Written by: Michael Den Boer on September 9th, 2017
Theatrical Release Dates: Japan, 1974 (New Battles Without Honor and Humanity), Japan, 1975 (The Boss’s Head), Japan, 1976 (Last Days of the Boss)
Director: Kinji Fukasaku (All Films)
Writers: Koichi Iiboshi, Fumio Kônami (New Battles Without Honor and Humanity), Susumu Saji, Kôji Takada (The Boss’s Head), Kôji Takada (Last Days of the Boss)
Cast: Bunta Sugawara, Hiroki Matsukata, Nobuo Kaneko, Tomisaburô Wakayama, Tsunehiko Watase, Kunie Tanaka, Noboru Andô, Seizô Fukumoto, Reiko Ike (New Battles Without Honor and Humanity), Bunta Sugawara, Tsunehiko Watase, Yuriko Hishimi, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Seizô Fukumoto, Masataka Iwao, Meiko Kaji, Sonny Chiba (The Boss’s Head), Bunta Sugawara, Isao Bitô, Takeo Chii, Takashi Ebata, Takuya Fujioka, Seizô Fukumoto, Eiji Gô, Chieko Matsubara (Last Days of the Boss)
BluRay released: August 21st, 2017 (UK), August 29th, 2017 (USA)
Approximate running times: 98 Minutes (New Battles Without Honor and Humanity), 94 Minutes (The Boss’s Head), 91 Minutes (Last Days of the Boss)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (All Films)
Rating: 18 (UK), R (USA)
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 English, LPCM Stereo English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video USA
Region Coding: Region A,B
Retail Price: $99.95 (USA) / £59.99 (UK)
“New Battles Without Honor and Humanity: 1950. In Kure City in Hiroshima, an ambitious yakuza soldier botches an attempt on the life of a rival boss, and is sent to prison for eight years. When he’s released, he must choose between returning to the gangster fold, or life with a beautiful, half-Korean hostess who’s fallen for him.
The Boss’s Head: 1968. Gang boss Owada takes in wanderer and assassin Shuji Kuroda after he does time for the assassination of a rival boss. Kuroda turns on Owada after he doesn’t get the promised payback for his jail time, and lays waste to the local crime elements in order to achieve his financial rewards.
Last Days of the Boss: 1976. When a top boss is killed during a full-blown gang war, his adopted son, an ordinary laborer, reluctantly joins the criminal world in quest for vengeance for his benefactor’s death. Complicating matters are his younger sister and her gangster husband, who are affiliated with the gang responsible for the killing.” – Synopsis’s provided by the Distributor
Battles Without Honor and Humanity was a very successful film series at the box office. And when the Battles Without Honor and Humanity came to a conclusion after its fifth and final film, Final Episode. It was only a matter of time before Toei that company that produce the series would want another film in the same vein or do a reboot of the series.
And with New Battles Without Honor and Humanity, the first film in what would evolve into a new trilogy of films. Toei would essentially remake the first film from the original Battles Without Honor and Humanity, albeit with a few minor additions.
The same cannot be said for, The Boss’s Head and Last Days of the Boss, the other two which round out the New Battles Without Honor and Humanity trilogy. Though the retain many of key elements that have since become synonymous with the Battles Without Honor and Humanity films. They are noticeably different in regards to the tone these films take on and women characters take on a much larger role in New Battles Without Honor and Humanity films.
Performance wise the entire are all very good in their respective roles. With the anchor of this trilogy of films being Bunta Sugawara (Cops vs Thugs) who takes on the protagonist role in all three films. Other notable performances include, Jô Shishido (Branded to Kill) in the role of a Yakuza hitman with syphilis and Tsutomu Yamazaki (Kagemusha) in the role of the drug addicted son in law of Yakuza Boss.
As mentioned before, women characters play a significant role in the films. And the three leading ladies are Reiko Ike (Sex & Fury) who portrays a hostess at a bar, Meiko Kaji who portrays the daughter of a Yakuza Boss and Chieko Matsubara (Tokyo Drifter) who portrays the sister of a laborer whose allegiance with a Yakuza Boss puts his life in danger.
All three films feature strong narratives and pacing is never an issue as tense moments are allowed to sink in for maximum effect. Another strength of these films is its visuals and nowhere is more evident, then when it comes to these films violent outbursts.
Each film comes on their own 50 GB dual layer BluRay and each film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The transfers used for this release were created from original preservation elements that were supplied by Toei. Quality wise, the transfers for these three films is on par with Arrow Video’s other Toei releases.
Each film comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in Japanese and removable English subtitles have been included for each film. The audio sounds clean, clear and balanced throughout.
Extras for this release are spread over three discs.
Extras on Blu-ray disc one includes, a teaser (1 minute 41 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles) and trailer (3 minutes 24 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles) for New Battles Without Honor and Humanity and an interview with Kinji Fukasaku biographer Sadao Yamane titled Beyond the Films: New Battles Without Honor and Humanity (9 minutes 25 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles).
Topics discussed in the extra titled Beyond the Films: New Battles Without Honor and Humanity include, how the success of the original Battles Without Honor and Humanity led to a new trilogy of films, similarities and differences between the two series, Kinji Fukasaku and his thoughts about New Battles Without Honor and Humanity trilogy.
Extras on Blu-ray disc two include, a teaser (1 minute 3 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles) and trailer (2 minutes 59 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles) for The Boss’s Head and an interview with screenwriter Koji Takada titled New Stories, New Battles (12 minutes 36 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles).
Topics discussed in the extra titled New Stories, New Battles include, Kinji Fukasaku, screenwriter Fumio Kônami, his thoughts about New Battles Without Honor and Humanity trilogy, his thoughts about other Japanese screenwriters that were his contemporaries and background information about The Boss’s Head.
Extras on Blu-ray disc three include, a trailer for Last Days of the Boss (3 minutes 25 seconds) and an interview with screenwriter Koji Takada titled Closing Stories (17 minutes 26 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles).
Topics discussed in the extra titled Closing Stories include, his contributions to The Boss’s Head and Last Days of the Boss, real life events that inspired Last Days of the Boss, audience reaction to Last Days of the Boss and his thoughts about the film, actress Chieko Matsubara, Kinji Fukasaku, director Hideo Gosha and how the Japanese film industry has changed since the 1970’s.
Rounding out the extras are reversible cover art for each film and sixty-page booklet with cast & crew information for each film, an essay titled Carry on Yakuza written by Stephen Sarrazin, an essay titled New Battle’s with Dope and Women: The Hostess’s Ass written by Tom Mes, an essay titled The Female of the Species: Women Tearing the Yakuza World Apart written by Hayley Scanlon, an essay titled Toei’s Triad: The Wildest of the Wild written by Chris D., an essay titled Graveyard of Yakuza: Kinji Fukasaku’s Mid-Career Triumphs written by Marc Walkow, an essay titled A Personal Remembrance: North and South with Kinji Fukasaku written by Toshiko Adilman and information about the transfers.
Also included with this release are DVD’s that have the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release. Overall another excellent release from Arrow Video that covers all the bases and then some, highly recommended.