. This new transfer restores the films vivid colors and flesh tones look natural. The black levels are solid as grain is kept to a minimum and the overall detail for this transfer is exceptional. The only audio option on this release is the films original Japanese audio track and English subtitles which are easy to read and follow have been included. The audio track is free of any distortion or hiss. Home Vision’s Graveyard of honor is on par with their Street Mobster release. Extras include Graveyard of Honor original trailer and trailers for the The Yakuza Papers (Volumes 1-5), Graveyard of Honor and HVe Zatoichi Trailer. Tom Mes author of Agitator: The cinema of Takashi Miike provides liner notes for this release are insightful and informative. Rounding out the extras is two featurette’s, A Portrait of Rage which runs about twenty minutes in length and On The Set With Fukasaku a five-minute segment with Kenichi Oguri who was the assistant director on Graveyard of Honor. The extras for this DVD have more substance then Home Vision’s Street Mobster release. Fans of Yakuza films or Kinji Fukasaku rejoice Graveyard of Honor in another excellent release from Home Vision and if you haven’t seen this film yet check it out ASAP.