Written by: Michael Den Boer on September 4th, 2006
Theatrical Release Dates: Japan, 1949
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Cast: Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Miki Sanjo, Kenjiro Uemura, Chieko Nakakita, Noriko Sengoku
DVD released: September 5th, 2006
Approximate running time: 95 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital mono
DVD Release: BCI Eclipse/Ronin Entertainment
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.98
Kyoji Fujisaki (Akira Kurosawa) contracts syphilis from a patient while working as doctor during the war. After the war he hides his disease while he takes medication to help remove it from his body forever. Kyoji continues to practice medicine with his father at the clinic his family owns. One day while helping a police officer who was injured Kyoji runs into Susumu Nakada the man who gave him syphilis. He insists that he was cured and that his wife and son to be child where not affected. Kyoji announced at Nakada’s recklessness convinces the man to have his wife stop by and be checked out. Misao is a young woman who is in love with Kyoji and she has waited for him to get back from the war so they can be married. Kyoji still very much in love with her doesn’t want her to contract his syphilis so he pushes her away into the arms of another man.
Many of the greatest directors have had an actor who has inspired their muse to fullest and the two from that moment onward are forever linked. The Quiet Duel would mark the second of sixteen collaborations between Akira Kurosawa and Toshirô Mifune over the course of twenty eight years. What is even more impressive that during this stretch is that Akira Kurosawa would only make one films without Toshirô Mifune his 1952 film Ikiru.
The Quiet Duel has all the style and signature techniques that later Akira Kurosawa films would use to even greater effect. The acting all around is superb with Toshirô Mifune and Takashi Shimura both giving brilliant performances as a son and a father. The real star of the show is actress Noriko Sengoku who just the previous year before made her feature film debut in Akira Kurosawa’s Drunken Angel. In the Quite Duel Noriko Sengoku plays the fragile yet tough as nails Rui Minegishi whose man left her with child and forces her to become more responsible. The films score which is sparse and virtually non existent for most of the film gives the rest of the films ambient sounds a chance to come forward which really enhances the film overall.
The films premise on the surface appears outdated that is until you substitute syphilis for a more modern plague like aids. The film is in many ways about choices and living with them. Kyoji took the more painful route of solitude instead of carrying on like nothing happened just to satisfy his pent up sexual desires for Misao. The film succeeds mostly because Kyoji takes the high road to keep the woman he loves out of harms way and in the process isolating him from those who care about him. Akira Kurosawa is the most celebrated director in the history of Japanese cinema and even though he has made several undeniable classics. He has also made a handful of lesser films like The Quiet Duel that if they were made by just about anyone else they would be held in higher regard.
The Quite Duel is presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. There is noticeable starches and other print damage that happens throughout. Black levels look strong and shadow detail is good to very good most of the time. Overall this transfer is far from flawless, still considering just how rare this film is and that this is the first time it has veer been released on DVD in North America the end result is more then adequate.
This release comes with one audio option the films original Japanese language track which is presented in a Dolby Digital mono. The audio like the transfer had its set backs like hiss and distortion which vary in degrees throughout. Overall the audio mix despite these set backs still gets the job done. Removable English that are easy to follow and understand have been included.
Extras for this release include the films original trailer, a news reel about the film and a photo gallery with over fifty stills. The main extra for this release is a collection of interviews with Setsuo Kobayashi (Cinematographer), Miki Sanjo (Actress) and Akira Ifukube (Composer). Over the course of about forty seen minutes these three individuals discuss a wide range of subjects including Akira Kurosawa, how they got into the movie business, techniques used on the film and the films score. A DVD insert with detailed liner notes about this film come with this film and they were written by Stuart Galbraith who wrote a book about the collaboration between Akira Kurosawa and Toshirô Mifune.
Ronin Entertainment gives one of Akira Kurosawa’s rarely seen early films a lavish special edition DVD, highly recommended.