Written by: Michael Den Boer on October 2nd, 2017
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1953
Director: Josef von Sternberg
Writers: Tatsuo Asano, Josef von Sternberg
Cast: Akemi Negishi, Tadashi Suganuma, Kisaburo Sawamura, Shôji Nakayama, Jun Fujikawa, Hiroshi Kondô, Shozo Miyashita, Tsuruemon Bando, Kikuji Onoe, Rokuriro Kineya, Daijiro Tamura, Chizuru Kitagawa, Takeshi Suzuki, Shiro Amikura
Narrator: Josef von Sternberg
BluRay released: August 14th, 2017
Approximate running time: 91 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 Aspect Ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono Japanese / English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Eureka Video
Region Coding: Region B / Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £14.99 (UK)
“Set during the dying stages of World War II, Anatahan tells the story of twelve Japanese seaman stranded on a forgotten island for seven years. Accompanied only by Keiko (Akemi Negishi), a young Japanese woman, all rationality and discipline are soon overcome by a struggle for power and control over Keiko’s affections.” – Synopsis provided by the Distributor
The Saga of Anatahan was co-written and directed by Josef von Sternberg whose other notable films include, Underworld, The Blue Angel, Blonde Venus and The Devil Is a Woman. Key collaborators on The Saga of Anatahan include, cinematographer Kôzô Okazaki (Goyokin, The Wolves) and composer Akira Ifukube (Godzilla, Latitude Zero).
This film was adapted from a memoir that was written by Michiro Maruyana and this memoir recounts the story of twelve Japanese sailors who were stranded on the Island An-ta-han for seven years. And though the narrative follows a traditional structure. The way in which said events unfold, is anything remotely conventional. Since the cast all speak in Japanese and the only dialog in English is a voice over narration that explains what is occurring onscreen.
Without a doubt, this film’s greatest strengths are its visuals and the emotional reactions of the actors. With this film’s strongest performance being Akemi Negishi (Snake Woman’s Curse, Sex and Fury) in the role of Keiko Kusakabe the only women on the Island of An-ta-han. And it is the men’s desire of Keiko that ultimately drives the story at hand.
The Saga of Anatahan comes on a 50 GB dual layer (45.8 GB) BluRay. This release has been flagged for progressive playback and the film is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The transfer for this release was sourced from a new 2K restoration of the uncensored 1958 version of the film. Print related issues are minimal and never intrusive, details look crisp, grain remains intact and there are no issues with compression.
This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mix in mono and included with this release are removable English subtitles. It should be noted that the cast speak in Japanese and that their dialog is also translated via a English narration by Josef von Sternberg. Background his is minimal, the narration comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced.
Extras for this release include, a trailer for the film (2 minute 29 seconds), U.S. Navy footage of the actual survivors of Anatahan, immediately after their surrender (8 minutes 5 seconds), Unused footage originally filmed specially for the 1958 version of the film (2 minutes 52 seconds), a featurette comparison of the two versions of The Saga of Anatahan (8 minutes 14 seconds), an interview with Nicolas von Sternberg titled Saga: The Making of Anatahan (15 minutes 34 seconds), a visual essay by critic Tag Gallagher titled Whose Saga? (16 minutes 14 seconds) and an interview with Asian film expert Tony Rayns (45 minutes 25 seconds).
Topics discussed in the interview with Nicolas von Sternberg include, his father Joseph von Sternberg, Japan, the newspaper article / book that inspired the film, his thoughts about the film, how this film is his father’s most personal film, background information about the film and his father’s legacy as a filmmaker.
Topics discussed in the visual essay include, background information about Josef von Sternberg, the cast and the film.
Topics discussed in the interview with Tony Rayns include, why the film was shot in Japan instead of Hollywood, producer Nagamasa Kawakita / Towa distribution, background information about the film, his thoughts about the film and the distribution history of the film.
Other extras include, the complete 1953 version of the film (91 minutes 42 seconds). This extra is only on the Blu-ray included as part of this combo release.
Rounding out the extras is a forty-four-page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay titled My best film – and my Most unsuccessful one written by Phillip Kemp, archival production and publicity materials and Viewing Notes. Also included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release, except for 1953 version of the film. Overall The Saga of Anatahan gets an excellent release from Eureka Video, highly recommended.